As a handsome and charming courtesan, Fiore has made a comfortable enough life for himself. If he is not quite as free as he might wish, then at least he has good friends, enough coin to count, and a chance to draw and model for the city artisans when he is not with customers. And it’s a far better life than Fiore might have had as a castrato, mutilated and abused for the preservation of a voice he no longer lifts in song. But when a mysterious, masked customer begins to pay particular attention to Fiore, he finds his life changing in ways he could never have imagined.
Enzo has wealth and every physical comfort imaginable, but after an ill-advised duel, he has his education and future profession ripped away. Adrift and empty, he begins to wander the city streets, if only to find a momentary escape from the confines of his family home. He hides his face thanks to the fallout from his now infamous duel and finds himself desperately alone…until he meets Fiore. Beautiful, intelligent, and accepting, Fiore is everything Enzo needs and wants. And for most courtesans, the attentions of a wealthy man would be ideal, but Fiore dreams of the kind of security he isn’t sure Enzo can provide. Through illness, injury, betrayal, and danger, Fiore and Enzo experience the truest measure of love and devotion and, in one another, find the one person they can not live without.
Sebastian Nothwell is auto-buy for me. His books are always well-written, deeply romantic, and often historical, at least in tone, if not outright fact. Fiorenzo is no different. The story is set in a Venetian-style medieval world, and Nothwell has created two utterly charming and endearing characters in Enzo and Fiore, whose devotion to one another is compelling and sweet, if occasionally a bit saccharine. There are decently constructed secondary characters and, while none of them steal the limelight from Enzo and Fiore, they do add to the overall flavor of the book and the impetus of the plot. The world building is strong and there is enough illusion to the Venetian Republic to give the readers an anchor by which they might a fix their imaginations.
The romance between Enzo and Fiore moves very quickly, especially on Enzo’s part. It’s not insta-love, but there are moments early on when the speed at which their relationship moves seems overly fast. There are passages with overly purple prose, especially the sex scenes, but this wasn’t a big issue for me because it didn’t detract from from the characters or the development and execution of the plot. Enzo’s sexual organs are unique, but the author has done a good job of making neither too much of or too little of this uniqueness; rather, Enzo is allowed to be Enzo just as he is and both he and Fiore are easy to cheer for as they overcome one obstacle after another.
There are some minor issues with Fiorenzo, but the well-developed characters and strong plot render those issues very minor indeed. I enjoyed the story, the balanced romance, angst, and excellent world building. Consider this one recommended!