Isabelle d’Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blond and an art lover and collector. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella’s match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world’s most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wins her true fate, and the two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe.
A haunting novel of rivalry, love, and betrayal that transports you back to Renaissance Italy, Leonardo’s Swans will have you dashing to the works of the great master—not for clues to a mystery but to contemplate the secrets of the human heart.
About the Author
Karen Essex was born and raised in New Orleans. She graduated from Tulane University, attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and received an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. Essex's previous books include KLEOPATRA and PHARAOH, which she adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros. Essex has adapted Anne Rice's novel THE MUMMY OR RAMSES THE DAMNED into a screenplay for 20th Century Fox, and she has also written a screenplay about Kamehameha (the first king of Hawaii) for Columbia/Tristar. Most recently, she has written a screenplay for Entertainment and Paramount Pictures in which Jennifer Lopez is set to star.
Also an award-winning journalist, Essex's articles, essays and profiles have been published in publications such as "Vogue, Playboy, The L.A. Weekly, "and "L.A. Style. "After being awarded highest honors from the Los Angeles Press Club for her thought-provoking cover story about the missing 1950's pinup icon Bettie Page, Essex co-authored the biography, BETTIE PAGE: LIFE OF A PINUP LEGEND. Essex is the first and only journalist with whom the reclusive Ms. Page has ever agreed to meet and cooperate.
Essex has appeared on "The Today Show" and "A Word on Words," hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. She's lectured at the Chicago Museum of Art, and extensively at universities. Her books are taught in many college courses from creative writing to history to women's studies.
Essex's novels have been published in twenty languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
“Privileged sisters compete over men, attention—and the chance to be immortalized on canvas by Leonardo da Vinci in this instantly absorbing tale.” —Redbook magazine
“Two very different sisters, two very different husbands, and one of the greatest geniuses of all times, Leonardo da Vinci. In this sizzling historical novel set in fifteenth-century Italy, Essex combines art, political intrigue, family feuds and sex to create a page-turner that also probes the experience of being painted and whether it can offer immortality.” —USA Today
“Acclaimed author Karen Essex spins a wild yarn about sexual politics and the struggle for immortality.” —Harper’s Bazaar (“Hot Reads” pick)
“Meticulously researched. Exquisite detail . . .” —Chicago Tribune