Book One of the Night Flyer Trilogy
Florentina had planned for every contingency – except falling in love.
When an unscrupulous arms merchant murders Florentina’s inventor father, she ingeniously creates an enigmatic alter-ego known as the Night Flyer to carry out the family vendetta. Madelena suspects the same man of murdering her husband. Short of funds, Florentina takes a position as tutor to Madelena’s young children and soon starts thinking more about the flame-haired beauty than her mission. Maddie is smitten with Florentina but also infatuated with the Night Flyer, having no idea they are one and the same. Can Florentina win Madelena’s affection and enact her revenge, or will the Night Flyer come between them?
Merchants of Milan is the first book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like gadgets and gismos, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and fast-paced action with a slow-boil lesbian romance, then you are sure to love this series. Buy this one of a kind novel today and let the adventure begin!
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Lesbian, Straight
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, Bodyguard/Guardian Angel, Class Differences, Families/Raising Kids, First Time, Forbidden Love, Friends to Lovers, Hero and the Great Quest, Passing as Straight, True Love
Word Count: 84,111
Setting: Milan, 1502
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Florentina made a polite comment about the painting without mentioning the partial nudity of the subject which was rather common at the time, and now she waited in a breathless state of vibration wondering just what would happen next. Madelena sat beside her on the cozy bench for two. “I can’t recall when I have enjoyed a day quite as much as I have this one,” she said in her dulcet voice. “You must have experienced many such exhilarating times.”
Not daring to meet her eyes, Florentina replied, “None like today.” She wasn’t certain what Maddie was planning to do; she hoped for the moon, but was also just a little terrified. There was one thing, however, that she truly believed she should be privy to before anything further transpired between them. “Maddie,” she began tentatively. “What did happen to your husband?” She sensed the atmosphere in the room dampen in an instant and almost wished she hadn’t asked; but the Night Flyer needed to know.READ MORE
Madelena folded her hands in her lap and expelled a breath. “I don’t talk about it, but I think I should like to tell you. It’s silly, I know, but I cannot recall anyone with whom I have felt more at ease or more stimulated. You make me feel alive, Fiore; you make me feel real. Vergilio was a good enough husband, but we were not close in the way I feel close to you. After all, his world was that of a man, the domain of business and mercantile. I was only his wife.” She pivoted on the settee to face Florentina who looked on her with honest compassion.
“One evening he was late getting home. He had formed a partnership with my father upon our engagement and was in charge of the wool division; Ally’s primary expertise is silk. Anyway, he had traveled to our pastures in the countryside to oversee the spring sheering and inspect the quality of the wool. It is only an hour’s ride at a canter and he was an accomplished equestrian. That is how I recognized something was amiss. There are several spirited steeds in our stables, but he purposefully chose a docile gelding for the trip as it was for business.”
Florentina detected the signs of distress in Maddie as she relived the event and reflexively reached over to take her hand. Madelena flicked appreciative eyes at her, took a breath, and continued. “It was well after dark and he still was not home, which was very unusual. Then there was pounding on the door and Iseppo opened it. I was worried so Ally and I rushed to see. Two men whom I had never met were holding Vergilio, who appeared to be unconscious, and dragged him inside. They laid him on a fainting couch, said they found him along the road thrown from his horse. Then they left, and I never saw them again. We didn’t even catch their names. Ally sent for a physician, but…” she lowered her gaze to their intertwined fingers. “He was already dead. I think he was dead when they brought him in.”
“Maddie, I am so sorry that you had to experience that,” Florentina comforted. “It must have been awful to see your husband like that. I know it was to watch my father die.”
Madelena raised dew-moistened forest leaf eyes to her in a moment of solidarity. “But I am convinced he didn’t simply fall from his horse,” she declared with vigor. “He was a damned good rider on a gentle mount in fair weather. I even traveled out to the sheep pasture, and they said he never arrived–gone all day and he never even got there! The whole episode was bizarre. I tell you the truth, Fiore, someone killed him. Naturally I suspect Don Benetto, but I can’t prove it.” Her voice trailed off, and she lowered her head.
“But why would Viscardi want to kill your husband?” Florentina asked gently.
Madelena sighed. “Who knows? Because he’s a mean rat’s bastard, Vergilio looked at him wrong or some other perceived slight, he’s petty and jealous, it was a Tuesday.” At that her voice cracked, and she lifted one hand to push her hair aside. She had removed pins and ribbons and untwined the braids leaving a flow of flaming silk to drape her shoulders. Florentina gave the hand she held a little squeeze and stroked her other across Maddie’s back in solace. “Truly though, Vergilio was too outspoken on his political views, which were in direct opposition to the Viscardi’s.”
“You see, my husband was a stanch supporter of the Sforzas. It made sense,” she explained. “The Sforza family dukes did much to bring our city-state to prominence. Their policies stimulated the economy, they patroned the arts, they commissioned grand architectural and engineering projects.” Then she turned her eyes to Florentina’s. “They brought Leonardo da Vinci to Milan. But then larger neighboring nations wanted to lay claim to Lombardy, and Benetto saw gold. He shifted his support to the French king, knowing that wars fought over our land would send coins streaming into an arms dealer’s coffers. It did pay off for him politically when the French King Louis defeated Ludovico il Moro and he was sent into exile. Vergilio never liked that foreigners rules our Duchy instead of Milanese and said so publicly far too often. I suppose the French could have had him killed to silence his rebellious speech. But you suspect Benetto murdered your father?”
“I know he did,” Florentina affirmed. “He told me as much just before… No one would believe a grieving daughter who surely was mistaken. The physician wrote that his heart gave out as there were no signs of injury to the body, but Viscardi poisoned him and that is a fact; it is also a fact that no judge will ever hold him to account for it, or anything else he may have done.”
In the next instant Maddie placed a caressing hand to her face, leaned in, and kissed her. Although she had been anticipating this very possibility for hours, it came on her as swift and unforeseen as a summer storm. The sensual heat of those urgent lips melded to hers ignited something deep within Florentina’s core that sprung to life for the very first time and exploded throughout her being, a sensation so phenomenal, so novel that she had no context in which to place it. Breathless, her mind went totally blank, and she simply savored the moment.
When Madelena withdrew she whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to overstep.”
“Sorry?” Florentina’s heart sank and her head spun. How could she be sorry? “Why? I’m not.”
“You’re not?” Maybe Maddie was as uncertain as she, as overcome with raw emotion and not knowing how to express it. “It’s just that–and I have contemplated this–with me being your employer and all, I don’t want you to expect you must do something you aren’t comfortable with. I would never pressure you-”
It was Florentina’s turn to be impulsive. She silenced Maddie by repeating the gesture, tasting again those full, cherry lips that flooded her mind, body, and soul with sensations. When it broke, they gazed into each other’s eyes looking for confirmation. “I understand I am only a servant in your household.”
“Don’t say that!” Maddie replied firmly. “That is not how I view you. Please, Fiore. How can I explain?”
The earlier butterflies began to settle in Florentina’s stomach and the fog of trepidation evaporate. She could perceive that the beautiful wealthy widow did regard her with esteem, did have feelings for her. This was not a mere dalliance she realized. “I care for you also,” she spoke softly and stroked Maddie’s luxurious strands. “Do not think you press me to do something I have not wanted to do since the moment I first saw you.”
Relief engulfed Madelena’s expression, and she brushed her cheek to Florentina’s then nuzzled her neck with moist, eager lips. A euphoric sigh escaped Fiore’s mouth at the intimate touch and she pulled Maddie closer. When their lips found each other’s again she opened to the honey-sweet tongue that was impatient to delve into it. Without willing them to do so, she realized her fingers were wound in those silky red strands while her other hand slid down Madelena’s back as far as the bench would allow. She could perceive her heartbeat against her own heated breast. This is what she had dreamt of and it surpassed her expectations. All she wanted to do was touch, caress, explore, and please this singular woman. Even as she was rendered breathless from the physical passion, her heart was telling her head that what she felt was far more, endlessly deeper. It was a very dangerous cavern, a bottomless pit that could spell her doom; she was falling in love.
Since the accuracy of History is founded upon means, these historical fictional worlds between the factual and imaginable seem to me like possibilities that simply haven’t been written before. That’s why, when I saw the blog tour for Merchants of Milan, an Italian retelling of Batman during the Renaissance, I just had to jump in and read it!
Okay, so it’s not a literal retelling of Batman, but tell me I’m wrong?
The first in the Night Flyer Trilogy, Merchants of Milan‘s fast-paced narrative sinks readers into a woman’s pursuit of vengeance amidst the bright scenery of 16th century Milan refusing to let them come up for air, as danger and excitement prowl like sharks in the water.
The plot revolves around Florentina, a woman with a personal vendetta who reinvents herself as a masked avenger and rains hell on a prominent Milanese merchant.
In 16th century Milan, due to lack of legal authority, vengeance was a duty to be carried out by the eldest son of the family. Florentina takes up that mantle for her father, and her retribution dislodges Count of Monte Cristo’s scrupulous planning and flings into immediate action-packed disruption.
As the daughter of a famous inventor and a sharp-witted, educated person who grew up under the tutelage of Leonardo da Vinci himself, Florentina’s proficiency with gadgets hinges her clever, creative mind to pursue her plan. The book does wondrous work with her character. She’s a sprinkle of freshness to the badass female character trope, in that she isn’t merely a physical warrior, but an intellectual force, contriving her own Batman Renaissance suit (with actual wings for a cape), machine-gun-crossbow, and smoke bombs.
The entire book picks up this elevation of femininity and the mind, shuffling them to create enthralling battlefields. Women have the power here. Madalena and Florentina’s secret love is an assertion of this independence and their own desires.
The characters’ brilliance does not outshine the backdrop; sneak-peeks into both Leonardo Da Vinci’s life projects and the Great Wars of Italy flow seamlessly into the narrative. Exploiting the political unrest, the merchant class amassed its power of kings, and because the cast is mainly composed of this social stratus, privilege puppeteers the plot at certain moments, emerging naively.
Even so, I believe much will be explored further in the trilogy as, brought to light by Florentina’s dealings, a grander scheme of corruption and mystery shifts through the shadows.
For now, the ending of Merchants of Milan drowns you under a perfectly sweet cliffhanger that has you gasping for the next installment in the series!