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At eighteen, Emma Kenward runs away from her dull Sloane home to try her luck as a painter in Tuscany. Waspish, idealistic and far too clever for her own good, she is at the awkward age when women choose their futures – and their identities.

Once in Italy, Emma blossoms and is taken up by a a mixture of characters including the local Contessa; Sylvia, her volatile American mentor; Dr Evenlode, an Oxford don she’d hoped never to see again; and Lucio, a seductive and anarchic young Italian, as interested in Emma’s body as in her mind. Santorno, however, is not merely a picturesque town set in the golden landscape of the Tuscan countryside. Hidden among the malicious tongues of the provincial gossips and the walls of the mysterious Palazzo Felici lie secrets, long buried, but not forgotten. Emma, ever curious, delves deep and discovers the truth about her new world, her old self – and a gruesome murder.