Dunant (The Birth of Venus) has once again secured her place as a best-selling author with this portrait of memorable characters living in volatile Renaissance Italy. This multilayered work is so elegantly written it is almost poetic in its language. Skillfully narrated by Bucino, the dwarf companion of the famous and sophisticated courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini, herself the child of a courtesan, this gripping story is about much more than sex; it deals with ever-changing feelings, friendship and loyalty, war and betrayal, politics and religion, and class differences. Fleeing the 1527 sack of Rome, Fiammetta and Bucino lose their wealth and position and are forced to start over in Venice. Stephen Hoye does a wonderful reading job; he has the ability to convey emotion and believable accents. Recommended for libraries with historical fiction collections. Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.