Publishing year: 1991
This is a historical novel set in the sixteenth century.
We are introduced to Serafina Guardi, the daughter of a cloth merchant. In 1586 she is nine years old, but her father comes home one day announcing that she is to be betrothed to a man from Florence, Michele Corsini, a man her father’s age. Serafina is not happy at first, but her father persuades her that it is the best for her.
As they travel to Florence from Marseilles, the Turks attack their ship and Serafina and her father are apprehended. Serafina is taken to the slave market and a kind man buys her. The man is a physician whose name is Kara Ali, but he comes from France, and was also captured and then sold as a slave. Then he converted to the Islam. Kara Ali discovers that Serafina is a woman of noble descent, and she tells him about what happened to her. Kara Ali goes to Algiers to find out about Serafina’s father, and when he returns, he tells her that he died shortly after his capture. Serafina settles in her life as a slave. One day some men visit the physician, but then he sends them again. It seems that the men were trying to find out about Serafina and offered Kara Ali good money to put her to death. Yet, Kara Ali, who is fond of Serafina, tells them that Serafina died, and he showed them the grave of his own daughter, who died when she was ten. Kara Ali thinks that the people who wish her dead are those who could inherit the big business belonging to his father. In order to protect her, Kara Ali thinks that she should go by the name of his dead daughter, and forget Serafina.
Years pass, and in 1593 Serafina is fifteen. Kara Ali is old and afraid to die soon. It is at this time that the man thinks he has to tell Serafina the truth and give her a choice. So he tells her that her father didn’t die of a fever, but he was put to death. It seems the order came from Marseilles, and Kara Ali thinks that whoever inherited the estate after Franco and Serafina Guardi’s death wanted them dead. Yet, Serafina doesn’t know who that person might be. Before leaving Marseilles, we met several people. One was Angelo Desmoines, the illegitimate son of her mother’s brother, and Serafina was very fond of him. There was also Jehan de Coniques, who worked for her father. Could the killer be one of these men?
Apart from this, there is a new character in this second part. Thomas Marlowe is a womaniser, a conqueror, and a pilot whose dream is to build his own ship. Fleeing from a jealous husband, he accepts to pilot a ship but there is a storm and they shipwreck. Thomas is washed up to the shore and discovers the money from the ship close to him. He also sees that some other men are also safe, but he realizes that he could keep the money, which will allow him to build his dream ship, and that is why he doesn’t alert his shipmates. Thomas starts to find his way, but he is captured by a Berber tribe. Thankfully, thanks to a raid from some bandits, he manages to escape, but as he tries to keep going, he finds himself in a deserted environment; there is no food and he runs out of water. Weak, thirsty, and famished, he faints and when he wakes up, he finds a beautiful Tuareg woman looking after him, who gives her food, drink, and also offers herself to do his wishes.
I wonder how Thomas and Serafina will converge. Kara Ali has been sent to the Tuareg to treat a boy, and he has already seen Thomas. I wonder if Thomas will help Serafina to return to Marseilles. This is what Serafina wants to do even though Kara Ali secretly hoped that she would convert to the Islam and find a husband.
The beginning of this book is intriguing. I like Serafina, and even though Thomas is quite the rascal, I can imagine that this will be the love interest we will find in the novel.