Nichols, the author of four fantasies for young readers, makes her adult debut with this listless historical set in Italy and Normandy around 1450. The story begins mystifyingly, with its narrator, Claire Tarleton, revealing that she was murdered seven years before. However, her ability to tell her tale stems not from the supernatural, but from the fact that the murder attempt--at the hands of Richard Linacre, the man she comes to marry--was unsuccessful. In retracing her history, she describes her youth, passed in Florence with her adoptive parents, Elisabeth du Plessis and Walter Tarleton, who school her in music and raise her to become an artist's model. In Italy she sits for a slew of greats, including Luca della Robbia, but the fall of Constantinople to the Turks forces the family to retire to the relative safety of Normandy, where Elisabeth has property. There, Walter starts a press and Claire meets Richard, who's rebuilding the town of Saint-Aurele after the destruction of the Hundred Years' War. Claire remains loyal to the English (since her natural parents were Londoners) and will eventually betray Richard (a Frenchman, through and through)--which is why he tries to do away with her. Later both relent, and after Claire sorts out her past and makes decisions about her future, murderer and victim become man and wife. Alas, Claire's endless, vague angst is the stuff of a frustratingly slight plot. The author's infatuation with the period takes up some of the slack--but not nearly enough.