NICCHIA by Geoffrey Wagner


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Cousin of Cavour, daughter of the Piedmont partisan Oldoini family, Virginia (Nicchia) is married to an equal patriot, His Highness Francis Verasis, Count of Castiglione, and is singled out by Cavour to keep Napoleon III distracted from forming an Austrian alliance and sent to France to seduce him. Her gambits and wiles to attract the Emperor's notice--after a pregnancy has delayed the plan--and her upward progress into the ranks of celebrities, her capitulation to the ruler's personality and charm, her spying for Cavour and the blanking out of her marriage (Francis has been kept under wraps as companion for hero-rogue King Victor Emmanuel) are accompanied by all sorts of diplomatic sidesteps and international danger points, attempts on Napoleon's life and his own problems with the Empress. With the disasters of war, the persistance of Griscelli of the secret police, the theft of Nicchia's secret papers and a last attempt to kill Napoleon, Nicchia has no choice left but to give up her imperial idol and return to an Italy near its ambition of unification. A heavy ladling of history and court scenes take the place of a well developed and handled story.

Publisher: John Day