The author is a descendant of the Tudorian Seymours, which may account for her nerveless maneuvers, in the person of her narrator Catya, through the dank snarls of Renaissance Italian politics. Catya, whose merchant family was enriched by Medici money, is orphaned by a bloodthirsty King of Naples, and finally becomes' friend and companion to Beatrice d'Este (a relative -- never mind how) who is married to the Duke of Milan, Lodovico Sforza. At first Beatrice, showered with riches and power, hardens like ice on the Arno to her role as political spoiler and tactician. She supports her husband, whom she dominates, in nullifying -- and eliminating -- the claims of his nephew to the dukedom. There are suspicious deaths, intrigues, love affairs and widespread cruelties. Catya marries happily, and is loyally at the deathbed of Beatrice who by the close has lost her status, beauty and hope. A better than average historical novel of the less demanding sort with firm dialogue and action.