MANTUA, Italy – July 18, 2016 – PRLog — Sunbury Press has released Franni and the Duke, Anne E. Johnson’s middle-grade novel about two sisters trying out for Monteverdi’s opera in 1608, only to stumble upon a handsome and mysterious singer.
Franni and the Duke, a middle-grade novel, sets a fictional mystery against a specific historical backdrop. It takes place during rehearsals for Arianna, an opera by the great composer Claudio Monteverdi. When Franni and her older sister Alli run away to Mantua, they both find work in Monteverdi’s company. A messenger from the north announces that the next duke of the town of Bergamo is missing, and he may well be in Mantua. Alli notices that Luca, a singer she’s in love with, fits the missing Duke’s description. Although Franni thinks Luca is a pompous idiot, she promises for Alli’s sake to keep Luca’s secret safe and protect him from bounty hunters and Bergamo’s rival family. She does this with the help of the company’s set designer, a worldly wise and world-weary dwarf named Edgardo, who is not exactly what he seems.
Thursday, May 8, 1608
“I’m hungry,” said Franni. She ached all over from hours of walking down rocky roads in the Northern Italian countryside. “Please, can we get some food, Alli?” She shivered in the chilly spring drizzle.
Franni’s older sister, Alessandra, walked in front as usual. She looked back and smiled weakly. “I know you’re hungry, Franni. I am, too.” Alli’s eyes were glassy in her drawn face. “We’re almost to Mantua. That’s a big city with lots of rich people. I’m sure someone will take pity on us there.”
Although Franni doubted it, she nodded. A day and a half ago, they’d run away from their stepfather in Verona. They’d left in the middle of the night, carrying only a satchel of clothes each, and one loaf of bread between them. The last town they’d been through hadn’t shown them much pity. When they’d taken a drink at the central fountain, a soldier had chased them right out of town.
“I’m so tired.” She hardly had the strength to get any sound out. There was no way Franni could take another step, so she sat down right there in the road.
Alli grabbed Franni’s elbow and yanked. “Come on. We’ve got to get to Mantua before the sun goes down.” A slender, delicate creature of seventeen, Alli was no match for Franni when the younger girl felt stubborn. Franni willed herself to weigh as much as the elephant her real father once saw in Algiers. He’d said it was the size of twenty men. Closing her eyes, Franni glued herself to the paving stones, thinking heavy thoughts.
“A cart!” Alli let go of Franni’s arm and stood up, waving.
Franni’s heavy mood turned to dandelion seeds and floated away. “A cart?” She craned to see the black horse drawing a workman’s cart slowly along the road toward them. “Do you think he’ll give us a ride?”
“He has to,” said Alli. It sounded like a prayer. “He just has to.”
We’re saved! thought Franni. But when the cart pulled near enough that they could smell the tang of horse sweat, she changed her mind. “He’s an undertaker,” she whispered. “Look at the white marble slabs he’s dragging in that cart. It would be bad luck to ride with him.” She backed off the road and pulled her embroidered scarf over her head and face.
To Franni’s distress, Alli stepped into the middle of the road and waved her arms wider. If only their mother could see them now, two noble girls, behaving like beggars. Surely Mama could see them as she looked down from Heaven. She probably also saw how their stepfather treated the girls after their mother died. Franni was sure Mama up in Heaven approved of how she and Alli had sneaked out of the gates of Verona one night to find a happier life.
“Whoa!” said the cart driver, pulling back on the horse’s reins. “What is it, child? Why are you in the road? Do you need help?”
About the Author:
Anne E. Johnson taught music history for many years in New York City, specializing in the Baroque and Renaissance periods, and she feels a particular connection to the music and times of Claudio Monteverdi. Besides fiction, she has also written performing arts journalism for publications includingThe New York Times and Stagebill Magazine. Dozens of her short stories, for both kids and adults, have appeared in print and online.
Anne lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s probably baking or going to concerts and plays. Her website is http://AnneEJohnson.com.
Franni and the Duke
Authored by Anne E. Johnson
List Price: $9.99
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Performing Arts / Theater
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