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Reaching Out Across Time - an Editorial Review of "Rome's Last Noble Palace"

Book Blurb:

Two women. Two different centuries. One attic room.

American Isabelle Field has been shipped off to Rome to live with her aunt, Princess Elizabeth Brancaccio. Isabelle’s aunt and mother share a common goal – replicating Elizabeth’s success by marrying Isabelle off to a European nobleman.

But Rome in 1896 is on the cusp of a new century and Isabelle longs for more than a titled husband. She secretly designs costumes for Rome’s burgeoning theatre environment and dreams of opening a fashion atelier. Can she gather the courage to forge a life for herself, even if it means going against expectations?

Over a century later, doctoral candidate Sophie Nouri can’t believe her good fortune when she is selected to intern in Rome’s Near Eastern Art Museum. Even better, the position includes an attic apartment in the spectacular museum property, the Palazzo Brancaccio.

Overseeing a major exhibition is stressful, but tension alone can’t explain the disturbing nighttime presence in the deserted hallways of the grand palace – especially one no one else can sense. Almost as if a spectral being is trying to communicate with Sophie directly. Or warn her.

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Author Bio:

Kimberly grew up in the suburbs of Boston and in Saratoga Springs, New York, although she now calls the Harlem neighborhood of New York City home when she’s back in the US. She studied political science and history at Cornell University and earned her MBA, with a concentration in strategy and marketing, from Bocconi University in Milan.

Afflicted with a severe case of Wanderlust, she worked in journalism and government in the US, Czech Republic and Austria, before settling down in Rome, where she works in international development, and writes fiction any chance she gets.

She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and The Historical Novel Society and has published several short stories and three novels: Three Coins, Dark Blue Waves and In The Shadow of The Apennines.

After years spent living in Italy with her Italian husband and sons, she’s fluent in speaking with her hands, and she loves setting her stories in her beautiful, adoptive country.

Vist my website:

Editorial Review:

SUNLIGHT STREAMED THROUGH the high windows, coaxing Sophie from her dreams. She cracked one eye open, groaning at the early hour on the travel alarm clock. How had she forgotten to close the shutters last night? Blame it on the jet lag of someone no longer used to international travel. She turned her head to observe Matt’s sleeping form. His chest rose and fell in a calm, steady rhythm. A little sunlight seeping through the windows would never wake him this early. He was made of stronger stuff.

We start off in Rome in modern times – 2018. I love when historical fiction starts off in a current time, because I know we will be jumping back to the past at some point, and possibly even jumping back and forth between two time periods. That’s exactly what this novel does.

"Rome's Last Noble Palace" by Kimberly Sullivan is a captivating novel that intertwines the lives of two women from different centuries, connected by a shared space – an attic room in a historic Roman palace. I love stories like this, connecting people throughout time, so I was eager to read this one and it did not disappoint. This narrative structure offers a unique exploration of themes such as self-discovery, societal expectations, and the supernatural.

The opening lines of the novel are intriguing, immediately drawing the reader into the world Sullivan has created. The initial paragraphs set the tone for the story, establishing a sense of mystery and anticipation.

ISABELLE OBSERVED ELIZABETH FIELD, Princess Elizabeth Hickson Field Brancaccio, as she shifted the angle of her parasol to prohibit the harsh Roman sunlight from falling directly on her porcelain skin. Maintaining one’s complexion was a challenge in this sunbathed city. Were the princess not vigilant, she might come to resemble the swarthy maids in her service. After all, she was no longer a young, radiant bride of twenty-four.

At least Isabelle knew that’s what all the servants were saying about the mistress of the house when she was safely out of earshot.

Isabelle herself was considered close enough to the servant class to ensure no curtailment of the griping and gossiping occurred when she was in the vicinity. They knew she’d never say anything. Auntie Elizabeth tended to shoo Isabelle away when she wasn’t making herself useful, constantly called upon as an extra hand at cards or to round out a dinner party as the young and charming companion for a single, and, more often than not, elderly male guest.

Then we are whisked back to 1896 in chapter two where we meet Isabelle. Each chapter flip-flops us between the two women and their unique stories.

The novel brilliantly weaves together two distinct storylines. Isabelle Field, a young American in 1896, rebels against the conventional path laid out for her, seeking to establish her own identity in the world of fashion and theatre. Over a century later, Sophie Nouri, a doctoral candidate, encounters mysterious occurrences in the same palace, suggesting a connection across time. The parallel stories are engaging and well-paced, keeping the reader invested in both timelines.

Sullivan’s attention to detail in editing and formatting enhances the reading experience. The transitions between the two timelines are smooth and well-handled, ensuring the reader never feels lost. The formatting aids in differentiating the two story arcs, making it easy to follow the narrative shifts.

Both Isabelle and Sophie are well-developed characters. Isabelle's struggle to balance societal expectations with her ambitions is portrayed with depth and empathy. Sophie's journey, filled with academic challenges and supernatural encounters, is equally compelling. The supporting characters, particularly Princess Elizabeth Brancaccio, add richness to the story.

AUNTIE ELIZABETH WOULD MOST CERTAINY NOT APPROVE, but after having left Stefania at her home, she was too wound up to return home. If she were honest, she was also too terrified to cross paths with Auntie Elizabeth so soon after scheming with Stefania about what a post-Brancaccio life might look like.

With so many thoughts swirling through her head, Isabelle let her feet lead the way on a familiar path. She soon found herself in the Ghetto, outside one of her favorite fabric shops. She admired the colorful bolts of fabric in the shop window, but convinced herself this was not the time to spend money, not when she might be needing it sooner than she could imagine.

Could she really make the dream she had nurtured for so long during her time in Rome come true? Could she and Stefania open the atelier they had long wished for? And could they earn their living doing so?

The novel maintains excellent continuity, particularly impressive given its dual-timeline structure. The historical and cultural context of 1896 Rome is seamlessly integrated with modern-day events, creating a cohesive narrative that spans over a century.

Without revealing spoilers, the ending of the novel is both satisfying and thought-provoking. It ties together the central themes of the book and provides a fitting conclusion to the journeys of both protagonists.

The novel stands out for its unique approach to storytelling. The juxtaposition of two women living in different centuries, yet sharing a connection through a single room, offers a fresh perspective on historical fiction.

Sullivan’s writing is both eloquent and accessible. She skillfully captures the essence of Rome, both past and present, and her descriptive prose brings the settings to life. The dialogues are natural and contribute effectively to character development.

It’s been so great having you—having you and Mattie—this week. Tomorrow’s the big day. Ready to go back to Brancaccio tomorrow?”

Sophie looked out at the hulking palazzo, illuminated in the dark of night. The same palace that had terrified her just one week ago when she saw its familiar outline from these windows. She had spent the past decade terrified of her past. Of what happened in her room. Of that ghostly presence she had never shared with anyone except Luisa, certainly not with Martina. Not even with her husband.

Both story arcs are well-constructed, with clear development, climax, and resolution. The novel balances the historical and supernatural elements well, ensuring that neither overshadows the other.

"Rome's Last Noble Palace" is a masterfully written book that skillfully combines supernatural and mystery aspects with historical fiction. It's evidence of Sullivan's storytelling prowess and her capacity to develop interesting, complex characters. The tale explores the human soul and its ageless search for identity and purpose in addition to taking readers through the corridors of a medieval Roman palace.


“Rome's Last Noble Palace” by Kimberly Sullivan receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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