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on 8 December 2013
Gabrielle Kimm's latest visit to 16th century Italy is a terrific story, told with all her cinematic descriptiveness and her scrupulous research. She brings to life the world of the Commedia dell'Arte with the same attention to detail that she used to describe fresco painting in her first novel, His Last Duchess, and she manages to make it both instructive and entertaining, so that the reader discovers the fascination of the history at the same time as being gripped by the immediacy of the plot.

And the plot of The Girl with the Painted Face is gripping. It's a thriller as well as being a romance, and the "whodunnit" element is handled deftly. Kimm creates memorable characters, all of whom from the main protagonists to the smallest walk-on, are rounded and interesting. Without giving away the plot, she even manages to make a memorable personality out of a crowd! She writes evocative descriptions of place, completely immersing the reader in the scene. Of the many vivid pictures, I would single out the descriptions of the Comacchio and of the grounds of the Castello Estense in the snow. Beautiful.

This is entertainment of a high order, well written, well plotted, finely balanced - and a thoroughly page turning read. I actually couldn't put it down!
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on 30 November 2013
Gabrielle Kimm is the mistress of plotting - and in addition to this she creates characters that I care so much about and a completely enthralling sense of time and space in historic Italy. Sofia, the heroine of this book, is a gorgeous, multi-layered young woman I rooted for completely - she is naive and strong, sensitive and wise and rides her rollercoaster elegantly. I loved the travelling troupe - their sense of loyalty, ethics and etiquette. The build-up to the crime is mistressfully handled (suspects and alibis abound) - I had hoped for another perpetrator but you will have to read the book yourself to find out who did it and it will be well worth your while.
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on 30 November 2013
I'm a hardened reader so not many books make me go gaga but I picked this book up and didn't put it down until the very last page was read. Everything I had to do that day went by the by. I was totally drawn into the atmosphere of 16th century Italy and touched by poor Sofia's plight.
Philippa Gregory needs to watch her back because if this novel isn't turned into a film or TV series
I'll be very surprised.
I'm going to leave it a couple of months and then read it again.
Do yourself a favour: buy it and enjoy.
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Smell the greasepaint, hear the actors milling about behind the scenes and can you hear the crowds cheering for the next performance? What about the costumes and the glorious masks where nothing is as it seems?

Welcome to the world of the travelling actors who tour Italy performing on the street of in front of aristocrats

They have performed eleven times in the towns and villages of Emilia Romagna and not once have they met with a hostile crowd

The magic of the theatre is the true setting here and is evoked via each one of the five senses.


Sofia meets the troupe here and we meet her running through the streets to escape her tormentors. But once the theatre comes into play, there is hope.

It is here in Piazza Vecchio where Sofia first meets Signor Zanetti and where she finds hope and salvation amongst the crowded and nosy market square and the carts laden with misshapen loaves and sweetmeats.


Inside the walled city and within the Piazza de Porta di Ravegnana – this is where the troupe are to perform and where Sofia first meets Beppe

We perform in the Piazza de Porta di Ravegnana this afternoon and in the shadows of the two towers

The stage is erected here and the costumes set out, the face paint goes on and the crowds roar. You can hear and smell the excitement in the crowds as they cheer loudly.

Just outside Bologna (which you should ride to in one of the many travelling wagons in the story), a lauded performance at the great Castello della Franceschina

Standing alone, the red brick castle looms squat and square, two storeys high with a stout constellated tower at each corner, uncompromising and simply designed like a child’s toy fortress.

This is the location of murder and intrigue and where the mask slips from the face of the guilty. Dark dealings within its corridors, the sense of entrapment and isolation is the only breeze which makes the candles flicker in disgust. For the castle walls hold secrets

Beppe and Sofia – who live in a world of escapism – will have to achieve their best performance yet. Banished from their towns and villages of Emilia Romagna, From Ferrara in the north to Ravenna in the east to Reggio in the west, they have lost their hearts and their heartland…
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on 8 January 2014
Having read Gabrielle Kimm's previous books: His Last Duchess and The Courtesans Lover, I was looking forward to her latest work: The Girl with the Painted Face. Although based in the same period and same part of Italy, I think she has surpassed her earlier work and wrote a fantastic novel. It is her best book to date.
It starts when Sofia, a young seamstress, who is accused of theft and is being chased down the streets of 16th century Modena. She has no chance of proving her innocence, so she must run. She meets Niccolo, an old travelling apothecary, who goes from town to town selling medicines to the people of Emilia-Romagna. Niccolo helps her escape from her pursuer.
After she has a few more scrapes, she meets up with Niccolo again and he introduces her to a travelling company of actors called The Coraggiosi, where she meets Beppe, one of the players, and falls in love.
Sofia starts off with The Coraggiosi as their seamstress; soon she is persuaded to try her hand at acting and with Beppe's help she becomes the girl with the painted face.
I really loved this book; I love an odyssey, stories of travelling. Sofia is safe and happy, while moving around the countryside, with the freedom and the camaraderie of the troupe. Alongside the wonderful story of love, jealousy, and murder, with a bit of laudanum addiction. The author reveals to us the traditions of the travelling troupes, the names of the characters that must have been so familiar in the Piazzas of Italy in the middle Ages. Her description of the costumes and the painted wagons with the old hand painted tables and chairs really captures the imagination.
These historical novels by Gabrielle Kimm are a real glimpse into 16th century Italy and she gets better and better with every book. The Girl with the Painted Face is a real treat and I am really looking forward to her future work.
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on 22 December 2013
Another captivating novel from wonderful writer, Gabrielle Kimm, The Girl with the Painted Face is a story of passion, secrets, addiction and treachery, all set in the lively and colourful world of the Commedia dell'Arte.

When young seamstress, Sofia Genotti, is falsely accused of theft, she flees Modena and sets out alone on a journey that brings her into the theatrical life of the Coraggiosi troupe, and its cast of interesting and enigmatic characters, including Beppe and Angelo, who share a turbulent and secret history. When a shocking and unexpected murder takes place, all the members of the group are forced to confront their pas, as they fear for their future.

The Girl with the Painted Face is a gripping story with a fast-paced plot, fascinating characters and evocative description. Gabrielle recreates the dramatic world of the wandering players with consummate skill. Her attention to detail is outstanding and takes the reader straight into life on the stage in 16th century Italy. The plot is cleverly constructed with the real life dramas of the actors running alongside the traditional stories of Arlecchino, Colombina and the other characters from the Commedia dell'Arte.

Gabrielle Kimm is a brilliant storyteller and her work is rich, imaginative and totally enchanting. The Girl with the Painted Face is refreshingly different from other historical novels and I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2014
I've read all three of Gabrielle Kimm's novels, and this one was my favourite. The story of a travelling Commedia d'ell Arte troupe performing in Renaissance Italy is extremely well done, with many scenes from plays and comedic routines which have the ring of authenticity. Clearly much research has been done here with an expert in stagecraft. This is a thoroughly entertaining read, with plenty of action, sympathetic characters, and lush settings. Of its genre, this provides everything you could wish for; romance, adventure and a finely drawn historical background. I won't forget Sofia and her delightful admirer, Beppe, for a long time.
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on 16 July 2014
The Girl with the Painted Face is set in Modena, Italy, 1582. Where a young orphaned seamstress, Sofia, is falsely accused of stealing from a client. She's quite an innocent but thankfully is taken under the wing of a troupe of travelling actors, called the Corraggiosi, and finds herself falling for one of the group's most talented performers, Beppe Bianchi. At the heart of this novel is a charming story of first love and sexual awakening. I found Beppe and Sofia's developing attraction, and friendship, engaging and believable. Unfortunately, Sofia's beauty attracts the unwelcome attentions of an aristocratic bully. His murder is immediately blamed on Sofia, and she is arrested by the local militia. The actors seek to prove Sofia's innocence and we soon discover there are quite a few suspects ...
This is an excellent mix of romance and murder mystery, enhanced by the wonderful setting of Renaissance Italy evoked, as always, with genuine love by Gabrielle Kimm. I'm a history fan and really enjoyed learning about the actors and all their traditions. The Commedia dell’Arte is a form of theatre I'd never heard of before but now intrigues me. If I have to air any grumble it would be that I wanted to spend more time with the actors, a delightful mix of characters - so maybe there is material for a sequel here, please Gabrielle ...
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on 1 December 2013
Now I have been lucky enough to have read both of Gabrielle's previous books and so was extremely excited when this book landed on my door mat. Loved the look of the cover and without hesitation I delved straight in.

We find ourselves in Italy in 1582 with all the smells and poverty that was around for those not fortunate enough. Sofia has a hard life that only gets worse when she doesn't allow the advances of a gentleman so she finds herself on the run. Thankfully there are good people around who help Sofia and welcome her into their touring Theatre company. obviously nothing is fair sailing and jealously and greed get the better. Before Sofia knows it she is at the centre of a murder.

Like all Gabrielle's books, it is brilliantly written. Fabulous placement and descriptive writing of the locations, people and situations which transports you into the time. It's not a light and easy historical read, it will get you thinking and turning the pages quickly will good to succeed. It's a real who done it ... loads of red herrings making you think you know who it was!!!

I am a huge fan of all Gabrielle's books and this book does not disappoint. It really is a fantastic read and I can't recommend it enough. My only criticism is that I will have to wait another 12 months for her next book!
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on 18 June 2014
Set in 1582 in Italy, The Girl with the Painted Face tells the story of the young seamstress, Sofia Genotti – a vulnerable, sensitive and heart-warming heroine who has must go on the run after being falsely accused of theft. Sofia joins a troupe of travelling actors as their costume mistress, but is soon appearing on the stage as a budding actress. When she falls in love with fellow actor, Beppe, life seems finally to be treating her well, until Sofia is wrongly accused of murder and forced, once more, to run away.
Through her scrupulous research and vivid descriptions, the author has woven an historical tale that is both entertaining and educational. 16th century Italy and the world of the Commedia dell'Arte is vividly brought to life, the reader almost able to see and smell the countryside, the crowded taverns, the lively marketplaces, and the colourful characters, some of whom have very dark and dangerous sides.
I found The Girl with the Painted Face a nice, simple read; a cosy mystery with no great surprises or plot twists and turns. I would recommend this as an easy read for historical fiction lovers who enjoy tales of adventure, romance and a whodunnit in the storyline.
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