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The Brightest Star

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A thirst for learning and a passion for astronomy draw an extraordinary young woman deep into the intellectual maelstrom, political complexities and religious extremism of Renaissance Florence. This beautifully crafted novel will appeal to readers of Karen Brooks' The Good Wife of Bath and Pip Williams' Dictionary of Lost Words. 1496 It is the height of the Renaissance and A thirst for learning and a passion for astronomy draw an extraordinary young woman deep into the intellectual maelstrom, political complexities and religious extremism of Renaissance Florence. This beautifully crafted novel will appeal to readers of Karen Brooks' The Good Wife of Bath and Pip Williams' Dictionary of Lost Words. 1496 It is the height of the Renaissance and its flowering of intellectual and artistic endeavour, but the city state of Florence is in the grip of fundamentalist preacher Friar Girolamo Savonarola. Its good people believe the Lord speaks through him, just as certainly as the Sun circles the Earth. For Leonarda Lunetta, eldest daughter of the learned Signore Vincenzo Fusili, religion is not as interesting as the books she shares with her beloved father. Reading is an escape from the ridicule flung her way, for Luna is not like other girls. She was born with a misshapen leg and that, and her passion for intellectual pursuits - particularly astronomy - alters how society sees her and how she sees the world. Luna wants to know, to learn, to become an astronomer who charts the nights sky - certainly not the dutiful, marriageable daughter all of Florence society insists upon. So when Luna meets astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, she is not surprised that his heretical beliefs confirm her view that world is not as it is presented - or how it could be. These dangerous ideas bring her into conflict with the preacher Savonarola, and her future is changed irrevocably as politics, extremism and belief systems ignite in a dangerous conflagration. Luna is a woman born out of time, the brightest star of her generation, but can she reconcile the girl of her father's making with this new version of herself? And if she does, will Renaissance Italy prove too perilous and dark a place for a free-thinking woman?


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A thirst for learning and a passion for astronomy draw an extraordinary young woman deep into the intellectual maelstrom, political complexities and religious extremism of Renaissance Florence. This beautifully crafted novel will appeal to readers of Karen Brooks' The Good Wife of Bath and Pip Williams' Dictionary of Lost Words. 1496 It is the height of the Renaissance and A thirst for learning and a passion for astronomy draw an extraordinary young woman deep into the intellectual maelstrom, political complexities and religious extremism of Renaissance Florence. This beautifully crafted novel will appeal to readers of Karen Brooks' The Good Wife of Bath and Pip Williams' Dictionary of Lost Words. 1496 It is the height of the Renaissance and its flowering of intellectual and artistic endeavour, but the city state of Florence is in the grip of fundamentalist preacher Friar Girolamo Savonarola. Its good people believe the Lord speaks through him, just as certainly as the Sun circles the Earth. For Leonarda Lunetta, eldest daughter of the learned Signore Vincenzo Fusili, religion is not as interesting as the books she shares with her beloved father. Reading is an escape from the ridicule flung her way, for Luna is not like other girls. She was born with a misshapen leg and that, and her passion for intellectual pursuits - particularly astronomy - alters how society sees her and how she sees the world. Luna wants to know, to learn, to become an astronomer who charts the nights sky - certainly not the dutiful, marriageable daughter all of Florence society insists upon. So when Luna meets astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, she is not surprised that his heretical beliefs confirm her view that world is not as it is presented - or how it could be. These dangerous ideas bring her into conflict with the preacher Savonarola, and her future is changed irrevocably as politics, extremism and belief systems ignite in a dangerous conflagration. Luna is a woman born out of time, the brightest star of her generation, but can she reconcile the girl of her father's making with this new version of herself? And if she does, will Renaissance Italy prove too perilous and dark a place for a free-thinking woman?

30 review for The Brightest Star

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    One of the things I love so much about reading is learning about different eras and Emma Harcourt has taken me back to Renaissance period in Florence where we get to meet Luna a young woman who was born with a deformed foot which caused many to think she was spawned by the devil even her own mother, her life is not an easy one especially with the way her father Signore Vincenzo Fusili encouraged her to learn, come along and meet Leonarda Lunetta, Luna. It is 1496 and the renaissance is opening it One of the things I love so much about reading is learning about different eras and Emma Harcourt has taken me back to Renaissance period in Florence where we get to meet Luna a young woman who was born with a deformed foot which caused many to think she was spawned by the devil even her own mother, her life is not an easy one especially with the way her father Signore Vincenzo Fusili encouraged her to learn, come along and meet Leonarda Lunetta, Luna. It is 1496 and the renaissance is opening its eyes to lots of learning especially about astronomy for the men anyway, there are groups of men that meet and debate lots of issues, Florence is being controlled by Friar Savonarola and his ideas are very different from what most of the people think, he has exiled the Medici family who has always been close to the Fusili family and Vincenzo is working hard to bring them back but this is putting so much pressure on the family, also his daughter Luna is becoming someone who people are taking notice of not necessarily because of her deformity but because of her outspoken ways, that he has encouraged over the years by helping her learn and become so knowledgeable. Luna wants so much to become an astronomer not a wife but things are starting to get very dangerous in Florence and before long Luna is alone and being sent to a convent with a stop along the way a family who was always close to the Fusili family here she is encouraged to be herself and here she meets student Nicolaus Copericus who also loves astronomy and soon Luna is finding happiness again away from Florence will she be able to live and learn the way she wants too? This is a fabulous story that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, Luna was strong and filled with passion about learning and a very likeable character, it would have been a very hard era to live in especially for woman and with the intelligence that Luna had keeping that locked away was never going to happen, this is one that I would highly recommend. My thanks to Harlequin AU for my copy to read and review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    An enjoyable historical fiction set in Florence in 1496, the Medici family is in exile and an extremist preacher Savonarola has great influence over the lives of the people. The main character is Luna, the eldest daughter of the Fusilli family, who have a wool business. Luna was born with a deformed foot and her father has kept her and encouraged her to learn in a time when women weren’t educated and disabled people were considered marked by the devil. Its easy to read this story, Luna is a brig An enjoyable historical fiction set in Florence in 1496, the Medici family is in exile and an extremist preacher Savonarola has great influence over the lives of the people. The main character is Luna, the eldest daughter of the Fusilli family, who have a wool business. Luna was born with a deformed foot and her father has kept her and encouraged her to learn in a time when women weren’t educated and disabled people were considered marked by the devil. Its easy to read this story, Luna is a bright character and there’s plenty of details about how people lived, both good and tragic. What happens to the family is a bit of a shock even though the build up probably foreshadows it and the later chapters are interesting as a young Copernicus enters the story. A fascinating read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Veronica ⭐️

    https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogsp... I was expecting this story to be about Luna's battle to be accepted as a woman of knowledge, and this was partly the story, but it was more about the politics of Venice in the 15th Century and the suppression of women. Set in Renaissance Florence, a time when the judgement of others ruled everyday moments, The Brightest Star is rich in political intrigue as the governance of Florence comes under question. Emma Harcourt's writing is beautiful to read and I ha https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogsp... I was expecting this story to be about Luna's battle to be accepted as a woman of knowledge, and this was partly the story, but it was more about the politics of Venice in the 15th Century and the suppression of women. Set in Renaissance Florence, a time when the judgement of others ruled everyday moments, The Brightest Star is rich in political intrigue as the governance of Florence comes under question. Emma Harcourt's writing is beautiful to read and I had so many magnificent quotes highlighted throughout the book, however the subject matter didn't hold my interest. I found myself more invested in the lives of the country folk, and their preparations for the coming winter, than the politics of the time. Harcourt's writing evokes a powerful sense of time and place and I am certain The Brightest Star will be enjoyed by many Historical Fiction fans. *I received my copy from the publisher

  4. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    Florence is one of my favourite settings for a novel and the Renaissance is one of my favourite eras, so it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to this latest release by Emma Harcourt, The Brightest Star. The events unfold during the dark period upon which Florence was within the grips of the extremist Savonarola, a preacher who sacked the city, expelled the Medici’s, destroyed so much art and so many books, all in the name of religious purity. At the time of this story, the Medici’s are Florence is one of my favourite settings for a novel and the Renaissance is one of my favourite eras, so it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to this latest release by Emma Harcourt, The Brightest Star. The events unfold during the dark period upon which Florence was within the grips of the extremist Savonarola, a preacher who sacked the city, expelled the Medici’s, destroyed so much art and so many books, all in the name of religious purity. At the time of this story, the Medici’s are in exile and plotting with loyalists to raise an army to return. The atmosphere within Florence is one of volatility, fear an ever-present undercurrent for families of means as they wait for Savonarola to cast his eyes their way for the slightest of provocations. To date, I had only read up to the period where the Medici’s were exiled, so I found it quite fascinating to dive into this period through fiction. I thought the tensions and volatility were conveyed through the narrative with precision, keeping the reader on edge, a certain sense of doom pervading all and giving you cause to brace yourself for what you surely knew was inevitable. Luna is the eldest child of one of Florence’s leading families. Propelled by guilt, her father has nurtured her precocious mind through the provision of an education that is usually reserved for sons. It is only as Luna approaches adulthood that he begins to rue his decision, viewing her educated mind as much of a repellent for suitable husbands and a secure future as her deformed leg. As Luna becomes increasingly aware of the fate her father plans for her, she resists as much as she can, with the ultimate and most tragic of consequences. But it is in the aftermath of tragedy that Luna realises her full potential. I particularly enjoyed these later scenes where Luna is coming to terms with her grief whilst grappling with a yearning for knowledge that may not be barred to her any longer within her newfound circumstances. The early ideas of female agency tied in with female hysteria and the ‘harmfulness’ of educating women were tightly woven into the narrative, giving a well fleshed out story that reflected the politics of 15th century Florentine society within the context of a woman born a step out of her own time. ‘It was wrong that women were damned and silenced for expressing any of the glorious and complicated emotions they felt.’ Overall, I found The Brightest Star to be a most engaging read, tense and interesting, highlighting an era of history that has not been overly plundered through fiction. Highly recommended. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘It was the wet nurse who sealed Luna’s fate.’ Florence, 1496. Leonarda Lunetta (Luna), the eldest daughter of Signore Vincenzo Fusili, is a teenager. Born with a misshapen leg, she is often the subject of ridicule. Luna reads to escape and would love to learn to be an astronomer. But the city state of Florence is in the grip of Friar Girolamo Savonarola, the fundamentalist preacher holding sway after the Medici family were driven out of Florence in 1494. It is a dangerous time to question views ‘It was the wet nurse who sealed Luna’s fate.’ Florence, 1496. Leonarda Lunetta (Luna), the eldest daughter of Signore Vincenzo Fusili, is a teenager. Born with a misshapen leg, she is often the subject of ridicule. Luna reads to escape and would love to learn to be an astronomer. But the city state of Florence is in the grip of Friar Girolamo Savonarola, the fundamentalist preacher holding sway after the Medici family were driven out of Florence in 1494. It is a dangerous time to question views held to be orthodox. While encouraged to learn by her father, Luna finds the world more restrictive when she reaches a marriageable age. And her father, a supporter of the Medici, has some problems of his own. Luna meets astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus whose beliefs, while considered heretical, are similar to her own. Ms Harcourt captures the turmoil in Florence, the volatile atmosphere as Savonarola and his supporters increase their control, as suspicions are cast on anyone who is different. Luna is destined for the convent when her family meet with tragedy. This tragedy provides Luna with an opportunity to consider a future different from what her family envisaged. I particularly enjoyed this part of the story. Luna learns some truths about the past which make it easier for her to embrace the future. Highly recommended. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  6. 4 out of 5

    ✰ BJ's Book Blog ✰Janeane ✰

    Thank you Harlequin for my copy of the Brightest Star I like a book set in a historical setting, and this is a setting that i have not read about before. Set in Medici-esque Florence, we are taken back to a period of time where religion is everythign and females are there to be seen and not heard And when Luna makes herself heard, trouble follows. It did take me a while to get into this one. It did seem to just go... nowhere for a long while. I know a lot of that was the set up but af Thank you Harlequin for my copy of the Brightest Star I like a book set in a historical setting, and this is a setting that i have not read about before. Set in Medici-esque Florence, we are taken back to a period of time where religion is everythign and females are there to be seen and not heard And when Luna makes herself heard, trouble follows. It did take me a while to get into this one. It did seem to just go... nowhere for a long while. I know a lot of that was the set up but after we knew who was who and what was what, to me it just floundered for a little while before things moved along again. I did enjoy Luna - like they say, well behaved women rarely make history, and she would have certainly had a page or two in the history books. What I also liked what that I learned something new - as I was reading I had my phone by my side, googling people and events in the book. This was my first Emma Harcourt book, but I will read more in the future.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    Set in Florence, The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt starts in 1479 with the birth of Leonarda Lunetta (Luna) Fusili. Luna is born with a misshapen leg and is immediately rejected by her mother. The eldest daughter of Signore Vincenzio Fusili, Luna is brought up with reading, debate, science and astronomy, usually the preserve of male heirs. Twenty odd years later and Luna's father is supporting the Medici family in secret after Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici's banishment from the city. Renaissance Set in Florence, The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt starts in 1479 with the birth of Leonarda Lunetta (Luna) Fusili. Luna is born with a misshapen leg and is immediately rejected by her mother. The eldest daughter of Signore Vincenzio Fusili, Luna is brought up with reading, debate, science and astronomy, usually the preserve of male heirs. Twenty odd years later and Luna's father is supporting the Medici family in secret after Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici's banishment from the city. Renaissance Florence is beset by fundamentalist preacher Friar Girolamo Savonarola who reminded me a little of the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones. Luna finds herself taken in by him at one of his sermons: "Luna heard tenderness in his entreaties to the congregation and there was a murmur of agreement from the floor. The people swayed and gasped as one as the preacher grew ever more impassioned. Luna swayed just as the strangers around her did, and there was a warm fealty in doing so." Page 127 When piles of precious books are burned and neighbours thrown out into the street for heresy, a feeling of dread pervades the family. Luna has a passion for learning and longs to continue her studies but her step mother's insistence she be wed or attend a nunnery on account of her leg is thwarting her plans for the future. Luna has received an education usually reserved for boys and she fights the inequality between the sexes, her lack of agency and the ignominy of her disability. Luna is a terrific protagonist and I really felt for her as she strived for what she wanted and fiercely resisted having her future decided for her. Despite the political tensions and the danger of incurring Savonarola's wrath, there are moments of light dialogue and sensational writing. I particularly liked this phrase: "Now, wash your hands and find your sister for me. She frolics somewhere outdoors and ignores my calls to come inside. Her antics age me ten moons in a day." Page 57 Ten moons in a day, I think we can all relate to how that must feel! The Brightest Star is well researched by this Australian author, the Florentine setting felt authentic and I enjoyed the period details. I particularly enjoyed the two references to the period of the evening where the 'second sleep' of the night takes place on pages 77 and 167. Regular Carpe Librum readers will know this is one of my favourite nuggets of history surrounding sleep. The introduction of Nicolaus Copernicus as a minor character in the second half of the novel was a nice surprise and I enjoyed following Luna as she grew and matured into a young lady. Reading The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt put me in mind of TV series The Borgias and I'm listening to that soundtrack right now as I compose this review. The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt is highly recommended for historical fiction readers and those interested in Renaissance Florence, the power of a classic education, a disabled protagonist and a love of astronomy. * Copy courtesy of Harper Collins *

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I must say I had a bit f a hard time getting into this as the story seemed to be going nowhere at first and I nearly put it down. But I did persevere and it was a pretty good story. Another very long book that I feel could have been shortened a bit as there did seem to be some parts of the story that repeated itself as it was told in the eyes of Luna and then of her father Vincenzo Fusili. But having said that it is an interesting story and I did love Luna and her attitude to the way things were I must say I had a bit f a hard time getting into this as the story seemed to be going nowhere at first and I nearly put it down. But I did persevere and it was a pretty good story. Another very long book that I feel could have been shortened a bit as there did seem to be some parts of the story that repeated itself as it was told in the eyes of Luna and then of her father Vincenzo Fusili. But having said that it is an interesting story and I did love Luna and her attitude to the way things were in those times. As the story went on it did get better for me and there was a bit more going on. The characters are interesting, the times are interesting and the story did flow well but it wasn't one of my favourite historical reads I'm afraid. The Brightest Star Emma Harcourt Harlequin Australia

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Fiction Australia for gifting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Set in 1496 Florence, where the renaissance is opening the worlds eyes to new learnings in science and astronomy we meet the Fusili family. Trapped between wanting to learn and discover more of the world, their allegiance to the exiled Medici family and the fanatical priest now ruling over the city. Our story is told by Luna the eldest daughter of the family, who was born with a leg d Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Fiction Australia for gifting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Set in 1496 Florence, where the renaissance is opening the worlds eyes to new learnings in science and astronomy we meet the Fusili family. Trapped between wanting to learn and discover more of the world, their allegiance to the exiled Medici family and the fanatical priest now ruling over the city. Our story is told by Luna the eldest daughter of the family, who was born with a leg deformity that ostracised her from the day she was born, starting with her mother and continuing with the people of Florence. But our Luna is no ordinary girl, adored by her father and with a passion for knowledge Luna is ready for a life of scholar and not to be a wife. However, Luna’s outspoken ways once thought clever at a young age are now making dangerous ripples for herself and her family in the already tense Florence. I really enjoyed this novel. Harcourt’s characters are wonderfully developed, you can easily picture and understand the relationship of those in the family and their friends and foes. Her inclusions of the astronomical descriptions and theories were so easily written into the book that it fit so well and at no point did I feel I was reading a text book. I’ve always loved the story of a educated strong willed women in history and it was wonderful to read a novel which played out with realistic expectations and results. I only wish the story had continued passed the ending as I found myself wanting to read more as I wasn’t ready to leave the life of Luna behind. A truely lovely book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alida

    Thanks to Better Reading for my advanced copy to read and review. Emma Harcourt’s second historical novel brings Renaissance Florence vividly to life. We meet the clever and curious Luna on the day of her ‘cursed’ birth, and we step into her journey of self-discovery as a young teen. A full cast of characters fill the pages: bring on a screen adaptation(!) Peppered throughout all scenes and dialogue is social commentary making the historical context very clear to the reader, especially in relatio Thanks to Better Reading for my advanced copy to read and review. Emma Harcourt’s second historical novel brings Renaissance Florence vividly to life. We meet the clever and curious Luna on the day of her ‘cursed’ birth, and we step into her journey of self-discovery as a young teen. A full cast of characters fill the pages: bring on a screen adaptation(!) Peppered throughout all scenes and dialogue is social commentary making the historical context very clear to the reader, especially in relation to the position and role of women, their duty and marriageability as a contract asset. Education and free-thinking were highly discouraged. As a child, Luna was lucky: she learned to read books and study the stars with her father, but as a young woman this was considered unbecoming; and even her father is caught in this web of intellectual and religious constraint, for which ultimately a high price is paid. A number of ‘big events’ occur and impact not just Luna’s life, but in different ways, her immediate family as well. Florentine society, religion and politics in 1496 are interconnected and all authentically detailed, packing an historical punch. This is a novel full of reflection and introspection, blended with emotionally intense action scenes: it kept me turning the pages.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kaffeeklatsch and Books

    Gorgeous cover, but quite a disappointment 😞 The book is super slow and nothing much happens. We read more about Luna's father and the political players during this time then about Luna. The characters were very one-dimensional and there was so much repetition! I loved the concept of the book, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy it. Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me a free review copy in exchange for an honest review. Gorgeous cover, but quite a disappointment 😞 The book is super slow and nothing much happens. We read more about Luna's father and the political players during this time then about Luna. The characters were very one-dimensional and there was so much repetition! I loved the concept of the book, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy it. Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me a free review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helen - Great Reads & Tea Leaves

    The Brightest Star is a work of historical fiction by Australian author, Emma Harcourt. Following up from her debut, The Shanghai Wife, Emma demonstrates her versatility and depth as a growing author. What is there not to love in going back to Renaissance Italy and being immersed in the intellectual, political and religious turmoil of the day. Make the lead character a female with a physical disability and you have all the ingredients for a riveting story. ‘How cruel a fate. She flung the book a The Brightest Star is a work of historical fiction by Australian author, Emma Harcourt. Following up from her debut, The Shanghai Wife, Emma demonstrates her versatility and depth as a growing author. What is there not to love in going back to Renaissance Italy and being immersed in the intellectual, political and religious turmoil of the day. Make the lead character a female with a physical disability and you have all the ingredients for a riveting story. ‘How cruel a fate. She flung the book across the room and heard it smack sharply against the far wall. Damn this world that elevated men above all others.’ This was such a well researched book which made for excellent reading. Whether it be the politics of the time with the Medici’s, the growing movement and growth in the understanding of astronomy (particularly concerning Copernicus) or the role of women - there is certainly much on offer for readers of historical fiction. It was a full immersion into Florentine society of the day. ‘Florence was a city that did not suffer rule-breakers and he’d not counted on his daughter developing quite so independent a voice. She’d become wilful, speaking her mind whenever it pleased her and asking for the freedoms of a man.’ The story is overflowing with details as you come to understand how life was for Luna, being female with a disability. Was her father doing her a disservice by fostering her love of reading and other intellectual pursuits, setting her up for failure given society's expectations? Luna’s story is certainly unique and worth the read as a strong female lead well ahead of her time. ‘There was peace in the stars. The night sky blinked. There was Venus, so bright. ‘Hello, wandering star,’ Luna whispered and wished she were up there, afloat in her own perfect sphere in that more perfect world.’ This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

  13. 4 out of 5

    kaitlyns_library

    This was a mostly engaging story with a likeable main character who was strong and passionate. Luna was quite progressive for a women in 1400s Florence and I felt for her when others disregarded her for her gender and disability. I will admit, this story was slow to start and it took some time for anything really significant to happen. I wasn’t fully engage with the story, but that could be more because I usually read Young Adult novels. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt was a pleasing piece of historical fiction. It opened strongly, introducing Luna as a well-drawn and appealing heroine whose story I was interested to follow throughout. The story held my attention well and there was a good sense of place and period; however, I felt a little let down by the ending, not because it wasn't wrapped up well in one way, but rather because I had expected 'more' for her based on the build up and all that had come before. That small gr The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt was a pleasing piece of historical fiction. It opened strongly, introducing Luna as a well-drawn and appealing heroine whose story I was interested to follow throughout. The story held my attention well and there was a good sense of place and period; however, I felt a little let down by the ending, not because it wasn't wrapped up well in one way, but rather because I had expected 'more' for her based on the build up and all that had come before. That small gripe aside, though, this was an enjoyable tale and is sure to please historical fiction fans who like to see a strong female lead in the stories they read. I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I’ve just finished the reading copy of this book that my workplace was lucky enough to receive. I absolutely loved this book, I didn’t want it to end and I will be recommending it to customers without a doubt. Absolutely beautiful, thank you to the author for this amazing tale.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Hunter

    The Brightest Star is a novel that radiates elegance inside and out. The story revolves around Luna, a baby born with a physical disability, born into a world where her own mother and society did not accept her from the beginning. Luna is an intelligent young lady who is inspired by her father's interest in astronomy. Her father and the friar are her confidants and biggest supporters. Whilst growing up, Luna's father is a man who supports women's education, in a time when men dominate. It is a t The Brightest Star is a novel that radiates elegance inside and out. The story revolves around Luna, a baby born with a physical disability, born into a world where her own mother and society did not accept her from the beginning. Luna is an intelligent young lady who is inspired by her father's interest in astronomy. Her father and the friar are her confidants and biggest supporters. Whilst growing up, Luna's father is a man who supports women's education, in a time when men dominate. It is a time when books, apart from the Bible, are reverently discouraged and women's intelligence is mocked. As time progresses, Friar Savanarola divides the city, infiltrating homes with fear and attempting to control minds and remove anything he considers to be unrelated to the Bible. The historical setting of Renaissance Florence is fabulous. As the reader travels back in time to 1496, the world of religion and art are in conflict. Florence is a city known for art and architecture. The horrific events of this time opened my eyes to what the people of Florence have experienced and their efforts to preserve the culture that is celebrated today. This is a historical fiction novel that took me on a journey of personal education whilst feeling emotionally connected to the protagonist. Luna is a lovable character who is strong and her character development is symbolic of the artists and academic people of Florence at this time. The challenges faced in Luna's life create a woman who is capable of her own thoughts and discoveries whilst having strong faith. This novel celebrates women's intelligence. The Brightest Star is a masterpiece of a novel set in the city of must-see masterpieces. This is one of my favourite reads of the year! Five stars! Thank you @harlequinaus @emmaharcourtauthor for sending me a copy of The Brightest Star! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 #thebrighteststar #emmaharcourt #historicalfiction #ilovereading #renaissance #florence #astronomy #astronomer #church #italy #bibliophile #chapterichi

  17. 5 out of 5

    Craig / Phil

    Thank you Harlequin for sending us a copy to read and review. The Renaissance was a golden glimmer in history and was a time where religion, men and male ego ruled supreme, it was also a time where female education was non existent and female intelligence was rated as hysteria. Luna was a bright star and against the odds refused to let her glow be snuffed. Luna’s birth was highly anticipated and was quickly deflated when a deformity defined her worth. Rejected by her mother she was saved from bein Thank you Harlequin for sending us a copy to read and review. The Renaissance was a golden glimmer in history and was a time where religion, men and male ego ruled supreme, it was also a time where female education was non existent and female intelligence was rated as hysteria. Luna was a bright star and against the odds refused to let her glow be snuffed. Luna’s birth was highly anticipated and was quickly deflated when a deformity defined her worth. Rejected by her mother she was saved from being sent to the convent as an orphan by a caring wet nurse. Although restrained, her fathers love furnished her curious and intellectual mind with an education and ambition. She was known as precocious as she flexed her intelligence and refused to let her disability define her. Finding her place in a male dominated world that was ruled by religion was a challenge. Luna’s journey, her family life, aspirations and destiny tested her at every turn. What a joy it was to indulge in a well written and researched story set in a period that doesn’t normally feature in books. It was even more joyous to be part of Luna’s life, a very likeable and tenacious young lady. I was transported back to this era and this is always a testimony to a clever author. Historical fiction at its finest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Regina

    This enthralling story is set in Renaissance Florence and told from the perspectives of Luna, a unique young woman with a passion for astronomy, and her father who encouraged his daughter’s interest in intellectual pursuits from a young age. However, to be a free-thinking woman with ideas considered heretical in this time is perilous especially in a city under the rule of a fundamentalist preacher determined to end sacrilegious views. Luna’s life immerses the reader in a time when the accepted v This enthralling story is set in Renaissance Florence and told from the perspectives of Luna, a unique young woman with a passion for astronomy, and her father who encouraged his daughter’s interest in intellectual pursuits from a young age. However, to be a free-thinking woman with ideas considered heretical in this time is perilous especially in a city under the rule of a fundamentalist preacher determined to end sacrilegious views. Luna’s life immerses the reader in a time when the accepted view was that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that the only acceptable position for a woman was as a subservient wife and mother. A role in conflict with the headstrong Luna’s dreams of pursuing her education. Historical figures such as the astronomer Copernicus are woven into Luna’s story. His appearance in her life leads to some fascinating discussions and tender scenes, a contrast to some of the more harrowing and traumatic events depicted in Luna’s earlier life. This is a satisfying and engrossing read about an atypical female ahead of her time. With thanks to Better Reading and HarperCollins for the preview copy. #BRPreview

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa-Anne Norman

    The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt. Luna's character was the driver in this novel. She was inspirational. Set in Renaissance Florence, a time that proved to be difficult and dangerous as an educated person let alone an educated woman with a deformity from birth. Luna faced obscene obstacles which did not lessen her thirst for knowledge and continued on her quest to learn astrology. What she didn't expect was to find herself in the meantime. During the worst of her heartaches revelations were mad The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt. Luna's character was the driver in this novel. She was inspirational. Set in Renaissance Florence, a time that proved to be difficult and dangerous as an educated person let alone an educated woman with a deformity from birth. Luna faced obscene obstacles which did not lessen her thirst for knowledge and continued on her quest to learn astrology. What she didn't expect was to find herself in the meantime. During the worst of her heartaches revelations were made about her Mother, Father, household staff and her support network. I couldn't love this book enough and give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ /5 thanks @harpercollinsaustralia and @harlequinaus for the gifted copy. It certainly got me through a difficult time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matilda Edwards

    What a lovely tale of a young woman growing up in renaissance Florence whose ambitions do not allign with societal expectations of women in that era. Emma harcourt’s depiction of Luna’s character is highly believable despite it being a fictional character. Luna is presented as an intelligent, ambitious, and free thinking young woman who is ahead of the times. Her love for astronomy is seen as a unique quality. She is shamed for her physical disability making her seem inadequate to attain ‘normal What a lovely tale of a young woman growing up in renaissance Florence whose ambitions do not allign with societal expectations of women in that era. Emma harcourt’s depiction of Luna’s character is highly believable despite it being a fictional character. Luna is presented as an intelligent, ambitious, and free thinking young woman who is ahead of the times. Her love for astronomy is seen as a unique quality. She is shamed for her physical disability making her seem inadequate to attain ‘normal’ goals in life. It is fabulous to see her overcome life’s adversities and accomplish simple pleasures and receive acceptance by nonjudgemental folk that come into her life. A fabulous read! Thanks Better Reading and Harlequinn Fiction for my preview copy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    What Fern Reads

    Set in 1496, Florence when the Medici family is in exile, religion rules all but where some dare to defy. Luna, the eldest daughter of a merchant is born with a deformity, and this will set the course of her life. Looked upon as unmarriable and due to her passion for education and knowledge, Luna views society just as differently as it views her. Reading is Luna’s escape, and she longs to become an astronomer who will chart the night skies. When she meets Nicolaus Copernicus, she is not surprised Set in 1496, Florence when the Medici family is in exile, religion rules all but where some dare to defy. Luna, the eldest daughter of a merchant is born with a deformity, and this will set the course of her life. Looked upon as unmarriable and due to her passion for education and knowledge, Luna views society just as differently as it views her. Reading is Luna’s escape, and she longs to become an astronomer who will chart the night skies. When she meets Nicolaus Copernicus, she is not surprised that his heretical beliefs confirm her view that the world is not as it is presented. These dangerous ideas bring into conflict with the preacher Savonarola, and her future is changed as politics, extremism and belief systems ignite in a dangerous conflagration. I have not read many novels set during the Renaissance but I can tell you that in THE BRIGHTEST STAR, we have a strong, independent and determined young woman in our main character Luna. Luna and her family seem to be on the precipice of exile due to her father’s friendship with the exiled Medici family and the way that Luna’s deformity is treated by their social circles. It did take me a decent amount of time to get into the swing of the story and I felt it was a tad repetitive and could have been shortened but can appreciate Harcourt’s desire to set the scene and tell the impact of the plot from Luna and her father’s view. The novel’s social commentary makes the historical context very clear to the reader, especially in relation to the position and role of women, their duty and marriageability as a contract asset – even as young as 9 years old girls were contacted and married off to well-positioned husbands to the benefit of both families. An enjoyable read about a period in history I was previously unfamiliar with!

  22. 5 out of 5

    aubree

    3.5 stars — A very charming read, while a little lengthy at times. Still, the atmosphere and language truly transported you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Annine

    Diversity challenge: mc with disability CW: pretty extreme ableism and sexism typical for the 1400s.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karyn

    What a way to learn about renaissance Florence in the late 1400’s. We are introduced to life in Florence through the eyes of Leonarda Lunetta who was born under a full moon with a deformed foot, which is considered the ‘devils work’. Luna, as her father calls her is a ‘cripple’ to anyone who meets her and she is taunted throughout her life but despite her physical disability Luna shares her fathers love for reading and intellectual pursuits. She loves learning and has a passion and desire to stu What a way to learn about renaissance Florence in the late 1400’s. We are introduced to life in Florence through the eyes of Leonarda Lunetta who was born under a full moon with a deformed foot, which is considered the ‘devils work’. Luna, as her father calls her is a ‘cripple’ to anyone who meets her and she is taunted throughout her life but despite her physical disability Luna shares her fathers love for reading and intellectual pursuits. She loves learning and has a passion and desire to study astronomy which is considered undesirable for a young woman. Luna will not marry as most young women would in this era so what is to become of her? The background of the Medici family’s’ exile from the city to the underground efforts to return them to their home runs as an undercurrent to the story. I loved the strong female character of Luna, she was a young woman ahead of her time and I eagerly read late into the night to find out what became of her life. A very interesting historical fiction read. 4/5

  25. 4 out of 5

    rachsbookss

    From the very beginning of this book its clear that Harcourt is a historian. She provides excellent historical accuracy and her knowledge is very impressive, however I didn’t love this book. I think the concept was an excellent one, but perhaps it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. I didn’t feel much attachment to the characters and was often a little bored. I think to really understand what I mean by this you’d have to read the book, but unfortunately it just fell a little flat for m From the very beginning of this book its clear that Harcourt is a historian. She provides excellent historical accuracy and her knowledge is very impressive, however I didn’t love this book. I think the concept was an excellent one, but perhaps it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. I didn’t feel much attachment to the characters and was often a little bored. I think to really understand what I mean by this you’d have to read the book, but unfortunately it just fell a little flat for me. In saying this, Harcourt is a good writer and her descriptions were vivid and engaging. She’s obviously passionate about both literature and history and I hope to see more from her in the future (hopefully with a bit of refinement). I gave this book 2.5/5 stars, and I would recommend it to historical fiction and science lovers. Make sure to check trigger warnings as well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jedda

    I really couldn’t get past the first few cliched chapters. They sent me looking at reviews of the authors other works and I found I agreed with them that the writing is pedestrian.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    This is a fascinating historical novel, entirely believable, a little surprising, and entirely absorbing. Leonarda Lunetta – Luna – expects that she’ll never marry. She was born with a club foot, and no one would want such a curse in their family. As a counter balance to this bad luck, however, she’s been cossetted and indulged by her father. She’s received far more education than any woman expects in 1496, even in Florence and the full flowering of the Renaissance. Her father likes to have her This is a fascinating historical novel, entirely believable, a little surprising, and entirely absorbing. Leonarda Lunetta – Luna – expects that she’ll never marry. She was born with a club foot, and no one would want such a curse in their family. As a counter balance to this bad luck, however, she’s been cossetted and indulged by her father. She’s received far more education than any woman expects in 1496, even in Florence and the full flowering of the Renaissance. Her father likes to have her perform for his friends, showing off the strange sight of a female who can argue intelligently with men. However, it begins to seem that this is a curse rather than a blessing. Her intellect sparked, Luna wants to learn more about the stars and astronomy. But the rabid preacher Savonarola is making it very dangerous to stand out in any way. A woman with learning? Who speaks up in her own defense? Surely an abomination. It’s a dangerous time to be a woman. Even more so a woman with an independent mind, and an independent voice. Historical novels that focus on women who don’t want to hew to the conventions of their time often feature specific tropes, and while some are certainly present here, others aren’t. That makes the story feel a little fresher, and the turns in the plot a little more unexpected. If you know the history of the period, you’ll certainly see some things coming – but they don’t feel like something Luna should have expected. I really enjoyed this. It was a very realistic portrait of frustration and believably small ambition when faced with the weight of others’ expectations. Luna is a vivid and empathetic character, but very much one of her time. Some historical novels have characters who feel out of place, but that’s not so here. As readers, we react to Luna’s situation in particular ways, but her reactions are somewhat different and entirely consistent with the time period. This is not a romance, and that alone sets it aside from a great number of historical novels. There are multiple relationships in the novel, some loving, and others not – at least by our standards. But romance is not a big factor. At this time, particularly for Luna’s class, marriage was a business transaction. However, the relationships are drawn vividly, and are rarely simple. This is entirely believable and Harcourt has developed the ups and downs of the relationships very well. I found the novel a slightly slow start, possibly because Harcourt packs a lot of scene setting and background information into the opening pages. However, once the story really takes over, it’s well paced and absorbing. I enjoyed this very much. It’s consistent with what I know of the historical period, believable, vivid, and moving. It also feels original, standing out from other historical novels. I’d recommend this not just to those who enjoy historical novels, but also to readers who enjoy strong character based stories. If you enjoyed this review, please visit www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog to read more.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janet Ryan

    I recently received an ARC copy of The Brightest star, by Emma Harcourt thanks to #BRpreview and @harpercollins. It is a novel set in 1496 renaissance Florence. It is a tale of the plight of Leonarda Lunetta, a girl born into a world of prejudices against the infirm, the handicapped and women in general. She was born way before her time.Unfortunately for her she suffered from all these disadvantages. A females place is in the kitchen or bedroom. Education and intelligence in females is frowned u I recently received an ARC copy of The Brightest star, by Emma Harcourt thanks to #BRpreview and @harpercollins. It is a novel set in 1496 renaissance Florence. It is a tale of the plight of Leonarda Lunetta, a girl born into a world of prejudices against the infirm, the handicapped and women in general. She was born way before her time.Unfortunately for her she suffered from all these disadvantages. A females place is in the kitchen or bedroom. Education and intelligence in females is frowned upon and she struggles to have her opinions and ideas heard in regards to astronomy and religious beliefs. She has been indulged by her father as he dotes on her intelligence and lack of acceptance from others, encouraging her studies. A married life does not interest her as her passion for knowledge outweighs the whimsy of love and romance, plus she believes no man will ever truelly love or respect her because of her disabilities and intelligence. It is a relevant story even now for women to be accepted for their intelligence rather than looks or body shape or disadvantages. It was an intriguing look into the time and the hardships faced by women against the misogynistic behaviour of men. It was powerful and thought provoking and totally unlike anything I've ever read before. I loved it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    FayeBlossom

    The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt is a wonderful and well written historical fiction novel. I adored reading about the main character and her family life. I believe that the night sky and especially the moon is a symbol of hope for the leading Italian character in this novel, Leonarda Lunetta, who calls herself Luna, the English translation to moon. Luna’s character representation is strong and her personality resonated with me as she has a passion and thirst for knowledge. In a setting scene The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt is a wonderful and well written historical fiction novel. I adored reading about the main character and her family life. I believe that the night sky and especially the moon is a symbol of hope for the leading Italian character in this novel, Leonarda Lunetta, who calls herself Luna, the English translation to moon. Luna’s character representation is strong and her personality resonated with me as she has a passion and thirst for knowledge. In a setting scene of Renaissance Florence dated 1496, Luna is fortunate to have her father Vincenzio Fusili and Friar Bartolomeo in her life as her friend and teacher to encourage her learning with books and promote her enthusiasm with astronomy by star gazing over the Tuscan sky. They are two men that play import roles in shaping her future and the way that she will foresee it. Luna also meets Nicolaus Copernicus who further ignites her views and passion for astronomy. I only wished that Nicolaus was introduced earlier in the book so Luna felt more certain in her beliefs to truly follow her heart. To be a clever woman like Luna and wanting to voice your beliefs would have been very hard during this time. A very interesting novel that portrays the strength that is needed to stand up for what you believe in and to trust your voice.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anne Layton-Bennett

    Renaissance Florence is certainly a ‘dangerous time to be a clever woman’ and for crippled Leonarda Fusili, or Luna as she’s known, this means navigating life ever more cautiously at a time when women were rarely educated, and physical deformity was regarded as a mark of the devil. Motherless Luna was raised by her father Vincenzio, a self-made wealthy wool trader, and an intellectual who encouraged his intelligent daughter and their shared interest in science and astronomy. But both were danger Renaissance Florence is certainly a ‘dangerous time to be a clever woman’ and for crippled Leonarda Fusili, or Luna as she’s known, this means navigating life ever more cautiously at a time when women were rarely educated, and physical deformity was regarded as a mark of the devil. Motherless Luna was raised by her father Vincenzio, a self-made wealthy wool trader, and an intellectual who encouraged his intelligent daughter and their shared interest in science and astronomy. But both were dangerous pursuits in a city where the religious extremist Friar Savanorola persecuted any who challenged the Church’s beliefs. Ultimately this led to the shocking and tragic transformation of Luna’s circumstances. Weaving historical figures and fictional ones into the story gives authentic context to this book, and although the rich descriptions of the social, political and religious tensions in 15th century Florence are successful, I found switching the narrative between Luna and Vincenzio’s perspectives less convincing. The writing is good, and the story flows, but despite some well-drawn characters the author ‘tells’ rather than ‘shows’. This prevented me from fully engaging with and empathising with Luna’s precarious situation, or lifting the book to being unputdownable. Thanks to BetterReading for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book.

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