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"If I were to write the story of my life,

I would shock the world.”

—Caterina Riario Sforza De Medici

 

Thankfully, Renaissance scholar Elizabeth Lev did it for her in a glittering debut. In THE TIGRESS OF FORLÌ, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 18, Lev paints the life of the beautiful warrior with hair the color of autumn leaves who inspired all of Europe with the iron will she used to rule Italy after her husband’s assassination, protecting her possessions and her state while acting as Regent for her eldest son, Ottaviano. In one scene, Caterina boldly says, with the sharp iron point of a lance against her throat, “Certainly, you can hurt me, but you can’t scare me, because I am the daughter of a man who knew no fear. Do what you want: you have killed my lord, you can certainly kill me. After all, I’m just a woman!” The daughter of the Duke of Milan, the denizen of a sparkling papal court in Renaissance Rome, she ruled as countess of Imola and Forli for eleven years. The Imolesi, proud of their local heroine, named streets after her, organized conferences in her honor, and recounted her story at every opportunity. For rural lore, it was remarkably dramatic: a young woman who had to fend off her husband’s assassins, the French army, and even the infamous Cesare Borgia.

Privately, Caterina loved to hunt and dance, and Lev does not shy away from rich depictions of Renaissance life from parties to habitual, everyday activities.

It’s a book about one woman’s passion, conquest, bravery, and strength, and it’s all true.