Excerpt from Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Antoinette's Sister

by Diana Giovinazzo

Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo X
Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 400 pages

    Nov 2022, 400 pages


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Maria Katsulos
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July 26, 1773

The cool summer morning grew into a pleasantly warm afternoon. While my brother was sailing with Ferdinand, my ladies and I sat in the shade of Caserta's great lawns. Stroking my large stomach, I watched the warm breeze play in the leaves in the trees that bordered the pathway and flowed down to the pools, rippling water across the surface. The roar of the waterfall, only a few yards away, echoed through the garden. While we picnicked, I was able to keep an eye on the staff as they prepared the grounds for tomorrow night's festivities. They hurried about the base of the waterfall, setting the tables and lanterns. For a moment, I could almost forget the pressures of being a queen. Little Theresa was enjoying being held by her nursemaid, who pointed out little flowers, much to my daughter's delight.

Everything was blissful, until my brother purposefully stomped up the lawn toward me. He stood before me, in freshly laundered clothing, his hair still wet and a look of sheer anger splattered across his face.

"What are you doing?" I said. "You're going to catch a cold."

"I need to talk with you about your husband." Leopold forced the words out through clenched teeth.

"Yes, yes, of course." I picked up my parasol and bid my ladies to stay where they were so that I could walk and speak with my brother in private. "Is something the matter?"

"Everything is the matter!" Leopold burst out. He looked over his shoulder at my ladies watching us and then collected himself. "During our sailing venture, the boat capsized."

I gasped. "Ferdinand, did he get hurt? And you, are you hurt?" "Everyone is safe." Leopold took one more look behind him before whispering, "Your husband, though, behaved most abhorrently."

"He wasn't the one who capsized the boat, was he?"

"No, that was an accident. When we fell in the water, your husband panicked, splashing and carrying on as if we were all going to die. When our companion vessel arrived, he started shouting for them to save him first, the rest be damned. And I was in the water with him!" Leopold shook his head as we continued up the great lawn. "I simply do not understand his state of mind. Before the ship capsized, he was jovial—and even, dare I say it, mature. The moment the boat capsized, it was as if he were a different person. When we were safely aboard the other ship, he continued to bark the most ridiculous orders and abused anyone who came near him. Is he always like this?"

"He has his moments. I find that when he is around civilized people such as us, he tends to pick up on their behaviors. Was Tanucci on the boat with you?"

"No, he was on the boat that rescued us, but I watched him with the king. What hold does that man have over your husband? When we were brought on board, Tanucci treated him like a child. Believe me, if Mother ever caught one of our tutors treating me or Joseph like that, she would have surely had them exiled from Austria."

I pulled my brother into the little grotto that was being built for me with the help of Signor Vanvitelli. The stone hideaway was cool and far from the prying ears of the court. Ivy flowed through the opening in the roof, where the sun illuminated the newly laid tile, imported from the recently discovered location of Pompeii. Vanvitelli and I decided to leave patches unfinished so that it would look more like pathways of the ancient city. When this place was finished, it would be my sanctuary, reminiscent of the Roman ruins, complete with old statues.

"If anything, Tanucci enables him," I told my brother. "When he is around, my husband's whole demeanor deteriorates to that of a child." I took a seat on a bench, stretching my aching back. "You will soon see that the one who runs this country is Tanucci. He gives in to every demand of Spain and squanders everything else. My people struggle for food while he slurps the marrow clean of Naples's bones."

Excerpted from the book Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo. Copyright © 2022 by Diana Giovinazzo Tierney. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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