Julia de Mazzini struggles to protect herself and her lover against the whims of her totalitarian father, the Marquis of Mazzini. A Sicilian Romance tracks the life, love, and romantic adventures and escapades of young Lady Julia of the House of Mazzini. As a child, Julia studies art, history, literature, and the rules of nobility and courtship under the guidance of her mother, Maria de Vellorno. Maria is breathtakingly beautiful, a trait she passes down to both her two daughters: Julia and Emilia. Julia's mother becomes ill. Their father, the Marquis of Mazzini, sends Julia's mother away to be treated by a doctor. While away at the doctor's quarters, Maria dies under mysterious circumstances.
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Julia reaches the age of courtship and is pursued by the Duke of Luovo. The house of Luovo is wealthy and influential. Julia's father welcomes a union between his daughter and the Duke, but Julia herself is hesitant. She's got her eyes set on a different prize: the young nobleman Hippolytus de Veraza. Hippolytus is a member of an unremarkable House of nobility; the Veraza family is struggling to maintain what few royal ties it has and its land, money, influence, and prestige are all in decline. Julia's father forbids his daughter to marry Hippolytus. The two continue to court in secret.
The Marquis moves to Naples with his new wife Antoinette and his son Ferdinand. Antoinette despises Emilia and Julia; they are both so young, beautiful, and sought after in courtship. for being so beautiful. She harbors special hatred for Julia; Antoinette lusts after Hippolytus for herself. She even makes an attempt on the young girls life, entering her room with a knife in the middle of the night and preparing to stab her straight through the heart. However, at the last minute, a maidservant enters the quarters to light lamps in Julia's room. Thus, Julia's life is spared.
Julia and Hippolytus decide to run flee the castle grounds and make a life for themselves in another territory. They'll escape to the mountains of Spain and lived a monastic (though not celibate!) seclusion as man and wife. They pack their belongings and steal food from the castle kitchen with the help of a few loyal servants. They escape underground into the caves upon which the castle is built. They follow the sound of the river which will lead them off castle grounds and across the territorial border separating the Mazzini land from the land of a different house.
Unfortunately, the Marquis and Duke intercept the couple in the cavernous tunnels underneath the castle. They throw Julia in the prison castle, a solitary boarding house located on the remote south wing of the castle grounds. They inform her that they've killed off Hippolytus. Julia weeps for Hippolytus; but part of her believes that she'll see him again, even if only in the form of a spirit. Julia manages to escape by smashing a narrow entryway through the wall and slipping out under cover of night She again travels the underground tunnel-ways that lead to the river. This time, the Duke and Marquis are too slow to catch her; she takes the river clear across castle grounds and into the neighboring House's territory. There, she finds Hippolytus, whom the Duke and Marquis had beaten badly and left for dead. The two nurse him back to health in the safety of the underground caves beneath the riverbed. When Hippolytus is able to walk about freely, the two continue to travel together, toward the majestic northern mountains of Spain.
Back at the castle, the Marquis meets an unfortunate end. His new wife catches him cheating on her with a maid servant. In a fit of uncontrolled rage, she decides to take his life. One night, she serves him a delicious mead spiked with deadly poison. He gets drunk off the beverage and goes off to bed wearily. The following morning, the Marquis does not rise. In grief,sadness, anger and shame Antoinette weeps for what she's done. Finally, she takes a knife and stabs herself in the heart, ending her own misery and crying out to the gods for forgiveness.
Best part of story, including ending:
The descriptive language is beautiful. The landscapes are varied and rich. In particular, the descriptions of the castle grounds and underground caves are quite rich and engaging.
Best scene in story:
When the Marquis forbids Julia from seeing Hippolytus, the girl responds in an unexpectedly strong and aggressive manner. She starts to raise her voice. Before long, she's yelling at her father and rousing the interest of all the manservants and maidservants on staff. Before the end of the yelling match, the entire service staff is surrounding them and looking on with intrigue. The dynamic and bold manner in which Julia confronts her father in the scene is in sharp contrast to the more reserved, "proper" attitude she takes in most of the book. This scene demonstrates the passionate nature of her love for Hippolytus, and the dangers she is willing to assume in order to protect that love.
Opinion about the main character:
Julia is a classical romantic protagonist: she's passionate, irrational, daring, and incredibly hopeful about the possibilities of her love to survive the weight and pressures of the world. In addition, she's mature and reflective. Her inner-musings are quite inspirational and thought-provoking. She's a somewhat one-dimensional and not very complex. However, her authenticity and hopeful attitude make her a very sympathetic character.