Angelica Voglia is a singer/musician in the year 1688, who is unable to sing in public, but longs to sing before large audiences. Angelica Voglia has spent the past seventeen years locked in her home under her mother's control. Angelica is a soprano singer, with the voice of an angel that longs to sing in front of large crowds. Instead, she sings in her home, beneath the closed shutters and when her mother arranges for important men, like noblemen or church officials, for coin or lavish gifts.
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Mrs. Voglia has spent her entire life working to arrange a royal marriage for her daughter so that she may take care of the rest of her family. Mr. Voglia creates gorgeous stained glass windows, along with their son, Franco. The Voglia's have two other children, Bianca and Pietro. Mrs. Voglia is disappointed in her own station in life and wants to be move up in the world. Although, she tells Angelica it is for her own good, and with her gift, she deserves to be a nobleman's wife. Angelica does not approve of her mother's schemes, but has no other choice.
Father Zachary is Angelica's patron who brings gifts for her, never forgets her birthday and also brings a servant girl, Lucia to their home. Angelica and Lucia become fast friends. Lucia entertains the idea that Father Zachary is her blood father since he only pays attention to her and brings birthday gifts only for her. Angelica agrees.
In 1688, women are not allowed to sing in public due to the new pope's ruling; girls should only be allowed to sing in convents where their gifts are trained for the use of God. Due to the pope's ruling, Father Zachary is always scolding Mrs. Voglia for allowing Angelica to sing for nobleman and clergy. He tells Mrs. Voglia that Angelica can be arrested and he threatens to remove both her girls and place them in a convent. Cardinal Tomas de Cabrera also loves to listen to Angelica when she is practicing, so he hides his coach behind trees to listen to her voice.
Even with her mother being as strict as she is, Angelica falls in love with a Frenchman, Theodon, an artist. Angelica and Theodon converse by notes that are tied to a string from Angelica's bedroom window.
Angelica is called to sing to Queen Christina and after, suitors are piling up. Mrs. Voglia carefully arranges the time so that each suitor will not meet with another.
Signor Odescalchi, the pope's nephew, has become one of Angelica's favored suitors. Angelica does not like him. He shows up at her house one day, drunk, accusing Angelica of courting a Frenchman and tells Mrs. Voglia that she corresponds with him daily, by way of twine tied to the window. Angelica, who will not lie when her mother demands her to tell the truth, remains silent. Signor Odescalshi says she is no better than the courtesans and as the pope's nephew, the Frenchman will be ruined. Protecting Theodon and their future, Angelica lies and says that the letters are her sister's. Mrs. Voglia returns with Bianca along with the letters and demands Angelica to burn them in the fire to prove this man means nothing to her. It breaks her heart, but does as her mother asks. Mrs. Voglia asks Signor Odescalshi to leave, knowing another suitor is coming to the house, but he refuses. Duke of Mantua arrives and both men argue over Angelica, demanding a duel that evening. Father Zachary hears of the pending duel, and to avoid any further scandal takes both girls to the convent.
At the convent, Angelica suffers greatly. She is not to sing, but to teach young girls in music. Bianca thrives, always wanting to have a future as a nun. Mrs. Voglia shows up one day and removes the girls from the convent, explaining that Father Zachary has died. Angelica is saddened by his death, but Mrs. Voglia tells her to keep her chin up. Father Zachary has left a dowry for her. Arriving at Father Zachary's home, they are ushered in by another priest and brought to his room. The room was bare except for a bed, desk and chair. Mrs. Voglia tells the priest that Father Zachary has left a dowry for Angelica. The priest tells Mrs. Voglia that Father Zachary is in great debt. He spent all of his earnings and savings on items for Angelica: music, music lessons, instruments, fine dresses etc.
Arriving home, Angelica learns through Lucia that Theodon has returned to France. He is making money for their future. Mrs. Voglia continues her schemes to marry her daughter to the Duke of Mantua. Fearing she has no way to avoid marriage, she quickly writes a note to Mariuccia, the daughter of the Marquis de Monte, the first gentleman to the Queen, asking for a place within the Queen's court. Angelica and Mariuccia met when she performed earlier for the Queen.
The next day, Angelica and Mrs. Voglia arrive at the castle, only for her mother to be turned away. Angelica's plan worked: she is now a lady in waiting – the Queen's Soprano.
Queen Christina loves to listen to Angelica sing and they become friends and confidants. Queen Christina is an enemy of the pope; they disagree on different polices for the church. Queen Christina tells Angelica to never give up on herself.
Angelica settles into castle life, but misses her family. Her mother has not gotten over the duplicity Angelica played and refuses to see her. The first night at the castle, Pietro shows up telling her that their father and brother were injured by the Duke of Mantua. The Duke of Mantua paid a large sum to marry Angelica and is furious he had been played. Mrs. Voglia assures him that she had no idea of Angelica's plan, but he refuses to listen. Knifing her father in the face and cutting off part of her brother's ear is her punishment. The Queen tells Angelica to go home, but bring her Court healer with her. The healer takes care of both Mr. Voglia and Franco while Angelica and her mother argue. Angelica is heartbroken; she didn't want to cause so much pain for her family.
Time goes by at the castle, but Angelica worries since she hasn't seen Theodon. Finally, he comes to the castle explaining that he had been sick and couldn't come sooner. He openly courts Angelica and she is finally happy. She has her love and she is singing. The only damper on her happiness is the Queen's health.
Mrs. Voglia is so angry that Angelica abandoned her family; she plans to ruin her daughter. Paying a large sum of money to Bishop Vanini, a man that lusted after Angelica, she brings the Bishop to see Angelica at the castle. Angelica is shocked to see her mother, since she has been banned from the castle. Mrs. Voglia tells Angelica she is to entertain the Bishop and that the guards have been paid well for their silence. Her mother quickly leaves and the Bishop brutally attacks Angelica, raping her. Finally, her cries are heard when Theodon arrives. He had been waiting for her in the garden, where they usually meet and when she didn't arrive, he got worried. Finding Angelica like that, he threatens to kill the Bishop. The Bishop is arrested. Angelica is mortified and cannot face Theodon. He continues to write to her, demanding to see her, declaring his love for her but she does not relent. She is unable to leave her bed. In his grief, Theodon marries another girl. Angelica is devastated.
Queen Christina feels she failed Angelica and after her attack, she remains in bed. Her health continues to decline. Angelica is fearful for her future, where else will she be able to go once the Queen dies? Afraid, she breaks down and tells Mariuccia of her dilemma. Mariuccia helps her by getting in touch with Cardinal de Cabrera.
After Queen Christina dies, she rushes off to meet a carriage that holds, Cardinal de Cabrera. The Cardinal has gotten in touch with his friend, the Duke of Medina Celi, ambassador of Spain to the Holy See and has arranged for Angelica to live with the Duke and Duchess in Spain. They leave Rome in three weeks. Angelica knows going to Spain will allow her to sing freely and not be controlled by the pope's laws. Before she leaves, the Duke and Duchess arrange for Lucia and Franco to marry at their home. Lucia is pregnant and is due soon. Knowing it is imperative that Angelica stays hidden from Rome, so they can smuggle her out of the city, they plan a small yard wedding.
On the day of the wedding, Angelica tells her family she is leaving with the Duke and Duchess for Spain. Her father, brothers, sister and Lucia are all happy for her even thought they will miss her. Her father is proud of his daughter; despite her mother's influence she was able to carve a life for herself and to find happiness. Before leaving for Spain, Angelica goes to see her mother one last time. Her mother has gone crazy and wonders the streets, kicking the rocks and muttering to herself. Angelica finally catches her mother's eyes under her veil and realizes that this is it. She will never have another conversation with this woman. She leaves and arrives at the boat just in time. Though made the first lady of honor to the Duchess, she is still uncertain of her future, but is looking forward to it. She had set her own course.
Best part of story, including ending:
I enjoyed this story because it is based on the real life of Angelica Voglia and Queen Christina. The author of this book found the story of Angelica through the Queen's own notes of her life. I had a real and truthful look at the way common women were dealt with as well as seeing how Angelica made a life for herself. The Queen, as a steadfast friend, was powerful in her own right. It was also interesting to see the political points as well. I left much of that out of the review, just holding fast to Angelica's story. What I really did not like, was that you don't find out what happens to Angelica once she leaves for Spain. I had so many questions. Did she like being a first lady of honor to the Duchess, did she fall in love and where did she sing? Those are all questions I would have liked to have answered.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Queen Christina, her ladies in waiting and the whole royal guard attend Easter dinner at the Vatican with the pope. It was interesting to watch how the pope and the queen, who fought outside of the walls, were friends while attending dinner.
Opinion about the main character:
I love Angelica's drive to make a life for herself, outside of the control her mother reigned as well as the restrictions the church placed on women who sang. She had been so controlled all of her young life, that a reader would think she would just continue to allow herself to be driven by other people, but her love of song and her dreams drove her to find her own path. She is an extremely strong character for the horrors she had to endure during her young life.