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Download Leonardo's Swans Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Leonardos Swans Audiobook, by Karen Essex Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,180 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Essex Narrator: Kathe Mazur Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781415931653
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Isabelle d’Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blond and an art lover and collector. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella’s match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world’s most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wins her true fate, and the two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe. 

A haunting novel of rivalry, love, and betrayal that transports you back to Renaissance Italy, Leonardo’s Swans will have you dashing to the works of the great master—not for clues to a mystery but to contemplate the secrets of the human heart.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Privileged sisters compete over men, attention—and the chance to be immortalized on canvas by Leonardo da Vinci in this instantly absorbing tale. Redbook magazine
  • Two very different sisters, two very different husbands, and one of the greatest geniuses of all times, Leonardo da Vinci. In this sizzling historical novel set in fifteenth-century Italy, Essex combines art, political intrigue, family feuds and sex to create a page-turner that also probes the experience of being painted and whether it can offer immortality. USA Today
  • Acclaimed author Karen Essex spins a wild yarn about sexual politics and the struggle for immortality. Harper’s Bazaar (“Hot Reads” pick)
  • Meticulously researched. Exquisite detail . . . Chicago Tribune

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charise | 2/16/2014

    " I actually picked this book completely at random, and didn't know what it was going to be about. I usually find that Historical Fiction is hit or miss, but I found this book very engaging. It offered a personal view of Leonardo, and inspired me to research Beatrice and her sister. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessa | 2/2/2014

    " This book was fantastic! It's of two sisters who are complete opposites of one another. It about relationships and love. About an ugly duckling into a swan, hense the title. It was comical and heartbreaking and intertwining love stories between the characters. I recommend it to anyone who loved the birth of venus and in the company of the courtesan. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenn | 1/17/2014

    " Its been a while since I've read an art inspired historical fiction (There are a LOT and it seems like I read them all in a row.)This one was one of the better ones that I've read. I'm not quite sure why, but Leonardo's Swans seemed to keep my attention and didn't really ever slow down. The story is about two Italian Princesses with very different personalities who end up becoming prominent women both in politics and arts. What I find interesting is that these women did indeed exist in real life and the works of Da Vinci and other artists alluded to in the story actually came about as the story said. I'm curious to read more about these women and the others mentioned and see what historical information is available. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kani | 12/27/2013

    " Since i am cocurrently reading books about english history during similar time periods, i am getting a different perspective on the same reality. In this case one that includes the collection of art as well as the rivalry between powerful sisters. Isabelle d'este sounds like an amazing woman; alert to the dangers of being a powerful woman in a time when women handled matters backstage rather than on the forefront like men. It is, as well, another view of the oft written about Leonardo da Vinci; seen through the eyes of women who were his contemporaries. At least how one person imagines he is perceived by women of his own time. The feudal system was an amazing way of life! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathie Mau | 12/27/2013

    " Planning a trip to Italy and reading everything I can to get a perspective of the period. This wonderful book gave me a peek into the political intrigues of Milan and some of the famous families at the time. We did visit the Sforza castle and see Da Vincini's Last Supper and tour the Duomo in Milan. I thrilled to be on the streets where these people once walked! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom Landry | 12/19/2013

    " I did enjoy this book from the historical standpoint. It filled in some gaps from my other historical reading. The main problem I had with it was it just seemed slow. I was just waiting for more to happen. I also wish there were more breaks or chapters like other books. I like to take a break every once in a while to move around and rest my eyes but the chapters were very long and I would eventually just stop at the end of a paragraph. The story wasn't bad but it just didn't grab me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jody | 12/13/2013

    " Love historical fictionalized non-fiction! I learned a ton about the role of women in this era of Italy. Everything was for political purpose...quite eye-opening. Complex at times, but worth the rereading that I had to do every now and again. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Zandrea | 11/16/2013

    " Did not like this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kate Sometomato | 11/12/2013

    " I thought this book dragged a bit and I was disappointed that there was not more about Leonardo Da Vinci in the story line. A lot of the characters were not very likeable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teresa | 11/1/2013

    " I've read this before, but the Leondardo Da Vinci exhibit at the Tech Museum inspired me to read it again. It's intriguing and engrossing. Leonardo hovers subtly, like Mona Lisa's smile, in the background of the novel, providing inspiration and mystery. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Peggy | 10/26/2013

    " not my favorite. Hard to follow all the mnior characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Belinda | 10/21/2013

    " Interesting historical fiction about two 15th-century Italian sisters Isabella and Beatrice d'Este sisters. Gives you a feeling for the life and the times of Leonard da Vinci. I enjoyed looking for the actual works of art that da Vinci painted of these two women. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ali | 7/16/2013

    " Enjoyable and extremely well researched with a helpful general character history at the end. :) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen Aurandt | 4/23/2013

    " Always enjoy these types of artist stories. Good story with art and intrigue. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrea | 4/6/2013

    " Interesting book - notably the influence that these young women had, and the importance of "luck." "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marsha | 6/20/2012

    " fictionalized account of the lives of isabella and beatrice d'Este, sisters who lived during the renaissance in italy - sibling rivalry played out with leonardo da vinci as a supporting character "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Briawna | 3/4/2012

    " Interesting book. I always love read reading about renaissance Italy and leonardo's life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jill | 1/20/2012

    " A fairly engaging historical fiction...although kept waiting for the Swans to make meaningful appearance. Characters mostly interesting but sisters' pettiness grew tiresome. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patricia | 10/13/2011

    " Interesting story about the 1400-1500's and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. One author's take on Leonardo's genius and how sister's could be so different, yet the same. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Briawna | 4/27/2011

    " Interesting book. I always love read reading about renaissance Italy and leonardo's life. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cindy | 3/6/2011

    " Okay historical novel with Da Vinci and real life sisters who marry dukes of Italy. Isabella d'Este (sister in law to Lucrezia Borgia) and Beatrice. Sexual and political intrigue. Lively at first, then I had trouble finishing it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Missy/Melissa | 10/13/2010

    " Loved reading the story behind the famous paintings. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 8/25/2010

    " Entertaining fictionalized history, love that Leo, he made the book for me, I would have liked to get a little more of him here. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 7/28/2010

    " This historical fiction book really surprised me. I liked the little notes that Leonardo actually wrote...and the whole idea to form a story with sisters and their jealousy was pretty cool. Very informative, and you learn a lot about Leonardo's life and the art in the Louvre. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 LD | 4/16/2010

    " This book was so rich and textural. So well researched. Very inspirational, providing me with a wonderful context for a visit to Italy. A must-read. "

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About the Author
Author Karen EssexKAREN ESSEX is the author of Kleopatra (Warner, 2001) and its sequel Pharoah (Warner, 2002), two biographical novels about the queen of Egypt which she has adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros. She has also adapted Anne Rice's novel The Mummy of Ramses the Damned into a screenplay for Titanic director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox, and has written a screenplay about Kamehameha, the first king of Hawaii, for Columbia/Tristar.
About the Narrator

Kathe Mazur has narrated many audiobooks, winning the prestigious Audie Award for best narration in 2014, being named a finalist for the Audie Award in 2013 and 2015, and winning seven AudioFile Earphones Awards. As an actress, she can be seen as DDA Hobbs on The Closer and in the upcoming Major Crimes. She has worked extensively in film, theater, and television, including appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, House, Brothers and Sisters, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, ER, Monk, and many others.