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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 (2,172 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Essex Narrator: Elizabeth Sastre Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9780739324318
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"Isabella 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 blonde and a precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naive 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." 

"Though Isabella weds the Marquis of Mantua, a man she has loved since childhood, Beatrice's fortunes rise effortlessly through her marriage to Ludovico. The two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe, and Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wrestles back her true fate and plays temptress to the sensuous Ludovico and muse to the great Leonardo. But when Ludovico's grand plan to control Europe begins to crumble, immortality through art becomes a luxury, and the two sisters must choose between familial loyalty and survival in the treacherous political climate." 

Leonardo's Swans is an evocation of the artist during his years in the glittering court of Milan, re-creating the thrilling moments when he conceived The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. It portrays a genius ahead of his time who can rarely escape the demands of his noble patrons long enough to express his own artistic vision.

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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 Belinda | 2/3/2014

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mel | 1/29/2014

    " Interesting read. Historical "fiction", i.e. story during Renaissance Italy of the Leonardo and Ludovico era as seen by the d'Este sisters (powerful and influential women of the time). Some parts of the story/plot were lacking and I felt some questions were unanswered or not explained well enough, but all in all, a very decent read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kat | 1/27/2014

    " An engaging read, if you're into historical fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Fae | 1/20/2014

    " While this book doesn't have as much to do with Da Vinci as I hoped it did, it was interesting to read a historical novel that put into perspective the subjects for a number of Leonardo's pieces. A very interesting book full of political intrigue and historical plots, tied into the life of a prominent figure in art. My only gripe is that it definitely dragged on in parts, particularly towards the end. Although that may have been because it was 3 am and I really wanted to sleep, but wouldn't let myself sleep, until I had finished the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz Meissner | 1/13/2014

    " I had trouble getting into this one..I kept trying and read more then half of it "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ali | 1/10/2014

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

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erica | 10/22/2013

    " A very "okay" historical novel. (You'd think a Tulane graduate would do better.) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzanne Krueger | 10/21/2013

    " The story loosely told around the life of Leonardo da Vinci. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tyra | 9/9/2013

    " An interesting and very sad/disturbing story about two sisters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Angela Bruce | 1/5/2013

    " it has been a few years. i cant remember much but i loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen Aurandt | 10/23/2012

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

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Diana | 3/11/2012

    " Pretty badly written and some of the 21st century writing tedious. Good on Isabella though. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Zandrea | 1/22/2012

    " Did not like this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kate Sometomato | 1/4/2012

    " 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 Vicky | 12/31/2011

    " Read it years ago, Karen Essex is very good. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patricia | 11/22/2011

    " 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. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lynne | 5/28/2011

    " This began as a silly historical romance and didn't get much better. I was bored and ready to move on to a better. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sammcnair | 5/15/2011

    " interesting as a portrait of Leonardo's times, but story is somewhat depressing and drags "

  • 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 Essex

Karen Essex is the author of several novels, including Dracula in Love, Stealing Athena, Leonardo’s Swans, Kleopatra, and Pharaoh. Also an award-winning journalist and a screenwriter, she wrote Bettie Page: Life of a Pinup Legend, the only authorized biography of the late pin-up icon. She divides her time between London and Los Angeles

About the Narrator

Elizabeth Sastre has narrated dozens of audiobooks, including Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, and The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, which was an AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year in 2004.