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All limelight on The Fortune Keeper and Deborah Swift!

The first book I read by Deborah Swift was The Gilded Lily, set in the 17th century. We bonded over that period, Deborah and I, when we met back in 2010, but since then, she has moved on to write books in various eras, as have I. Deborah has, among other things, penned an excellent series set in renaissance Italy, and IMO, it is no wonder The Fortune Keeper was selected as The Coffee Pot Book Club’s Book of the Year in 2023. Why? Because Deborah always does such a great job between balancing the historical setting and the tightness of the narrative.

Anyway: when I was given the opportunity to host one of the celebratory posts in this blog tour featuring the 2023 Book of the Year, of course I said yes. So, take it away, Deborah!

The Spyglass and Science – Galileo’s Heresy.

There’s some sort of sense in the Flat Earth Society when you have no access to any kind of scientific instrument. From our perspective here on the ground, with no access to planes, drones, rockets or telescopes, the idea that we could be standing on a round planet that is hurtling through space seems incredibly fanciful.

In Renaissance Italy, the birth place of Galileo, this was exactly what it was like. At that time only a few men had access to magnification. Astronomy developed enormously in the first decade of the 1600s with the invention of the optical ‘telescope’, previously known as a ‘spyglass’. Galileo Galilei did not actually invent the telescope but he was the first person to use it in what we’d call a scientific study, to observe the night sky and record his discoveries, documenting his observations of the Moon, Jupiter and the Milky Way.

Galileo’s book, Sidereus Nuncius or The Starry Messenger, published in 1610 made him famous, and brought him widespread renown. At this time the orthodox view of the Roman Catholic Church was to follow literally the words of the Bible; that God had personally created the heavens and the earth, and for them, the planet Earth and man’s place on it were the centre of the universe that God created around us.

Galileo, called ‘the father of modern science’ by Einstein, on the other hand, supported the view of his forerunner Copernicus, who posited that the Earth actually orbited the Sun. In Galileo’s book, A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, he published the results of his investigations, and his theory of the Earth’s revolution around the Sun to widespread antagonism from the Vatican.


The theologians of the Roman Catholic Church decided that Galileo’s new theory, discovered through the new use of optical telescopes, which put the sun at the centre of the Universe instead of the Earth, conflicted with the earth-centred ideas of Ptolemy. They used quotations from the Bible to justify this stance, for example in the book of Joshua, in God commanded the sun, and not the Earth, to stand still over the ancient Canaanite city of Gibeon.

Galileo publicly derided the Church’s view, and Pope Urban VIII, launched an inquisition of Galileo, summoning him to trial. The trial took several weeks and the guilty verdict and sentence was given on June 22 1633.

He was forced to renounce Copernicanism, and to read a statement, retracting his views and his work. He was also forbidden to teach his ideas and remained under house arrest for most of his life.

He was visited by the poet Milton in 1638 (just before my novel begins), and on his return to England, this is what Milton had to say:

‘this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licencers thought.’

In ‘The Fortune Keeper’ Mia Caiozzi, the main character of the book, and based on a real person, was known as an astrologer. In the Renaissance period, astronomy and astrology were closely linked and overlapped, and were not separate studies as they are today. In Venice at the time there were many women who studied the stars and also gave astrological readings in St Mark’s Square. Astrology was used widely in medicine and studied at the University of Padua as part of a physician’s training. But it was still dangerous to believe or promote the ideas of Galileo.


And now, onto the book!

Count your nights by stars, not shadows ~ Italian Proverb

Winter in Renaissance Venice

Mia Caiozzi is determined to discover her destiny by studying the science of astronomy. But her stepmother Giulia forbids her to engage in this occupation, fearing it will lead her into danger. The ideas of Galileo are banned by the Inquisition, so Mia must study in secret.

Giulia’s real name is Giulia Tofana, renowned for her poison Aqua Tofana, and she is in hiding from the Duke de Verdi’s family who are intent on revenge for the death of their brother. Giulia insists Mia should live quietly out of public view. If not, it could threaten them all. But Mia doesn’t understand this, and rebels against Giulia, determined to go her own way.

When the two secret lives collide, it has far-reaching and fatal consequences that will change Mia’s life forever.

Set amongst opulent palazzos and shimmering canals, The Fortune Keeper is the third novel of adventure and romance based on the life and legend of Giulia Tofana, the famous poisoner.

‘Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’

~ Historical Novel Society


also on KindleUnlimited

Or LISTEN to the book:



Deborah Swift is a USA TODAY bestselling author who is passionate about the past. Deborah used to be a costume designer for the BBC, before becoming a writer. Now she lives in an old English school house in a village full of 17th Century houses, near the glorious Lake District. Deborah has an award-winning historical fiction blog at her website

Deborah loves to write about how extraordinary events in history have transformed the lives of ordinary people, and how the events of the past can live on in her books and still resonate today.

The first in her series about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, The Poison Keeper, was a winner of the Wishing Shelf Book of the Decade, and a Coffee Pot Book Club Gold Medal, and the latest in her WW2 Secret Agent series, Operation Tulip, is coming soon.

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