Saving Madonna


Saving Madonna

by Kate Bristow

GENRE: Historical Fiction

Is a painting worth dying for?

Inspired by real events, an unforgettable story of love, courage and sacrifice to save a country’s heritage.

Italy 1943. As the Allies bomb Milan, Elena Marchetti reluctantly gives up her coveted job as an art curator in the city to return to her family farm near Urbino. She takes up a new role assisting Pasquale Rotondi, the Superintendent of Arts in the region, in protecting works of art from all over Italy that have been hidden in the relative safety of the countryside.

At a family celebration, Elena reunites with Luca, a close childhood friend. A shattering event instigated by the occupying Germans deepens their relationship, and they start planning a life together. When rumors surface that Italy’s art is being stolen by the German occupiers, Pasquale hatches an audacious plan to rescue the priceless paintings in his possession. Elena and Luca are forced to make an impossible decision: will they embark on a dangerous mission to save Italy’s cultural heritage?

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“I don’t want tonight to be over!”

Elena’s younger sister, Giulia, was twirling around their bedroom in her linen nightgown, her brown hair loose around her shoulders. Elena, already tucked up in their shared bed, smiled indulgently as she watched her sister dance to some imaginary tune with an imaginary partner.

“It was a real party, wasn’t it, Elena? I wish we hadn’t left—I wanted to squeeze every last drop out of it.” She stopped dancing, her face flushed, and skipped toward the bed, launching herself onto the covers beside Elena. Giulia sat cross-legged and looked at her sister. “It’s different for you,” she said, pouting a little. “You must have had so many chances to dance in Milan. All those parties and boys! And I was just stuck here, doing nothing fun, ever. When is this stupid war going to be over?”

Elena wanted to laugh at the angry expression on Giulia’s face. Instead, she took her sister’s hands in hers. “You’re sixteen, and there’s time, I promise you. When this is all over, I’ll take you to Milan myself. You can meet all the boys—or men—you want.”

About the Author:

Kate Bristow was born in London. She fell in love with reading when she got her first library card at the age of four. Her first attempt at writing and publishing for a wide audience was a local newspaper typed laboriously at home on her mother’s typewriter while at primary (elementary) school in north London. It is surely a loss to cutting-edge journalism that only one issue was ever produced. Kate divides her time between her small-but-perfectly-formed modern home in Los Angeles and her five-hundred-year-old farmhouse just outside Sassocorvaro in Italy.


Q&A With the Author

What was your inspiration for writing this book? 

About twenty years ago, my husband and I visited an ancient fortress, the Rocca, in the small town of Sassocorvaro in central Italy. During the visit, we learned that during World War 2, this fortress had been used as a hiding place for thousands of priceless works of art. At the beginning of the war, the Italians had been fearful that Allied bombs would land on Florence, Venice, Milan or Rome and might inadvertently destroy paintings by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci or Piero della Francesca. So the most valuable works of art were secretly moved from the main centers to more out-of-the-way places like the fortress in Sassocorvaro. But in the fall of 1943, this part of Italy was now occupied by the Germans, as Italy had switched sides. At this point, the more likely scenario was that the works of art would be stolen by the Germans and moved out of Italy. So the local museum director, helped by locals, decided that the only way to safeguard Italy’s cultural heritage was to secretly move all the pieces – by now, numbering ten thousand – to the safety of the Vatican in Rome, which both sides had promised not to touch. 

We had never heard of this event. I thought at the time that it was an interesting story and that it could be the inspiration for an exciting novel. A decade later, the nonfiction book ‘Monuments Men’ by Robert Edsel was made into a movie starring George Clooney. It told the story of the American and British efforts to save the art at the end of the war, but there was no mention of the dangerous work done by Italians while the war was still raging. I decided that it was finally time to write that story. The result is ‘Saving Madonna’.


What did you enjoy most about writing this book? 

My day job as a brand strategy consultant involves doing a lot of research on many different subjects. But I am usually working on such thorny questions as how to persuade young people to attend classical music concerts, or what is the best way to sell life insurance. It was a joy to be able to take those skills and focus instead on the eating habits of Italians in the countryside during rationing, or the timing of the olive harvest, or what the weather was like in Italy at Christmas in 1943. I tried very hard to get the facts right because it is a personal peeve of mine as a reader when the author makes an obvious mistake. In know – I am a nerd!


Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?

I have been lucky enough to own a farmhouse in the countryside outside the Renaissance city of Urbino, where a lot of the action in ‘Saving Madonna’ takes place. Urbino has an extraordinarily rich history and I keep discovering new stories within its walls. I am currently in the early stages of doing research on the life of Nicola da Urbino, a renowned ceramicist, who lived and worked in the city in the 16th century. I have an idea for a story set in that time period and I am excited to see where it might go.


Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future? 

When I started writing “Saving Madonna’ my only plan was to finish the book. I had no intention of becoming a writer in any real sense. But as I continued to write and rewrite the novel and to educate myself on the world of publishing I realized that this was one of the most rewarding things I had ever undertaken. So now I call myself a writer and I want to bring more stories into the world, especially stories that have been overlooked. It looks like my next decade will be very busy!

Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?

I am excited for you to read the book and leave a review to let me know what you think. Who is your favorite character? Did you find the story interesting? If you haven’t visited this part of Italy before, have I enticed you to add it to your future travel plans? If you would like to stay up to date with my writing, please visit my website at and follow me on Facebook ( or Instagram ( )

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Kate Bristow will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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