For Book Clubs

The Renaissance Club

For book clubs that loved Outlander and books by Susanna Kearsley, The Renaissance Club takes the reader to a distant era and a unique love story across time. This women’s fiction novel features art and artists, Renaissance Italy and its culture of beauty and ambition, and a relationship that defies category but seems not to have a place in the future. Can young art historian May Gold find her true path in life by plunging into a complicated relationship in the past, or can time itself become generous and bend to their wishes and needs?

About the Book

Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate? May Gold, a college adjunct teacher, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis—Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque. But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend. She considers herself a precocious failure and yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit. When the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. She finds herself staring into the eyes of her idol, Bernini. Over the course of the tour, she realizes she has to choose: stay in a safe but stagnant existence or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

I’m Available to Visit Your Book Club!

I’d be happy to join your club in person, if you’re near me in the Bay Area. I’m also available for Skype chats or conference calls. Contact me to set up a time.

Rachel Dacus Book Signing, Book Club

The Renaissance Club Reading Group Guide

  1. When May calls herself “a precocious failure,” how do you perceive her self-image and her goals? Do you have ambitious goals, and what do you think of ambition in women?
  2. May identifies beauty as an artistic value. Would you characterize beauty as an important aspect of contemporary art and culture?
  3. What benefit does fine art offer in today’s world?
  4. When May has her first encounter with her idol, she’s surprised to find herself having to defend her gender to Bernini. In reading historical fiction, how do you feel about the roles of women in the past?
  5. Knowing the course of Bernini’s life, May wonders if she can or should intervene to prevent his fall from grace with the Vatican and his disastrous love affair with Costanza. Should she try to change his timeline, and if not, why not?
  6. May has studied Bernini’s life, so she knows his future. How would you handle knowing someone’s future, and how much would you tell him or her?
  7. What would you give up to be with the love of your life, if he lived in another era? What modern conveniences and scientific advances would you be willing to forgo for true love?
  8. Art in Bernini’s time and place was central to the social and religious culture. What art forms today occupy a similarly influential place in our culture, and how do they compare to Renaissance and Baroque art?
  9. How do you view Eva and her struggle with her sorrow? Her resentment of May?
  10. When Bernini makes his leap to the 21st century, how do you think he will fare in today’s world, and especially in today’s art world?
  11. Creativity and the freedom to create is a theme that runs through the story. How do you feel about your own creativity and opportunities to be creative? Do you think it’s an important part of life?
  12. How do you view Darren’s ambivalence about his relationship with May and her wish to have a child? Is it best to leave an imbalanced relationship or hope for your partner’s commitment to improve?
  13. When May decides to stay in Italy and with the Bernini in her heart, do you think she will succeed? Does her decision to leave teaching and stay in Rome working in a museum seem like a good choice?
  14. Have you traveled in Italy, or wanted to, and if you did, what was the most fascinating thing about it? If you haven’t been there, what would you most like to see if you go?

Reading Resources – Bernini and the Art of the Baroque

Franco Mormando’s entertaining biography of Gianlorenzo Bernini is from University of Chicago Press. Bernini: His Life and His Rome can be ordered in ebook or print format on Amazon. Sarah McPhee’s fascinating biography of Bernini’s mistress, Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini, gives a picture of the life and times of Bernini. For learning—and seeing—more on Baroque art, check out Khan Academy’s excellent article, and their videos on YouTube.

Wines to pair with your reading of The Renaissance Club

Italian of course! Here’s Wine Enthusiast’s excellent review of Italian wines grown in my area, Northern California.