M.A. McLaughlin

Marty Ambrose-McLaughlin

July 2, 2023
1:52 AM

Why Christina Rossetti?

a portrait of Christina Rossetti

My new historical mystery, The Lost Dresses of Italy, is about a grieving textile historian, Marianne Baxter, who travels to post-WWII Verona, Italy, to assist with an exhibit of long-lost Victorian dresses which once belonged to Pre-Raphaelite poet, Christina Rossetti. However, as Marianne uncovers the garments’ secrets, she finds herself in the midst of a far-reaching conspiracy of lies and murder—and obsessed with finding out what happened to Christina Rossetti during her trip to northern Italy.

Why did I choose to write about this poet?

I’ve always been an admirer of Christina Rossetti’s work and found it intriguing that she wrote and published poetry that seemed very exotic for a Victorian woman, even though she was a very private woman in her personal life. As one of the female members of the famous Rossetti family, she was painted many times by her brilliant artistic brother, Dante Gabriel, but she was never given the same freedom to live a free, bohemian existence. However, when she took a trip to Italy in her mid-thirties, she experienced something that caused her, on her return to London, to break off with her English suitor, Charles Cayley and, later, compose a highly-sensual sonnet sequence, the Monna Innominata—the “hidden woman.” I decided to write my fictional version of what happened, as discovered by Marianne, in Verona, through clues Christina left in three of her long-lost dresses. Poetry and fashion seemed an irresistible combination for a historical mystery.

So what happened to Christina in Italy?

You’ll have to read the book when it comes out . . .

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