The Ornatrix is set in sixteenth century Italy, and centres on Flavia who was born with a birthmark covering her face, in the shape of a bird in flight.
Ashamed of the mark, her mother has concealed Flavia's face behind a veil all her young life. But on the night before her younger sister's wedding, Flavia does something drastic, something that will draw her into a much wider and stranger world than she could have imagined: the convent of Santa Giuliana, just outside the city walls of Perugia.
There she meets Ghostanza, a courtesan turned widow, whose white-lead painted face entrances Flavia, and whose beauty and cruelty are unmatched. Flavia becomes her ornatrix, her hairdresser and personal maid. But as white-lead paint rots the flesh below it, so Perugia, and Santa Giuliana, is rotten below the shimmer of wealth and privilege. And Flavia is drawn into a world of desire and jealousy that has devastating consequences.
Rich in description and character, Kate Howard’s stunning debut is painted majestically against a vivid historical landscape, tackling issues of belonging, female identity and the perception of beauty.
Contact Luke Speed for more information
The audio rights are handled by Alice Lutyens.
Melissa Pimentel manages the translation rights for The Ornatrix
‘This is the work of a fertile and unique
imagination...a debut work of remarkable depth'
'A readable and enjoyable book. I found myself going "just one more chapter" and losing quite a few hours immersed in it!'
'Favourite book this year. Did not want to start the next so I could relive moments from this one. I have identified the cast for the movie. Loved it.'
'Brilliant...kept me guessing until the end'Lisa Cox, Nudge
'Vivid, dark & utterly compelling. The Ornatrix is a rich, lush novel and Kate Howard is a wonderful new voice'Imogen Robertson
‘Brave and brilliant, this is a novel that is as darkly compelling as a rare black pearl’Patricia Bracewell, author of The Emma of Normandy Trilogy
‘Should be enjoyed in sips, like fine wine, to better savor the lush, evocative prose all the way to the satisfying finish’Brenda Rickman Vantrease, author of The Illuminator
Howard brings Renaissance Italy to life in a vivid debut that recalls the best of Sarah Dunant and Tracy Chevalier.'Bookpage
A glittering gem of a novel . . . oozes with colour, and yet it is also seething with the darkness that lies beneath . .. . It will certainly appeal to fans of Sarah Dunant, and Michelle LovricEssie Fox
Exquisite, earthy, witty - this is a book of rare beauty, about beautyWendy Wallace
A richly drawn cast of twisted characters . . . Howard's lyrical style is much like her Renaissance beauties: beguilingVogue
Dazzling . . . a first novel of originality and, yes, beauty.The Times