Excerpt & Giveaway: The Poison Keeper by Deborah Swift

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am very excited to be hosting Debroah Swift's The Poison Keeper Blog Tour! I have an excerpt to share with you all and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

The Poison Keeper by Deborah Swift

Publication Date: May 18, 2021
Quire Books
Paperback & eBook; 406 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell Giulia the hidden keys to her success. When Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.

The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under Domenico’s thrall, insists that she should be consort to him – the brother of the man she has vowed to kill.

Based on the legendary life of Italian poisoner Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how even the darkest desires can be vanquished by courage and love.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


The ship berthed in Naples early, so when they arrived it was just after dawn, the sun still a pinkish blur, hanging low in an egg-blue sky. Giulia was awed by Mount Vesuvius, which was almost purple in this light. It stood motionless and benign, as if no fiery breath could spurt from its jaws, even though it had erupted less than eighteen months ago, raining torment on everything below. Today, Naples was bustling with traders, despite the fact the whole city could be buried tomorrow under red-hot lava if the fire god willed it.

Giulia drank it all in, her head turning from side to side so as not to miss any detail. Cats strolled from the alleys to stretch out on the warm flagstones, horses and carts trundled lazily by with workers on their way to the wheatfields.

Sister Simona marched them through the narrow streets with their tall shuttered houses, with a ‘Keep up. Keep up!’ to her gaggle of followers. Sister Teresa and Sister Marthe were painfully slow walkers. ‘It’s near Il Mercato,’ Sister Simona said, after a quarter hour of walking, her cheeks flushed with exertion. ‘An area of wealthy merchants. There are many beautiful palazzi close to the market. Your aunt must be a wealthy woman.’

‘I don’t know,’ Giulia said. ‘I’ve never met her.’

Sister Simona glanced at her two companions, and frowned. ‘Then we will come and meet this aunt of yours,’ she said.

After a little more walking, and pleas from Sister Marthe, ‘Please, slow down!’ they came to a stop outside a long avenue of houses fronting the square, where traders were already beginning to set up for market.

‘Is this the one?’ Giulia asked, surprised. They were standing before a lofty white stone villa, with high arched windows and a balcony with an ornate ‘goose-breast’ balustrade. A sign in curvaceous script read, ‘Villa Bianca’.

‘Imp…imposing.’ Sister Marthe was so breathless it was the only word she could manage.

Up two stone steps to a vast double door, with a cartouche above carved with twining leaves, and urns of overblown flowers and fruit. It seemed so strange to arrive anywhere without Mamma. Giulia was intensely aware of her lack of proper luggage; that no-one had dressed her hair, and that despite her rich gown, now somewhat crumpled, she was to all intents a beggar on the doorstep. It was intimidating. She took a breath, took hold of the heavy brass ring and knocked on the door.

No answer. The house remained shuttered. Sister Simona pushed past her to knock again, harder, but when there was no answer, she tried the door. It was open. ‘Come along.’

The nuns escorted Giulia inside, into a dark hallway. Marble underfoot, and gilded paneling. It was shuttered, but a heavy scent of perfume, like the pungent scent of lilies, hung in the air. Giulia breathed it in. So different from the sharp smell of physic at home.

‘Excuse me,’ called Sister Simona into the echoing hall. ‘Is anyone there?’

‘Buongiorno?’ Giulia called, louder.

Suddenly they were surrounded. Servants, obviously come straight from their beds, appeared bearing candles and lanterns.

‘What do you want?’ A tight-faced serving woman wearing a plain cambric nightshift, her hair in a long braid under a cap, stood barring their way, her hand curled around a candle. She was obviously the housekeeper in charge.

‘Beg pardon, but we are seeking Isabetta Boveri,’ Giulia said, smiling hopefully. ‘She’s my aunt.’

The servants looked at her askance. ‘Too early. She sees no-one before noon,’ the housekeeper said.

‘Then we’ll wait.’ Sister Marthe, glad of the excuse, plumped down on the only chair in the hall.

‘All of you?’ The housekeeper looked down her nose at the nuns.

Giulia turned to Sister Simona. ‘There’s really no need for you to wait. You’ve been more than kind.’

At that moment a door clicked open upstairs, and a woman’s imperious voice came down. ‘Can’t a woman get any sleep? What’s all that noise? Alessa! What in the devil’s going on?’

‘Your niece, mistress. She’s here in the hall.’

‘Niece?’ the voice said. ‘Don’t talk nonsense. I have no niece. My family disowned me, twenty-five years since.’

About the Author

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 17
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Tuesday, May 18
Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Wednesday, May 19
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Excerpt at Books, Ramblings, and Tea

Thursday, May 20
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Friday, May 21
Review at Booking With Janelle

Monday, May 24
Review at Bookworlder

Tuesday, May 25
Excerpt at I'm All About Books

Wednesday, May 26
Review at Novels Alive
Review at Library of Clean Reads

Thursday, May 27
Review at Gwendalyn's Books
Interview at Books & Benches

Friday, May 28
Feature at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, May 31
Review at Donna's Book Blog

Tuesday, June 1
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Thursday, June 3
Review at Reader_ceygo

Friday, June 4
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
Interview at Reader_ceygo
Review at The Enchanted Shelf


Enter to win a signed paperback copy or eBook of The Poison Keeper!

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on June 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Poison Keeper

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