Donna Jo Napoli, . . Random/Lamb, $16.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32780-0

Napoli returns to the locale of Stones in Water and For the Love of Venice, this time for a costume drama set in the late 16th century. At 14, Donata Mocenigo and her twin sister watch carefully as their noble parents set about finding a husband for their older sister. Venetian economics dictate that one daughter of a noble family will surely wed, but only with luck will a second daughter be married—the remaining daughters either enter convents or care for a married brother's children. Eschewing a traditional romance, Napoli forges a plot with contemporary elements. Donata wants to see Venice and receive the same education as her brothers; she studies the family business and embraces what facts she can uncover about Venetian history and politics. Obtaining a working-class boy's clothes, she disguises herself and sets out on furtive daytime explorations of her beloved city. Soon she is befriended by an attractive young Jewish boy, who helps her find a morning job as a copyist (even though she can't read or write); with help from her sisters, her escapades go unnoticed by her parents. Enjoying the tour of historical Venice and the taste of its complex society and government, readers may not mind Donata's seeming immunity to the mores and prejudices of her day—not even when, to avoid an arranged marriage, she anonymously and falsely denounces herself as a convert to Judaism and still earns herself a happy ending. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)