Rosa’s a very important character in my Serafina Florio mystery series. And this is her core characteristic: Rosa is Serafina’s best friend. They’ve known each other since childhood and have remained close and she drops everything to help Serafina. She’s always there for her—well … except for once when she had a major slip in the friendship department in DEATH OF A SERPENT and she got herself into deep doo-doo before she extricated herself. But most of the time she’s a friend, true blue.
She crackles with exuberance. And many of my readers tell me they love her.
Now that she’s retired from running her brothel, Rosa lives next door to Serafina in a luxurious villa. Mornings you’ll find her in her study counting her coins, but she’s always at the ready when Serafina needs her, and she’ll drop everything to go questing.
Rosa functions as the sidekick, helping Serafina to solve mysteries. And she brings a lot to the table because Rosa has knowledge that only a retired madam in a small town would know—she’s got the real skinny on everybody. And not only that, she’s amassed a fortune so she bankrolls Serafina who, like the rest of the middle class in 19th-century Sicily, was being squeezed to death with taxes and high prices.
Rosa’s in a different, earthier class than Serafina. She’s not above gulping down a grappa—in her day, a drink for the male working class. And unlike Serafina, Rosa disregards the constructs of society: they roll off her like water off a duck’s back.
Physically she’s different from Serafina. At first blush, she looks like a ball in a dress—until she takes your arm and looks into your eyes and charms you. And Rosa’s got a different cadence and syntax.
Unlike Serafina she’s comfortable with all classes of men—dukes and kings and barons—so she’s able to get them to trust and to talk.
But Rosa is rounded too. In the beginning of the series, she has secrets hidden so deep that not even she knows of their existence. So she’s got her own character arc going on, especially in Death of a Serpent, because she begins to realize that she has trusted the wrong people, a lesson she needs to learn and re-learn.
Photo: detail, Lilacs, 1875, Tissot.