Author: Fiona Paul
Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Source: Personal Shelf
Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.
I'm still struggling to describe how much I loved this book. An amazing debut, Paul easily marks herself as an imaginative writer that will stand out among the best. This is not a series to be ignored. Full of romance, mystery, and secrets galore, I could not find the willpower to put it down. I was easily immersed into the beauty and artistic exploration that was Renaissance Venice, and man, I did not want to leave.
This book takes place in beautiful Renaissance Venice. I love anything relating to Italy, so this made this book an immediate must read for me. As a member of the upper class, Cassandra has many duties and obligations pressed upon her, but her wild rebellious streak that is threatening to overtake her often causes her trouble with her aging Aunt Agnese. Though she is of the upper class, her rank among the elites is waning because she is slowly losing her fortune after her parents death many years ago. I enjoyed this aspect of the book because we were able to have a richer heroine, yes, but she wasn't snooty and entitled like many belonging to the upper class are portrayed to be. When she accidentally discovers a corpse near her estate, her world begins to spiral out of control. She sets out to hunt down the killer before the killer successfully hunts her, all with the help of the mysterious and sly artist, Falco, who she can't help but be attracted to despite wondering what he often does with his continuous late night appointments.
The romance in this book is one that I really enjoyed. Falco, despite being of the lower class, has very defined opinions due to his experiences and love of art. He is devoted to his craft and his friends, making him an easy character to become enamored with. Cass is naive to all things romantic due to her long distance engagement, so Falco's sly and flirty innuendo's in the beginning of the book brought out a vulnerable side in Cass that slowly caused them to gravitate towards each other romantically. Slow-burning and beautifully written, their process of falling in love was absolutely amazing. My heart sped up several times, especially when Cassandra made the slow transition from Falco's female friend to his muse. In all honesty, you could read this book just for him and be entirely satisfied by the thought and complexity exhibited by his character alone.
The murder mystery in this book is incredibly twisted in the good way that only murder mysteries can be. I enjoyed every second of it while simultaneously fearing for Cass's welfare alongside her and any other innocent young women in Venice. As the clues slowly unraveled, I became more and more eager to find out who the killer was, what connection all the suspects had to each other, and the motives behind the killings and their gruesome ends. And as we slowly began to get answers, I was completely blown away. I didn't realize the small hints that Paul dropped along the way, the complexity required to weave such a tale, until we finally learned the identity of the killer. The creativity she exuded to avoid making anything obvious allowed us to have our minds completely blown once the story reached its climax.
Growing up, my parents always told me that you know you have read an amazing story when the ending of a story satisfies you immensely, but still makes you crave the next installment. For me, this is one of those stories. While we did get many answers, many more questions arose to make way for book two, BELLADONNA. While I was entirely satisfied with the ending, I feel that I may actually spontaneously combust due to the wait required for book two. This is one series that cannot go unread. Perfect for lovers of historical fiction and romance, it'll force you to read the entire thing in one sitting.