Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) Fiona Paul
Hardcover, 432 pages
Expected publication: Oct. 30th, 2012 by Philomel
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.
Venom showed up in my mailbox completely unexpected. I remember seeing the book around but it wasn't on my wishlist and I'm not even sure I knew what it was about. So when I saw the beautiful cover I was excited, but once I read the description I was super excited! Renaissance Venice?! I mean can you have a more romantic setting?! I'm not sure I have read a book from that time and place but I knew it would be a fascinating setting. I immediately started reading (yep, the moment I opened the package!) and was drawn into the gorgeous time period and setting immediately.
Cassandra has been raised by a strict Catholic aunt who is very strict and proper. This has made Cass feel very alone. When she finds a murdered girl and meets a new boy the very same night she is thrust into a world of adventure. It's scary, but she's finally feeling alive. She starts discovering the underbelly of Venice, the courtesan houses, the artists, and all these people and places she's never been allowed near. Her and Falco (the guy she meets the night she found the murdered girl) spend nights trying to uncover the mystery and things just keep getting spookier as more girls disappear.
Falco is an artist and he has a light hearted way about him. He says what he thinks whether it's proper or not and it's not long before Cass is falling for him. He has a lot of mysteries about him though and this was something that I had figured out long before it was revealed. I thought the clues were obvious but Cass didn't see them and I think it was just because of the way she was brought up, she never knew anything about this kind of thing. I didn't mind knowing, but was eager for Cass to know and understand.
I really liked Cass and Falco but I always felt like Falco's personality was held back somehow. Like his true self didn't shine through as much as it could have. He still pulled some very romantic moves and kissing in a gondola? Most romantic setting EVER. So I liked the romance in the book quite a lot. I also liked that Cass, who was sheltered her whole life, was okay with doing things that she knew was improper. While she thought it was improper, she did it anyway and didn't hate herself for it too much.
The main mystery was one I didn't figure out. I kept guessing but in the end I was completely wrong. And I thought it was actually clever how the author finished it. The mystery is semi solved, but there are threads left hanging for the next book. However it's not a true cliffhanger. On the other side of things the romance was left open. Cass is engaged to another man and has to choose between him and Falco. I believe it's clear who her heart belongs to, but her arranged marriage is what everyone expects of her and this keeps her torn. As well as the fact that her fiance seems to be a truly good person. And while the ending didn't feel like the romance left us hanging it wasn't resolved either. She managed to do it in a way that I felt satisfied but yet I was dying for more.
After reading this book I'm eager to read more about the Renaissance period. The styles were fascinating and I'm looking forward to doing some googling to learn more about them. I also loved the setting of Venice and look forward to more books set in this gorgeous and romantic city!
I definitely recommend this book! It's a hefty book at over 400 pages, but it took me just over a day to read because I found it difficult to put down. Even though the beginning was slower paced it was still fascinating and the second half when things really started happening I was dying for more so nearly read straight through. I highly suggest you pick this one up!