In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!
In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.
So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.
Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.
Number of Pages: 352
Reviewed by Rachel, age 17
I loved Venom and I can't decide if I love Belladonna the same amount. For one, it's quite a bit shorter. Secondly, it's quite a bit different. Unlike in Venom, Belladonna is set primarily in Florence instead of Venice. However, almost all the things I loved about Venom are still prominent: the Renaissance era, creepiness, mysteriousness, and a little bit of steamy romance.
First, I'll talk about Cass's transformation from book one to book two. I think she's a lot better! In Venom, all she knew was the world of her little elite bubble. She was very spoiled and immature because she didn't understand the ways of reality. After Falco and the murders, she grew up. In book two, Cass is still unsure of herself in many ways, a lot of it involving her faith in religion versus science and her love for both Falco and Luca. But, in other ways, she has much more conviction and bravery. I give her a lot of credit for the extent she goes to save Luca! (However, can she stop peeking at people while they attempt to have sex?)
So, Cass matured and became less annoying. She confided in friends instead of bottling up all her secrets like some main characters do. She asked for help and wasn't dumb about it. But, most of all, I appreciated how she didn't throw Luca under the bus like some love triangles do (Ahem, Bloodrose...). If she thought it was right, I'm sure she would have run off with Falco, but she was on a mission to save Luca and she didn't let anyone get in her way--not even her sexy, artistic boy-toy. But, one of the things I didn't like about Belladonna--which is why I find it so hard to say I loved it the same, if not more, than Venom--is because Falco is not as good in this one. He doesn't try as hard for Cass and he just feels...different. Having said that, Cass wasn't very fair to him, either.
I thought the mystery surrounding Belladonna was very clever. It also incorporated--with a hint of supernaturalness--the struggle against science and religion that was happening at the time in Europe. Being a lover of history, I found it all very enjoyable. Although the dialogue was not of the time period, I thought Paul accurately depicted Renaissance Italy (or what I know of it). The use of vampirism in the book is also clever, because it was a realistic fear at the time. Of course, this book is not about vampires, but again the history incorporation made this book unique and more 'believable'.
Although the first half the book had its slow points, like any book does, I still found the story propelling forward at all times. Some readers don't like all the lush descriptions of the time period, but I love it! It's one of my favorite aspects of these books. Fiona Paul writes beautifully, if that makes sense, and I enjoyed her storytelling. So, to each his own! Towards the end of the book, once Cass was able to put the pieces together (which was sometimes slow and redundant since the reader would understand most of the clues before her), I thought the book gained much more suspense and intrigue! And there was quite a shock! I love how Paul ended it.
However, speaking one last bit on the love triangle, I'm also very confused about this ending. In my mind, I see Siena and Luca together and Cass and Falco together, so the whole book felt like one step forward two steps back in getting every character in the best possible situation. It just makes me sad, but I can't wait to see how it all weaves back together in book three, Starling. Just the title makes me think she'll end up with Falco, but I don't know...
For those of you who liked the little excerpts from the Book of the Eternal Rose in Venom, they're also in Belladonna. I think they're like icing on the cake! Just making the book that much better.
Overall, this book was loads of fun to read. The best part was that all the things you learned from book one and the beginning of book two seamlessly lace together in Belladonna. They all fit into the puzzle one way or another, and I enjoyed figuring out the mystery of the vampires, the bloodletting, Belladonna's youthfulness, why Luca was locked up, and if the Order of the Eternal Rose is good or bad.
If you like dark, historical mysteries, hints of supernatural, seductive characters and romances, then you'll love this book! Highly recommended!
This book hits shelves July 16th of 2013!
Buy Hardcover | $17.99
Rachel, age 17