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 wanted to like this book. It offered a unique story set in an exotic place with a forbidden romance and a compelling mystery. While the book delivered a foreign place, a romance and a mystery, I did not feel compelled to enjoy any of them. The main character was flighty and indecisive; the romance was melodramatic; the plot fell flat, and the locale was not exactly the definition of intoxicating.
Cassandra Caravello and I would not be best buds. I felt no compassion for her, or for whatever situation she'd stumbled into. At every turn she was getting in trouble. And not just finding it, but throwing herself into it! The girl's brain had the consistency of wallpaper paste. She threw herself into danger unnecessarily, and usually had nothing to show for it except that she has a penchant for being saved like a damsel in distress. And if she wasn't following scary lights into the darkness, or rowing across Venice by herself with a killer on the loose while pursuing a thin thread of logic, then she was passing out or throwing a temper tantrum. The girl was moody and a downright irritant.
I didn't find much value in the love triangle, either. (For of course there must be a love triangle!) I normally despise love triangles because they almost always reflect poorly on the main character, and what should be a conflict, or obstacle, really just comes off as melodramatic tension. In this case, I felt no sense of tragedy at Cassandra's loss of her "true love." Partly because I did not care for Cassandra or her troubles, and partly because I felt no compassion for any of the other characters.
Also, I felt no stirring towards the world. I wanted to come out of the book feeling like I had just come back from an adventure. Venice is a place with enormous potential for a magical adventure story, and yet I just felt...very meh. Yes, I was shown gondolas and canals and palazzos, but while they were mentioned, I couldn't really see what was so magical about them. I couldn't sense the magic of the world at all because it lacked a lot of small, important details that would've brought it to life. The lasting effect was...less than intoxicating.
The plot was not compelling. The supposed "danger" to the character was overrated because nothing about the murders in Venice truly disrupted Cassandra's life. I slogged through it, waiting for the stakes to rise, waiting for something unexpected to happen. The plot twists bored me because I had figured them out several pages beforehand. By the end of it, the only thing I wanted to know was a) whodunnit and b) why. Both revelations were tiresome.
Overall, not impressed in the slightest. I don't think I'll be continuing with this series.
- pages - hardcover, 432
- published - October 2012
- publisher - Philomel
- genre - historical fiction
- received via - Southern ARC Tours
- rating - 2/5
- series - Secrets of the Eternal Rose