Belladonna by Fiona Paul

Belladonna by Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel
Genre: YA, Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

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.

Dark and dramatic, Fiona Paul’s daring new read, Belladonna is a unique blend of romance and intrigue. Life, community, family and love weave into a complex tale that is eerie, heart wrenching and unpredictable.

Cassandra Caravello is betrothed… both happily and unhappily. However, she is both loyal and promised, and Luca is more than worthy. When he falls under threat, she risks all, goes to Florence and is there confronted by… both a deadly secret order, and her greatest love. She has friends – first book fans will remember Mada and her maid; and she has, after all, Falco, her greatest love. Readers will, like Cass, fall for the dashing Falco, even with his dark entanglements. Our hopes will leap from one to the next. Cass is torn – both by circumstances and her heart. And she never, ever, has a moment to contemplate, for the action never lets up in this fast-paced thrill-ride.

The Italian Renaissance era, from Venice and Florence, and the story is both rich in background details. The rituals of the day, the art, and especially the sculpture all give us a powerful sense of place, and add to the overall aura in some scenes, yet those details never intrude. The people intrude: the city people, their fears and expectations, their accusations…and the reader has a very powerful sense of the potential for any one person to become a victim of the population. This ‘population’ is as real and threatening as one could imagine; ‘they’ are almost a character unto themselves. A quick example of how both place and ‘population’ are so well presented, but evoke such feeling: “Cass Heard laughter from above as she quietly crept up the steps. The room was dimly lit, its crimson walls pulsing with darkness. Everyone’s face was hidden…”

The writing style throughout is consistent, fluid and unobtrusive. My one complaint is that the insistence on cliff-hanger action from one moment to the next seems at times simply exhausting. I must mention the cover, however: Simply incredible and so suitable. Do read.

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