Venom by Fiona Paul.
Harcover, 432 pages.
Published October 30, 2012.
Published 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.
This book is being marketed as one of the 'Breathless Reads'. The title completely fits. This book blew me away in so many ways. It was elegant, it was mysterious, and it was impossible to put down. I am in love with this book.
First, the writing. It is beautiful. It flows effortlessly and paints a vivid picture of the places and the characters in my mind. Venice absolutely comes alive; I was sucked into Cass' world and never wanted to leave. I will be reading everything Fiona Paul writes because she is so eloquent and so powerful. The scenes that were sinister had my heart pounding and my mind reeling.
The characters were so intriguing. I always wanted to see more of them and know more about them. The main character, Cass, is really quite fun. Mentally, she's very well-balanced: she cares for people and is aware of how her actions may affect them, yet she's a young woman! She wants to have fun and a little freedom! She has a bit of a rebellious streak, but doesn't lose her concern for those close to her. One thing I really enjoyed about her is how passionate she is. She doesn't always allow it to show, but readers get to see that side of her. Falco was also a very interesting character. He's fun as well, very flirtatious, certainly not concerned with what is "proper", and at the beginning of the novel, is quite a breath of fresh air in Cass' life! Until, of course, some suspicion falls on him. Then he gets more and more mysterious until neither Cass nor the reader really knows what to believe! Cass questioned all the same things about him that I did, so I found myself sympathizing and commiserating with her. Madalena, Cass' best friend, is also an enjoyable character. She can be selfish but is not mean, and she and Cass balance each other out very well, which was great for the story.
The story itself was something I could not tear myself away from! I loved how there was the main, major mystery concerning the murder, but that there are little side-mysteries included along the way. It helped it feel like there were things being accomplished and moving along, instead of feeling like Cass was working towards an impossible, drawn-out goal. Also, this novel absolutely BURNS with sexual tension! I loved it! Nothing too risqué or shocking, but definitely hot! The effect that Falco has on Cass was enchanting and, in my opinion, perfect for their situation. As a girl who has not previously been in the company of too many men, certainly not ones who she had feelings for, her emotions developed in a very believable manner. I definitely loved that there was more to everyone than it seemed. That's essential in a mystery!
Honestly, when I'm reading a book I always try to find something to comment on that the author could have done better, or that simply didn't work for me, but I came up blank for this one. I was so engrossed in the story and the characters that I didn't find anything that stood out as not enjoyable. This is one of the best books I have read all year! If you only buy one book this year, make it this one!
5 stars, no doubt about it! (Can I give it more than that? I do!)