Belladonna by Fiona Paul
Release Date – July 16, 2013
Publisher Website - Philomel/Razorbill
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 352 pages
My Rating- 4/5
**obtained for review from publisher**
**SPOILERS FOR VENOM**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.I fell in love with Venom. It's setting, it's characters, and the enticing mystery that Cassandra stumbled into.I am happy to say that my love of this series has only grown after reading Belladonna. Everything I loved in Venom from it's setting, the characters and steamy romance is found within Belladonna's pages, and more.
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.
Second books in a series are always hard. Often they suffer from what I call 'second book syndrome'. It is evident that things are being dragged out simply to add another novel to a series that could have consisted of two books. Belladonna avoids this. The plot of the second novel is directly tied to the first, but dives deeper into it. It delves off until unexpected places, and while it is a continuation, it's own purpose to the overall plot is evident.
The mystery surrounding The Order of the Eternal Rose is the main focus of the novel. As their secrets begin to unravel, and their desires become clear the shivers begin. The sense that they will do anything, use anyone, to achieve their goals is overwhelming. As it begins to unravel I couldn't help but be bewitched by the attention to detail in this story. The build up of this 'group' has been done wonderfully, and they feel like an honest threat. Their power doesn't just reside in the ability to instill fear, but the prominent members in society have a far reaching influence that may prove more dangerous than expected.
Cassandra proves herself quite resourceful, brave and honorable. She isn't a damsel waiting to be saved. She wants to control her own destiny and does so. She doesn't flinch or hide when things become too much. She embraces them and strives to overcomes them. I liked that this is done in a realistic way. Cass is still a 'proper' lady and isn't trained in fighting, or anything of that nature. Some luck, and cleverness allow her to navigate this mystery and her desire to do what is right pushes her forward. Her fight to prove Luca's innocence is admirable, and allows Cass to be the heroine in a story where she could have all to easily been the one needing the saving.
After being attacked at the end of Venom Cassandra is skittish, and has flashbacks in certain situations. I was pleased to see that the attack resonated with the character. It wasn't brushed aside, and she was effected by what happened to her. It was refreshing to see in a novel, because too often it is the opposite. She had a traumatic experience, and the story reflects this. It makes Cassandra's action all the more brave because she's fighting her instincts that are telling her to run.
Fiona Paul's research into Venice and Florence is impeccable. She brings both of these destinations to life, along with the time period the novel is set in. She manages to capture the essence of what the cities are like and uses vivid descriptions to bring them to life. She captures Renaissance Italy in such a way that you can almost smell the musty air of Venice, and feel the dampness in the air. The way superstition, and beliefs are woven into the story also show another layer of research that brought an authenticity to the setting.
If Venom was Falco's novel, Belladonna belongs to Luca. I found him intriguing in the first novel, but he steps it up in the sequel. He's dependable, unwavering, and offers unfailing belief in Cassandra. This triangle is fairly even in regards to the two guys. Each offers something Cassandra needs, and each is carrying secrets. It makes the outcome unpredictable. As Cassandra grows and matures what she needs and wants out of a partner is changing and this is reflected in the story. I am curious how the events of Belladonna will shape her and her choices in Starling.
As a sequel that surpasses the original Belladonna delivers mystery, romance, and moves Cassandra's story forward in the most unexpected ways. Fans of historical novels will appreciate the amount of detail incorporated, and those looking for a thrilling read will find that within these pages.