Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, book one)
By Fiona Paul
Published 2012 by Philomel
Cass lives a life of luxury in Renaissance Venice, though it hasn't been easy since her parents' deaths. Things only get more complicated, however, when she discovers a murdered young woman. Soon, she finds herself caught up in a mysterious world of secret societies - and finds her affections torn between two men.
Well, I like mysteries and I like historical fiction, so no real surprise as to why I picked this one up. I actually had an e-galley of this title, but it expired before I finished it. I didn't make it a priority to pick up the book and finish it post-publication, but, back before the Year of No Library Books began, I decided to try to finish up a few books that I'd left in similar situations.
This book is pretty much what I expected. It's a gossipy, fast-paced historical romance with a decent mystery thrown in. Though I'm a big fan of historical fiction, I don't often know much about actual history, so I can't really speak to the historical accuracy of this book. I will say that I don't think Cass would have really gotten away with as much as she does in the novel in actual Renaissance Venice - young women didn't really have a lot of agency back then. Maybe the lack of her parents would have given her more freedom, but I have my doubts.
That being said, my feelings for Cass are pretty neutral. I don't particularly like her, but I don't dislike her either. I find her interesting enough that I zipped through this book and I was involved enough in her story to find myself caring a bit about which love interest she should pursue. This perhaps speaks to the secondary characters being developed well enough that I did actually have an opinion on the love triangle and I'm interested to see what happens with it in book two.
The mystery is perhaps the lightest part of the story, but it does involve a secret society and murdered courtesans, so it's definitely got some intrigue. I called this book gossipy and I don't mean that in a negative way - it feels like a mystery that would be shared in darkened corners of secret rooms and whispered from friend to friend.
Readers looking for a fast-paced historical read with some swooning and intrigue thrown in will definitely find something to enjoy in this book.