Goodreads Summary: In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!Goodreads / Barnes and Noble
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.
Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy
First Line: "Cass leaned over the side of the Rialto Bridge, the wind lifting her auburn hair away from her face."
Favorite Quote: "The pain, the rage - it was a wave, threatening to drown her. But was that what love was supposed to be? Pain? Madness? Or was love something more like what she felt for Luca? Something that motivated a person to be selfless and even self-sacrificing."
After finishing Venom not too long ago, I knew I wanted to read the sequel, and luckily for me it had just come out. The redesign of the covers is starting to grow on me; the hardback I read from didn't have those broken pages on the sides, which I appreciated - after all, you can't properly flip through a book when the publishers decide to include those, and though they are pretty they can get very annoying. It took me a while to get into the first book in this series, so I worried about having the same problem with Belladonna, but fortunately that was not the case. I was immediately drawn into the story, because it starts off on an exciting note, with Cass' fiance Luca being arrested. It's mentioned in the summary, so I knew it advance that this would take place, but it was still surprising because Luca seemed like such a gentle character - I never felt the need to doubt his innocence.
Paul continues to write beautiful descriptions, and I cannot praise it enough. This time, she ventures outside of Venice and tells us about Florence; she has obviously done some research about this time period. Everything about Belladonna felt very vivid and alive, and I'm going to be very eager to get back to reading her writing style when the third novel comes out next year (her kissing scenes are also quite nice). Though I very much enjoyed Venom, one of my main problems with it was its protagonist, Cass. I found I really liked her a times, but at others I was completely baffled by her decisions. Sadly, I can't say I feel any differently about her now.
She did have her moments of awesomeness, though - I greatly admired her determination to find out more about the Order of the Eternal Rose and to save Luca from unfair execution, even though she was still unsure about her feelings for him. As she says herself at one point in the book, it would have been easy for her to just let him die so she could pursue whatever else she wanted at the time and not be bound some guy through a betrothal. She did seem like a very good person, and I could relate to her at times. I found her mixed feelings and confusion very realistic. I guess my only main gripe with her this time around was when she goes to Florence, she excuses herself from a party and wanders off by herself into the woods at night just because she wanted to see a dear, and she knew perfectly well that Florence was not the safest place at that moment. A very poor decision on her part, one that had me practically yelling at the book.
I was hoping the love triangle would be addressed in Belladonna, and it appears that it has been, but since this isn't the last novel, I can't be sure. I had extremely mixed feelings about who I wanted Cass to end up with after I read Venom. I liked Falco, but there were bits and pieces of his personality that I didn't like at all. Luca seemed really sweet, but he just wasn't around often enough for me to care for a lot. Well, the same problems have sprung up here. Luca is locked up throughout the entire story, appearing only in the beginning and the end, and not for very long. Hopefully he's there a lot more later on so I can have some time to get attached to him. I like everything about him so far, but I still reserve judgement. I actually disliked Falco quite a bit here. Every time he met up with Cass, he seemed to just want to sleep with her, and though I do believe he cares for her, I couldn't exactly deny the strong hints about his relationship with Bella. But again, I can't be positive because we're never told for sure whether or not there is something going on between them. I can't help but think that Luca and Cass will end up together, but the title of the third book is Starling, which is Falco's nickname for Cass, so maybe that's a hint? If the F/C paring did happen, I wouldn't be entirely against it, but Falco would have to redeem himself somehow.
I was already aware that this series was going to take a paranormal turn before I started it, so I wasn't surprised when vampires were brought up, but I definitely thought it was an interesting direction for the author to take her story in. I thought it was going to just be historical fiction, and at first I was sure it would irritate me, but I thought Paul did really well with building up tension about the Order of the Eternal Rose and what exactly they were doing. Belladonna was a creepy villain, and I'm sure she will be around to cause chaos in Starling. The side characters were all very charming; though Madalena, Cass' best friend, got under my skin quite a bit. She's very much on the shallow side, but with the way she was raised I supposed it was realistic for her to be the way she was. Siena was a heartwarming character. The way this book ends definitely sets the scene for the last one, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
Books in this series:
My Life Is A Notebook
The Eater of Books