Something Wicked Comes on Day 11 with lots more books for your haunting pleasure. Be sure to check out these fantastic stops and enter all the giveaways:
Jennifer@Some Like It Paranormal: Lia Habel Dearly Beloved
Tricia@ Tricia Kristufek: Patricia Briggs
Atmika @I Talk Books!: Blackbrooke: Emma Silver
Today we are going on a trip back in time to Renaissance Florence. Where we will meet Cass and Falco as they sneak along the canals at night trying to find a body snatcher and a murderer. Danger lurks around every bend and below them swims the venomous waters of Venice's famous canals. I am super excited to be a part of the Venom tour today. (click on the banner for all the stops)
I have here the lovely and talented Fiona Paul, author of the upcoming Venom. I am so excited for you all to read this one! I loved going back to Venice so I decided to invite Ms. Paul here today to tell you all about her research on Venice.
Here is a little about Fiona:
Fiona Paul lives in the Midwest but travels a lot since she can’t breathe if she spends too much time away from the ocean. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology and spent a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea while she was deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Answer: everything. In addition to being a teacher and a writer, she’s also worked as a sauté cook, sporting goods manager, veterinary assistant, and registered nurse. When she’s not working, you can usually find her kayaking, reading, or helping turtles cross the road. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks and writing more books, not necessarily in that order. Venom is her first novel.
Here is Fiona on researching her book:
Oh, historical settings *tears at hair* Suffice it to say I had NO IDEA what I was getting into when I began this book. My thought process went something like this: I’ve been to Venice. I looked at all kinds of paintings of Renaissance churches and people in art history class. And when all else fails there’s Google, right? Bam! I’m good to go.
I was, most decidedly, not good to go. I started out with a fat pdf file put together for me by an amazing intern. It was chock full of pictures of chopines and stays (corsets) and velvet-covered divans. But unfortunately, it just scratched the surface. During the writing process, I did more research than writing. I watched movies, read books, googled frantically, reviewed strangers’ vacation photos via flicker, etc., And still, there were tons of questions I couldn’t answer: I need to know the name of a church in this district. I need to know the name of a painting that hung in this church in 1600. What things were sold at the market? Where was the market? How long did it take to have a dress made? What color dresses did people like to wear? Red dye was made from beetles, seriously? There was no end to my obsessive questioning. Eventually, the decision was made to consult a Renaissance expert.
The expert sent back a TWENTY-FIVE page edit letter full of suggestions for improving my draft. And though fixing all of the inaccuracies and weaving in additional historical detail was every bit as grueling as you might imagine, the resulting product was a manuscript that awed the entire editorial team. I didn’t write VENOM to be educational, but I’m proud of the fact that almost every little detail—the food, the perfumes, the books, the clothes, the art, the landmarks, etc.—is grounded in fact. [Exception: San Domenico is a fictional island, due to the difficulty of accurately determining the history of Venice’s many tiny outlying islands, but its location is roughly equivalent to the location of Isola la Grazia, just south of San Giorgio Maggiore.]
In addition to accurate description, another way I wanted to create ambience for VENOM was to use chapter epigraphs. The original plan was to excerpt passages from ancient medical texts and use them as a lead-in for each chapter. At the time, I was working as a nurse at a hospital affiliated with a med school that actually had translations of writings that dated all the way back to ancient Greece. However, when I started actually going through the texts, I came across two problems:
- While the original texts were clearly old enough to be in the public domain, some of the translation dates were newer, meaning that I would have to research each book individually and determine if I needed permission/rights to excerpt from it.
- Even more importantly, old medical texts are crazy dull!
Having a background in medicine, I decided I could just make up excerpts, but what book would I credit them to? I debated doing a “lost journals of Leonardo da Vinci” type thing, but wasn’t sure.
At the same time I was deciding this, I was also finalizing the outline for BELLADONNA, book #2 in the trilogy. And then everything sort of fell into place. BELLADONNA’s storyline needed a mysterious tome that detailed the research and musings of the secret society. Voila—the Book of the Eternal Rose was born. And though originally the epigraphs were only supposed to serve as ambience, some of them now provide clues to the trilogy’s overall mystery.
I was worried about embedding these quotes in VENOM since the Order of the Eternal Rose is only mentioned once, but per the editorial team, it either had to be all three books or none of them, and I really do think the epigraphs are kind of cool. My sincerest apologies if you stop every chapter and go “What is the Book of the Eternal Rose?” I promise as the trilogy progresses you will learn all about the Order and why the book is so important.
In the meantime, do you want to see some chopines that are over TWENTY INCHES tall?!?!? Check out this page from the Bata Shoe Museum.
Thank you Fiona for the informative post! As part of the Venom Tour I have one more thing to share, an excerpt of a short story that Fiona wrote for her tour. You can read the whole story by visiting the other stops (click on the banner for the list). Here is my excerpt:
A Secrets of the Eternal Rose short story
By Fiona Paul
The year is 1600 and the streets of Venice, Italy are ripe with intrigue and danger. In this introduction to the world of Venom, eighteen-year-old Mariabella has recently elevated herself from the rank of common prostitute to the status of courtesan, a respected high-class escort for those men in Venetian society who can afford them. Mariabella steps out to attend a party on the arm of her powerful new patron, certain that the night will be filled with glamour, secrets, and adventure.
If you missed the last part of the story, check it out on A Glass of Wine.
--The idea of stealing time with Batista, kissing him, being kissed by him, laughing together—it’s exactly what I crave. But my first responsibility is to Joseph.
“I can’t,” I say. “I have to go.” I dip into a shallow curtsy as if Batista is a random stranger. His eyes cut through me again as I glide away from him. Two sharp steel blades. I can almost feel them in my belly.
“So many admirers,” Joseph says to me as I approach. He looks down at me and strokes the side of my face as if I am a work of art he is appraising.
“It’s a curse.” I stretch onto my tiptoes to brush my lips against his. “Do be careful not to trip over any of the broken hearts.”
Someone taps me lightly on the shoulder. I turn around to see a courtesan I recognize from a gala I attended last week. She’s a few years older than me, with skin so pale I can see the fine network of veins running alongside her temples. As she smiles, my gaze is drawn immediately to the chunk of meat wedged between her front teeth. I do my best not to stare.
“While you were dancing, Joseph was telling us all about his new little bauble.”
Another courtesan appears at her side, this one brunette, as olive-skinned as her friend is fair. “Oh, is this her?” She flashes teeth that are white and unblemished, but her smile is more like a snarl. “She’s adorable, if you like that sort of thing.” She laughs loudly, making me wonder how much she’s had to drink.
Before I can ask exactly what sort of thing she means, the blonde courtesan reaches out to finger the fraying lace on my neckline. “Lace is so fragile, isn’t it? Perhaps soon you’ll be able to buy something new.”
I smile at her. “It looks like you have half a chicken stuck in your teeth,” I say sweetly. I widen my eyes and try to look extra helpful.
She gives me a look that could curdle butter. Grabbing the brunette courtesan’s wrist, she drags her across the room to the nearest mirror.
For the next part of the story, visit Citrus Reads tomorrow, 10/12.
Fantastic! You guys have to check out this book! So I am super excited that the wonderful Fiona Paul has brought to you all a signed copy of Venom and this contest is open Internationally! How cool is that? Be sure to show her your appreciation and visit her on her blog, website, Facebook, twitter and Goodreads! Thank you so much Fiona for providing us with such a fantastic post and giveaway today!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here is my review:
Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) by Fiona Paul
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.Hardcover, 432 pages Expected publication: October 30th 2012 by Philomel
Four Stars: A historical murder mystery that takes you to Renaissance Venice.
Cass stands in the church enduring the never-ending funeral for her deceased friend, Livia. At last the funeral draws to a close and Cass seeks some fresh air. Lost in a fog, she is unaware of her surroundings as she stands on the plaza near the canal. A boisterous young man accidentally shoves against her, knocking Cass to the ground. For a moment, she is lost in the depths of his blue eyes. Quickly he pulls her up and runs off to join his compadres. Later that night alone in her room, Cass glances out the window and sees a lantern bobbing in the graveyard where her now deceased friend is entombed. Curious, she grabs her cloak and heads to the shadowy graveyard. As she nears the crypt, she hears a scratching noise. Cass pushes aside her fear and dashes in to check the crypt. Everything appears to be normal, until Cass notices the lid of the tomb is slightly ajar. She endeavors to push the heavy stone slab into place. Before she does so, she decides to take one final peek at her beloved friend. The sight that meets her eyes is horrifying and disturbing. In the crypt lies a dark haired girl with bruises and a red 'X' slashed across her chest. Terrified Cass flees and falls into the arms of the same boy who bumped into her earlier in the day. She begs for help, and the two begin their strange investigation into the disappearance of the body. What follows is a wild adventure through the canals of Venice as Cass and Falco race to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, by sticking her nose into the mess, Cass soon finds herself threatened by the killer. Can Cass and Falco find the murder before he gets to Cass?
What I Liked:
- My absolute favorite aspect of this book is the historical setting of Renaissance Venice. Ms. Paul does a phenomenal job of taking the reader back in time to this old city on the water. She paints a picture of Venice both good a bad. While I am certain everyone is expecting to read about the romantic gondola rides and the watery passages, there is more to it than the ideal vision. Ms. Paul reminds us that during this time there was plenty of filth and squalor. While the idea of the canals may be appealing, in reality they are polluted and germ ridden as the people of the city use them as their dumping grounds, chamber pots and all, they are swirling with venom. I can only imagine how awful it smelled. I loved learning more about this grand city.
- I enjoyed the depiction of the different types of people populating the city. You meet the wealthy aristocrats, the servants, and even some of the more scandalous figures such as the courtesans. I liked reading about the different classes and learning more about the customs and fashions of the day. Of course, there are elegant gowns of silk and lace adorned with pearls as well as hats, handkerchiefs, stays and chopines. I found myself googling chopines to find out about this foot wear. I can't imagine how women managed to walk about in these contraptions! Needless to say, as romantic as the idea of these fancy gowns seems, in reality they were cumbersome and the whalebone stays were constricting and unbearable.
- I liked the partnership between Cass and Falco. The pair traverses all over Venice at night in order to find the culprit. During their investigation, they attend a mask ball, visit the houses of the courtesans and paddle up and down the canals. It is certainly entertaining to follow them as they work together and ultimately the sparks fly between them.
- I admired Cass. She is a young lady brought up amongst the wealthy class of Venice. Even though she has a life of privilege she has a burning desire to seek out adventure and to break free of her confines. Falco provides the perfect opportunity for her to escape. The girl has a lot of gumption to go traipsing all over Venice in the dead of night!
- Finally, on a side note the physical copy of Venom is gorgeous. The cover is striking and inside the book, every page has a lovely scroll design along the bound edge. It is an elegant presentation.
And The Not So Much:
- While I adored Falco, he is flippant, sarcastic and charming, I felt like I didn't know him. The boy pops on scene and throughout the entire book he is enigmatic, meaning there is no discussion on his background, where he lives and even his trade. After awhile it is revealed that he is an artist but everything else remains a mystery. I wanted the details and the dirt on him. I am sure that he will collect many hearts, but I wish I could know him better.
- There were a couple of times in the book where the author flipped on names. For instance she introduces one character, Joseph Dubuois, and refers to him by his last name for the majority of the book, then a couple of pages after the first meeting she suddenly flips and refers to him as Joseph for a passage. I was confused and had to go back and read a couple of pages to find out she was referring to Dubuois.
- I wanted more of the backstory on the Livia, the dead contessa. The book opens with her funeral and then the theft of her body, but I knew nothing about this girl and her relationship with Cass. Just a tad more clarification on her would have made the reader understand a bit better why Cass wanted so desperately to solve the crime. Obviously, Livia was a close friend, but it is never discussed, you just have to infer.
- I wanted to know more about the Book of the Eternal Rose. Every chapter is introduced by an excerpt from this strange book. Why were these excerpts used? Is this indeed a real book and how does it ultimately tie into the story?
- I would be remiss of me not to tell you that this book ultimately moves into a love triangle. For the majority of the book it doesn't appear that there is going to be a three sided affair. At the opening of the book, the reader learns that Cass is betrothed to a boy she hardly knows and has not seen in three years as he is away at school in France. She has little desire to marry him, but most do so to acquiesce to her aunt's wishes and to maintain her status. She is not in love with him. Once Falco sweeps into the story with his smile and snark, she falls and falls hard. She is constantly lecturing herself, knowing that their relationship can't be, but she can't resist. Soon she is even pondering the possibilities of escaping with Falco, that is until Luca returns. In his absence, he has matured and become handsome. He is also kind and sympathetic and for a moment her heart sways. At the end of the book, it appears that the story is moving into love triangle territory.
- The book has an open ending. There is no cliffhanger, thank goodness, but there are so many lingering unanswered questions, that the author herself presents at the end of the story. Obviously, if Ms. Paul takes the time to address the remaining questions, she is going to address them in the next book. Just don't expect a resolution to the murder mystery or the love dilemma.
- Finally, the one thing I can see might be a problem for some readers is pacing. This book moves at a slow speed. It isn't filled with action or fast paced by any means. In fact, it takes a good long while for the mystery to unfold. The final hundred pages, the book picks up dramatically as the big reveals start coming, but until that point it is mostly Cass and Falco chasing all over Venice at night. I also had a bit of trouble engaging into the story. Overall, the historic setting is what kept me reading and Falco's sarcastic remarks. This book is over four hundred pages, so plan to invest some time. If you are a big historical fan, you will enjoy this, if not, it may be a little difficult for you to get into, but if you stick with it the pay off is worth the wait.
Venom is an interesting tale that takes the reader on a wild chase through the canals of Venice during the Renaissance period. This book has body thefts, murder, forbidden love, gondolas, corsets and stays, courtesans and a masquerade ball, all along the banks of the many canals of Venice. Travel back in time and follow Cass and Falco as they work to find a killer and ultimately find the flames of a forbidden passion.
“Cass was more alone than ever. She might as well be dead; her life was spread in front of her, a series of high walls and predetermined paths, rules, and expectation, all as narrow as the canals, as stifling as a coffin.”
“I’ll see you home to your fancy sheets. I’d say you need your beauty sleep, but it looks like you’ve been getting plenty.”
“Time seemed to slow down as she stared at the blank parchment, brimming with things to write but unable to form her swirling thoughts into sentences.”
“Falco’s eyes widened in fake shock. “Well, then perhaps I should ask for a tour of the house.” He grinned, clearily relishing Cass’s embarassment. “Can we start with your bedroom?”
“Cass’s heart sped up. But this time, he didn’t try to kiss her. He just held her in the dark, his mouth so close to hers that their breath mingled together like mist off the canals.”
“She felt close to him, yet miles away at the same time. It was as if what she wanted was on the horizon, but kept disappearing like a mirage.”
“Cass felt torn in two, like the sky split by lightning. One side guilty. One side wanting. She froze, statue-still, as Falco’s lips brushed against her earlobe and then moved down and across her jawbone. His mouth hovered in the air, a parchment width away from hers. Eternities came and went.”
“He described marriage as much like a cage full of birds, where the unmarried struggle to get in and the married struggle to get out.”
“You smell amazing,” he said. “Like roses and butterflies and cool spring morning.”
“Everyone else was apologizing to God for their sins, and here she was dreaming up some new ones.”
“Her future might have already been decided, but she was still in control of her present.”
“Stop worrying about the rest of the world. Do what feels right. Let go.”
Note the quotations are taken from an ARC and they may differ from the final copy. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
See you back tomorrow! Click on the button to see all the giveaways!