Belladonna by Fiona Paul
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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?”
I was surprised to find that the love interest between Falco and Cass was almost non-existent in this second novel of the series. It’s not that I necessarily felt that the characters were being written as being the perfect match for each other, but rather that I got the impression that this story had more to do with forbidden love than otherwise. This novel, however, focuses almost exclusively on the mysteries surrounding Cass’s parents and their involvement in the Order of the Eternal Rose.
When Falco did show up, he was usually gruff and overbearing towards Cass. I got to the point of wishing to see more of Luca, because I liked his character much better. But as I said, there’s not a lot of romance in this installment. Much of the time, Cass is in the company of her lady’s maid or her best friend. The more prominent male character this time around is a doctor who has been hired by the mysterious Belladonna.
What I did like about this novel was the sense of creepy atmosphere that Paul invokes. There are no crypts this time around, but there are hedonistic parties of questionable morality, threats of vampiric activity, and many a midnight skulk in search of information. With much of the story taking place in Florence, the narrative has a different feel—gone are the deep canals of Venice, and instead readers get more of dark alleyways and maze-like streets.
I think that if this novel had actually been able to delve more deeply into the actual activities of the Order, and especially if Cass’s parents involvement had been explored a bit more, I probably would have liked this book more. In Venom, I was interested in the parts of the tale that dealt with what passed for biological research in that time period, and I wish I had seen more of that in Belladonna.
I found that I didn’t like this novel as much as the first one, but it’s still a book that held my attention fairly well. Belladonna should satisfy teen readers looking for something eerie without the supernatural monsters that populate most young adult novels these days.
Also by this author: Venom