Cassandra “Cass” Caravello is a fifteen-year-old contessa living in Renaissance Venice whose elite life is suffocating. Outwardly, she benefits from wealth, prestige, and an arranged marriage. Inwardly, she recoils from her life being meticulously planned out for her. She wants to escape the social mores that plague society. She wants to choose her own destiny. She wants…freedom.

 When Cass accidentally discovers the mutilated body of a young courtesan, she is forced to find the killer before he finds her. With the aid of Falco, a handsome artist who seems to mysteriously appear whenever she needs help, they plunge into the darkness of elite society. As more girls turn up dead, they begin to unlock the mystery of who might be friend and who might be foe.  

**Note: For people who love this book, love the author, or find great pleasure in commonplace romances where they know exactly what will happen before they read a word, you probably want to stop reading.**

 Characterization: Cass is a shallow, dislikeable character. She spends most of the book whining about her life being planned for her. When she isn’t obsessing about how unfair life is, she’s obsessing about Falco – a character that we know nothing about, even after 431 pages. Probably the most disturbing part of Cass’s character is that the author attempts to use her to convey a strong female character bucking Renaissance conventions towards women; however, all she seems to think about is making out with Falco - or her fiancé Luca (another character that’s never developed), which undermines the whole “strong female” thing.

 Cass’s constant need for male companionship wears on the reader. Scene after scene she suspects Falco is the real killer (or at least an accomplice), but within a paragraph, he will smile at her, and she will change her mind because of his kissable lips or taunt muscles.  

Cass is supposed to be fifteen years old. There is no way. Her language, actions, and the basic context of this novel make the fact that she’s fifteen completely unbelievable. In fact, as I read, it seemed more plausible that she was at least seventeen or eighteen while Falco should have been in his early twenties. This leads me to believe that this novel might be geared more towards adult readers rather than young adult.

 Plot/Context: The book jacket promised a romantic suspense thriller. By definition, this book meets those guidelines; however, there was no originality to the plot at all. On more than one occasion, I felt as though I was reading a Harlequin romance novel that my grandmother had snuck to me while I was in high school. Just like Harlequin novels follow formulaic character and plot outlines, this novel did, too. There was little suspense, and the romance was really lust disguised as “love.” In fact, “lust” WAS the plot.

 Love Triangle: There was indeed a love triangle, but I could care less who won Cass. In fact, I was hoping that she would be killed off so that both men could find someone with some substance. 
I gave this novel two stars because the author managed to keep the identity of the killer a secret until the very end. Of course, the killer was so random that I almost forgot that that person was in the book. Which leads to another frustration. This book is 431 pages of cliché and predictable  storyline. To quote my student, “Someone needed to grab a scalpel and carve a plot out of all of those pages.”

5/23/2012 11:11:49 am

I REALLY wanted to love this book. It was very high on my Fall 2012 books wishlist. I got to read an ARC and I had REALLY mixed feelings sadly. I liked it a bit more than you did - I liked the mystery, I liked that the killer's identity wasn't obvious. I liked Luca and I hope Cass picks him at the end. But I COULD.NOT.STAND. Falco. I wanted to slap him the entire book. He was a hypocritical jerk in my opinion. He told Cass not to make her own choices yet he bossed her around. And all they had was lust, not love. Ugh. I seriously hated him.

5/23/2012 11:12:49 am

Ugh, made a mistake... that should say "to make her own choices" not "not to make her own choices".... my bad.

Courtney Krieger
5/23/2012 11:26:53 am

Thanks for the feedback, Rebecca. I'm probably more harsh than most because I think of the strength and wisdom I want my daughters to have; so, when I read books that try to get them to buy in to the status quo, I get very irritated. I want so much more for our young women.

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