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In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

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.

346 pages, Hardcover

First published July 16, 2013

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About the author

Fiona Paul

13 books411 followers
Fiona Paul is a pseudonym for author Paula Stokes


Please contact me via email or twitter.

If you're looking for a review copy of BELLADONNA, please contact Penguin's marketing department directly at YRmarketing@us.penguingroup.com. Thanks and happy reading! :)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 206 reviews
December 12, 2013
An open letter to all the nice guys in literature:

Dear "nice guys,"

On behalf of women everywhere (or at least the rational, normal, not-stupid ones), I apologize for this book.

By "nice guys," I don't mean guys who slap the label on themselves haphazardly in order to absolve the fact that they are incapable of getting a girl because they don't expend any damn effort, I mean guys who are genuinely awesome. Guys who risk everything for the woman they love. Guys who focus on friendship first. Guys who actually put forth the time to get to know the girl. Guys who have normal, stable careers. Guys who want to settle down. Guys who know that the woman they like, then admire, then love, is more than a piece of pussy to be used and thrown away as they lose interest.

I just wanted to let you guys know that you are appreciated. You are loved; truly. As readers, I love reading about nice guys, and I am so sorry for the way you are so often treated, so often dismissed in favor of a lesser creature. I am particularly apologetic for the atrocious way one of your own, Luca, is treated by Cass, his frilly fucking of fluff of a fiancé within this book.

I swear to you, most women are better than this; we are better than her. We do not harbor feelings for a criminal, a liar, a grave-robber. One who shows no signs of remorse, no signs of wanting to change for the better.
[Cass and Falco's] whole relationship was based on secrets and lies. Even if Falco had stopped stealing dead bodies...did that mean he wouldn’t turn to crime again the next time he needed more than his art could provide? She didn’t know.
We do not prefer such an overwhelming dickwad over someone like her fiancé, Luca, a gentleman, who is a dream come true.
He was handsome and kind and smart, a good man, from a well-established Venetian family. And he loved her. He loved her so much, he would die for her; he had proven that already.
You see, while Luca was in prison, his erstwhile fiancée was off on something she calls a "rescue mission," under the cover of a clandestine romance. While Luca was rotting in prison, Cass has been out doing the tonsil tango with the starving artist/criminal/grave robber/asshat/douchebag guy on the side.
Her fiancé had spent the night alone, in a cramped cell, possibly being starved or tortured while Cass had been drinking ale with Falco.
Kissing Falco.
What was the matter with her?
We would not think that it is destiny that we were meant to be with someone besides you. Someone, who is, with her knowledge, DANGEROUS.
Fate. Once again, the entire universe seemed to be aligning in a manner that brought her and Falco together. Either that or he had an uncanny ability to find his way straight to the heart of everything evil.
We would not choose a starving artist over a lawyer. Someone who WOULD PAINT HER LIKE ONE OF HIS FRENCH GALS.
He had insisted on painting her. His soft hands had seemed so purposeful as he arranged her body, as if his growing feelings had determined the tilt of her head and just the way a lock of damp hair should fall over the bare skin of her throat.

I swear, most of us are smarter than this. We are not cheaters. We are faithful. We would defend you. I wouldn't go so far as to call Cass dumber than dirt, but let's just say that if dumb were dirt, Cass would have enough to plant and fertilize an entire field of apples. Yes, apples, which I would then use to throw at her once they were thoroughly rotten.

We are faithful. We are loving. We are capable of loving you, and only you. We will never accept your love as second-best. We will never take you for granted. You are better than a consolation prize. You are not a last resort, only to be accepted when the object of our infatuation has proven to be false beyond belief.

Keep searching for your perfect woman (or man, if you swing that way), and keep believing in us. The female gender has so much more to offer you than the simpering twit of the heroine within this book.

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies.

With love,
Profile Image for Hannah.
492 reviews
January 14, 2014
**WARNING: Incoherent Gif Review Ahead. Proceed with Caution**



Oh look...I died.

Yeah. Pretty much. Venom was totally awesome. It fulfilled every dream that my Historical loving heart could desire. But this book. AAAH. Fiona picks up Bella from the well built setting she established in Venom and proceeds to pull at your feels...and then your heartstrings and then RIP YOUR HEART OUT ALL TOGETHER.


Okay..not that much. *calm down Inky*

But seriously. I think this book impacted me so much more because of the fact that she'd already established who-what-where. It was just amazing. I loved it all. The mystery, the creepy lady mentioned in the title, the new Italian setting, the romance, the EVERYTHING.


The intrigue in these stories is very dark, and scientifically curiousifying! I hereby declare that is a legal word. I've never read anything like it before! In this book, we travel down to Florence, where we yet again get a beautiful Italian setting, and learn so much more about the Order that you're only hinted at in book one. You learn dark secrets and it's all so marvelously intriguing. And Belladonna herself was just awesome in a creepy but good villainous kinda way. Yum. But yahda yah. Now let's talk romance. We all know that is an amazing aspect of these books holy cow! THERE IS SOME YUMMY ROMANCE. This whole book is just YUM.

First things first though, Luca. The dear boy is not that prominent in Venom. Falco is the important one in that book. However, after that ending of Venom, we pick up Bella with Luca being a lot more involved. You get a better look at his character and I'M KINDA MAD THAT I STARTED TO DOUBT MY FEELINGS FOR FALCO. I wavered. It scared me. No. I Love Falco. Not Luca. So while I will probably always be Team Falco, I'm going to admit that I have a special fondness for the dear boy. He has his own secrets, but he's genuine and sweet and I can see why Cass loves him, in his own way.

Which brings me to her OTHER love...Falco. You've heard the name whispered all over. And already seen me squeal, that's for sure. But it is true. In this book he lives up to his stunningness of Venom, and more. He's kinda a jerk in some parts if I remember correctly, but he's also amazingly sweet and swoon-worthy and just EEEE. So because I really can't SAY anything more...






And with that, there is only one last point to address: the ending. OH MY THE ENDING MADE ME GO BANANAS. I'm all: "LUCA!!!" and then "NOOOO FALCOOOO" and, "CASS YOU CRAZY PERSON WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?!" ****insert intense wailing and moaning****




It was just so fast you know? Like a blur and then it was over and I sat there in my room unable to think or process ANYTHING. Until my brain starting FREAKING OUT that is. AAAH. Fiona probably remembers all the insane tweets and feelings, but OH MY GOODNESS it was so worth it. So worth it. Really, I can think of nothing wrong with Bella. Maybe that's because only feels remain...or that THERE WERE NONE. Hmm, lets go with that.

BUT, you know that's REALLY sad? Before I wrote this review? Before I read this book?


Sorta. This is what Belladonna has done to me. This is the truth.

*leaves this review to go get a life*

Content: Moderate
**For more reviews, visit me @ Book Haven Extraordinaire**
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews842 followers
December 31, 2020
9 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog Living A Thousand Lives (please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Laura Pausini – Il Mio Beneficio
Anna Tatangelo – Qualcosa Di Te
Il Divo – Come Primavera

Genre: historical fantasy, mystery, YA
Stuff: the Renaissance Italy, secret society
WOW: mix of mystery and romance
POV: 3rd person, female
Setting: Venice and Florence
Love-Geometry: medium
" But was that what love was supposed to be? Pain? Madness? Or was love something... that motivated a person to be selfless and even self-sacrificing."

Belladonna begins with Luca being imprisoned and sentenced to death. Of course, it was Dubois, who helped the young man to find a new home in Palazzo Ducale’s dungeons. Now Cass has to save her loyal fiancé, who begged to forget about him and find a true love since she doesn’t feel anything toward him. But she does…

Maybe it was guilt at the start, maybe it was gratitude after Cass being rescued by Luca in Venom , or maybe his patience during last weeks and his willingness to let her go if she would need it. Who knows. But it turned out that she cares about him and wouldn't give up on his life. That’s why she would go to Florence and try to find The Book of The Eternal Rose , which would help to blackmail and convince Dubois to back off.
"Luca’s freedom was at the tips of her fingers."

One month. One way. Go Cass!

In Florence, she will find out that the city is under random vampires’ attacks. Church executes young and not so young women, once somebody sees on their necks certain marks. We and Cass know vampires don't exist and there’s something more behind the wall of superstitions, but things would look creepy anyway.

By the by, we won't see much of Florence. I can't tell you why, but no, no tours around the city. Balls, investigations, new characters with questionable intentions, and serious wounds are waiting for our MC instead of a touristic trip. The plot was very entertaining, I love how Fiona Paul mixes mystery with romance without overwhelming readers with any of it. And how she covers human evils with paranormal blankets. The pacing was fast enough (except for a few chapters between Luca's goodbye and Cass's arriving to Florence) and the ending had its twists. But what's more important, I felt the story. I sympathized with the characters and still don't wanna this trilogy come to an end.

Let's talk about our heroes.

"Typical Falco—get angry first and then think later."

He’s here, in Florence, working for a wealthy woman who is, if you believe in gossips, a leader of a local Order of the Eternal Rose, and, if you believe your eyes, loves to be painted in provocative manners.

He’s a bit different in this installment. I mean, less light-hearted and easy-going while sharper and more serious. He’s still the same short-temper guy with allusive jokes, but if in the first book he didn't care about Cass's engagement and wanted to enjoy their present only, now he’s ready to fight.

Actually, Falco was ready to leave the field: he had left Venice and started a new life. Yes, he thought about new perspectives as a chance to win the girl, but he knew she could marry Luca before he would make a name for himself and gain a certain amount of money.

And still, they met again. Despite the odds, they met again.
“Sit down. Have a drink. I promise to escort you safely back to your satin sheets once we’ve gotten reacquainted.”

I loved that scene and… I got that when I see Falco I forget about Luca (this rule works both ways, though).

Cass and Falco
"For the thousandth time, she was struck by the differences between herself and Falco. The two of them had lived in the same city, but in completely different worlds. Cass was foolish to ever dream they could be together."

Cass says she isn’t married yet and Falco smiles with hope growing in his chest. Cass tells the reason she arrived in Florence and Falco gets moody. It’s one thing to be a wife of a man you don’t love and desire another (who is so desperate that may agree to become her secret lover), but risking your life for the sake of a fiancé you don’t wanna be with… It means only one thing: you do. And if you do then something had changed. Falco understands that he’s losing his starling. (I adore the nickname he gave to Cassandra: starling is such a beautiful word). So when Cass asks Falco for help he doesn’t refuse but doesn’t try his best either. He knows there’s no sense in being jealous, but no one can command his heart.

BTW, only in this installment, I learned Falco’s surname (I don't know why I had missed it in Venom). And when Belladonna (Falco's mistress) called him Signor da Padova, I felt hot. Italian names make things to me. Ask Luca da Peraga or Piero Basso or even creepy Angelo de Gradi.

Okay, I lost my focus. We were talking about jealousy and I was going to tell you that I felt it too! So did Cass. ‘Cause Falco’s relationships with Bella are… suggestive. He may not want her as much as he desires Cass, but she is genuinely interested in him. And everyone knows how she loves young men. So brace yourself, it was annoying even for me (while I knew that their ship was seeming), imagine what it was like for Cass (she knew nothing).

In Belladonna Cass and Falco would share a few passionate moments, but they will also fight not once. I like them together, I’m always first in line to scream at Cass ‘say YES to him and go to his quarters!’, but I see no future for them so far. I did though. But the ending of this book left me confused.

"Cass trusted Luca with her life. With her heart."

Dear boy, how I like you. Belladonna will start and end with him being on the pages, and while in the middle of the book I was distracted by Falco, after the read I was melting for da Peraga again. One would call him too good to be true or to good to be interesting in. But I disagree. He’s indeed a good man, but he isn’t that simple.

He gets in trouble by trying to protect Cass and then asks her to leave him be, 'cause she doesn't have to waste her life too.
“You owe no debt to me. Have your aunt arrange another match, perhaps with someone of your own choosing. Go be happy. It’s what I want for you.”

But I was glad to see Cassandra’s reaction and how happy was Luca to find out that she really cared about him. And a kiss… there was a kiss, after which there was a book without Luca. You won’t see him until the ending, though Cass would think of him quite often.

Luca and Cass
"Luca was the same as she was, when it came to the things that mattered."

Exactly! She may aching for Falco, but her bond with Luca is deeper. They know each other for all their lives. And…
"Cass tried to imagine Luca gone, but couldn’t. Even when he had been in France studying, he had always lingered in the back of her mind, his letters arriving with almost mechanical regularity. Even though Cass had spent most of her life away from him, she couldn’t fathom being completely and utterly without him. He was her future, a promise left to her by her parents: a life that was safe, steady, dependable."

A promise made by her parents. How powerful these words are. Cass's mother and father had seen something in this boy long before Cass’s eyes finally opened. I doubt they would choose him only because of his title or something. And events in Belladonna helped Cass to test her feelings toward Luca. They gave her a choice. Live him or love him.

Falco and Luca
Falco’s jaw tightened. “I feel sorry for you, Cass. But eventually you’re going to have to accept the fact that da Peraga is going to die.” His eyes flashed dark in the flickering candlelight. “Sometimes I wish that day would hurry up and get here, so that I could have my starling back.”

I was surprised by these words. Yes, Falco was angry while speaking it, but you can’t tell something that isn’t already in your head. The very thought has to be there. As we see, Falco considers Luca as a decent rival. And his advantage is knowledge. He knows about Luca while Luca is blind. Honestly, I do hope that da Peraga is actually aware of Falco too, aware and keeps silent only to let Cass choose by herself. ‘Cause if he doesn’t, he will, and it would be painful. What’s worse, I don’t know for whom I’m rooting more, with whom I want Cass to settle. I wish for these men to meet and have a talk (or fight). Maybe it'd help me with the choice.

Now I need to run and read the final installment. I'm already done with 25% and have no idea how the story would end.

Secrets of the Eternal Rose (Тайны Бессмертной Розы):
Venom (Под маской любви) #1/3
Belladonna (Белладонна) #2/3
Starling (Скворушка) #3/3
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,013 followers
February 18, 2016

Continue buddy-read session with my supergirls Julia and Katerina. Girls, your superpowers are the best! Can't wait to start next book with you!

Actual rating: 3.5

“The truth is often different from what is perceived as truth, but only the latter is of any consequence.”

Mystery, danger, love, duty are back with some reinforcement in the second installment of Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. The playground is changed: this time we'll explore Florence's dark alleys and learn its mysteries. Once again reality and illusion will bland in one and there's no telling truth from myth. Did I mention I absolutely love the way Fiona Paul builds her story brick by brick, letting us decide for ourselves what we want to believe in? Every superstition is based on facts. Right? Or not? Who can tell the difference? Belladonna will seriously mess with your mind, trust me.

I can 100% say that this book gave me what I craved: the internal mechanism of secret society's operational system. I finally found out how it works from the inside; but at the same time I've got more questions I hopefully will get answers to in the last installment.

I won't tell you much about the plot, because, dah, spoilers, and if you haven't read the first book, just GO NOW and read it! Our heroine Cassandra is getting older and wiser, she grows as a person and learns to understand her heart. Still, the choice is hard to make for her between two men (not that it was hard for me, you know) but she is slowly getting there... Are you sure, Nastassja? Um, yes? *says with uncertainty in her voice* I think my favorite (if you remember, I am still in training to be a serial killer) Book of the eternal rose is correct:

“Lust, love, madness: the holiest trilogy of all.”

Honestly, I was tossing between giving this book 4 stars or 3.5 as I did with the previous one. Don't get me wrong: I like almost everything about this series. But the choice Cass must make just couldn't let me breath full chest, torturing me, and partly depriving from enjoying this book completely. The angst level is high! Though I still believe this book has a decent love triangle I haven't met in a long time. I don't know whose team you are or if you haven't decided yet, but I am sure you can feel the weight of that decision hanging above Cass' head. Poor girl!

Bottom line: some aspects of Belladonna were better explored than in Venom, some not. I'd say both books have their pros and cons, but one thing for sure: they will give you a hell of a ride and afterwards you'll ask for more.

Update: adding half star to my initial rating, because it was such a great time reading this book together with my girls: our reading sessions alone deserve all the stars))

Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews287 followers
December 1, 2012
I received this book from Fiona Paul a mere two days ago in exchange for an honest review. It will be hard to express how amazing I think this book is-- it's everything I wanted the first to be, and Fiona Paul is blossoming as an author.

Belladonna is a thrilling follow up to Venom, and starts us a few weeks after Venom ends. Cass is still living with her aunt Agnese, engaged to the handsome and honorable Luca, but she is still head over heels for the dashing, young artist, Falco, that has left her to go pursue his art in Florence. After the intense events at the end of book one, Luca is now arrested in the first few pages of Belladonna, and Cass finds a way to make her way to Florence with her best friend Mada and her sweet and loyal maid, Siena, in order to save Luca's life. Along the way, she meets up with Falco and the enticing and creepily gorgeous Belladonna, and chaos breaks loose.

I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end. We are thrust right into the action, and the pace never lets up. We see Cass still as a spoiled young girl, but she has developed in the first book, and this one, she really starts to grow up and understand what love really means. We still get the gorgeous landscape of Venice and Florence and the wonderful historical details that Fiona is so good at getting right-- but it fades into the background as we get to know our characters better, get swept up in the plot, and wring our hands to make sure that everything turns out right. We also find out a lot more about The Order of the Eternal Rose, and a lot of the secrets that were still hanging from the first book get answered very satisfactorily. I generally don't like to become a Team anything, but I have to say, I have a bigger crush on Luca after this book than I had in the last. What can I say? I have a thing for the "other boring love interest." Although, I'm not sure anyone will say he's boring after reading Belladonna.

All my reservations from the first book have vanished with this new installment. I think some of it is the fact that I'm not a big fan of the necessary development of main characters and world building in general for first books, and also the fact that Fiona Paul is just getting better and better with every book and word she writes. I feel honored to have been able to read this book and can't wait to see how this trilogy ends.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews842 followers
July 31, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Belladonna by Fiona Paul
Book Two of the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by Paper Lit Lantern

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

What I Liked:

You all know I didn't like Venom as much as I'd hoped. I gave it three stars - but at the time, I wasn't sure if the rating was truly representative of how I felt. I absolutely LOVE historical fiction - it's my second favorite genre - and I love history. So, it sort of hurt to be disappointed by a much anticipated historical fiction novel.

Nevertheless, I found Belladonna much more to my liking. Not only was Belladonna better in comparison to Venom, but it was just an all-around good book! I really enjoyed it! Especially, now that I've let it sit for a few days after reading it, I truly appreciate how much I liked it!

Let me start by noting the things that I liked in Belladonna that I didn't like in Venom. In my review of Venom, I said that I didn't really liked Falco, and the entire love triangle business. I still don't like Falco or the presence of the love triangle. BUT, Ms. Paul did something excellent in Belladonna that made me appreciate the love triangle and Falco's role a little more: she spun this book to have Cass less concentrated on Falco, and more concentrated on Luca. Falco is still highly present in this novel, especially in the second half of the book, and Cass's "feelings" (read my review of Venom if you want to know why I have "feelings" in quotation marks) for him are still there. But, as readers, we get to explore Cass's feelings towards Luca.

I find this necessary, because a true, powerful love triangle would not just have the strong presence of one boy (typically, the hot, lust-filled, forbidden one) and the sometime-ish presence of another boy (typically, also hot, but more thought-filled). Ms. Paul let Cass (and readers) fall for Falco in Venom (except me, apparently). In Belladonna, we get to at least understand Luca's role in Cass's life.

And just for the record - all of that wasn't really a spoiler, because Luca isn't physically present for the majority of the book. That's another brilliant thing that Ms. Paul did: while Cass's relationship with Falco is very physical, her relationship with Luca is more intellectual or emotional (and less physical, since they don't interact much). Brilliant!

Like I said in my review of Venom, I am on Luca's side. I still am. I still don't like Falco. I'm not insinuating anything - I'll leave it up to you to figure out the end of this book, in terms of the romance!

Another thing I mentioned in my review of Venom was the lack of information on the Book of the Eternal Rose. In Belladonna, we get a lot more information about this, and the Order of the Eternal Rose. We get to see the purpose of it, and how it changes the entire series! I was particularly pleased to see this change - because I am disappointed when books based on a solid plot idea or completely overrun by the romance.

The plot - I already said that I am happy to see that we get a bit of an explanation of the Order of the Eternal Rose. But one of the things I liked most about this book was the faster pace. The first... third of the book was a bit slow - but for good reason. But the rest of the book was page-turning! While I thought Venom dragged a bit, I finished Belladonna quickly. The faster, more interesting plot made this book much more enjoyable than Venom. And let me tell you, especially towards the end, things get INTERESTING. In a dark and creepy way. YEAH. Get ready to meet Belladonna, the person! That was... intriguing.

And general things I found that I liked about Belladonna: I didn't find Cass as annoying as I did in Venom. She seemed more grounded and purposeful in Belladonna, and a little more intelligent in her decisions. She's still reckless and irrational sometimes, but I found that I understood her actions better, with her motives.

There is no crazy cliffhanger at the end - no deaths or disappearances or things that make the reader scream, "THAT'S IT?!". Of course, there is a final book coming in March. But I'm just saying that by itself, this book wrapped up pretty well, in terms of the plot. PLOT.

What I Did Not Like:

Despite my immense relief of liking the second book even after I didn't like the first book, there are still some things that I didn't like. I've already said that I didn't like Falco. I just find him annoying. Especially in this book. I just don't see his appeal! I'll leave him to you Team Falco aficionados.

There is still the presence of anachronisms in this book. The speech - so many contractions! I am so sure that people in Renaissance Italy didn't have contractions in their speech, like we do today.

Another thing that bugged me was when the author would throw in a phrase or word in Italian. Technically, the characters are speaking Italian, because they are in Renaissance Italy. Obviously, we read it in English. So, it doesn't really make sense to add the Italian phrases, because it's redundant.

On the other hand, I can see why the author did it. It adds authenticity to the setting, and culture to the characters. So, I'm not sure if I like this feature or not. It bugs me. But probably ONLY me. This isn't really an anachronism, but it's part of the speech of the time. Anyway.

Another anachronism that I found was something that I had to look up to be sure. In Venom AND in Belladonna, readers are aware that Cass has the ability to read and write. She has a journal, she writes letters and messages to Falco, she reads letters from Luca. But, I am certain that MOST women - especially genteel women - did not know how to read or write during this time period. Men handled all affairs dealing with reading and writing. If a women needed a message delivered, she would dictate her message to a footman or messenger. Women of noble birth usually grew up without the simplest and most necessary skills; instead, they learned to sew and knit and play instruments and do other artistic things that gentlewomen did.

Of course, this series is set during the Renaissance, and some high-class women (like, REALLY high-class - duke's wives, and whatnot) learned to read (and sometimes, write) during this time period. But the Renaissance wasn't the time where most women took it upon themselves to learn to read and write.

I had to research that, and most of the reputable sources I found were in agreement about this area of women's lives. However, if you're reading this review and you find an authentic source of information that negates my argument, please bring it to my attention! I don't want to draw negative light to something that is actually correct.

I know that all looks like a ton of "not liked" things, but I promise, they are little things that probably ONLY I would notice and not like. It's not that many!

Would I Recommend It:

I would definitely recommend it! I would tell you to read Venom just so you can read Belladonna... but many people were less critical of Venom than me. So, enjoy both, and join me in the wait for Starling!


4 stars. This book was much better than the first book - and I mean that in the best of ways! I'm pleased with this book and the direction that this series is going.
Profile Image for Annabelle.
470 reviews915 followers
August 22, 2013
*****FINAL RATING: 4.65 STARS*****

I am a huge, huge fan of Venom. Everybody knows that, because I literally Never. Shut. Up. About it. Which is fine by some of you. It probably annoys others of you, but you love me anyway. It was a fantastic, wonderful book, and in my humble opinion Belladonna was even better in more ways than one. The writing has improved immensely, and I found the plot much more entertaining. The characters are also more mature and developed and overall it was a wonderful sequel that did not seem to suffer obviously from Second Book Syndrome.

I don't make a secret of the fact that I thought Cass was really, REALLY immature in the first book. I liked her, but part of me couldn't get past her naivety. Her behavior was also really anachronistic. To be fair, it still is, but if it wasn't we wouldn't have a story, so, you know. I get why it's necessary. Anyway, I really felt that Cass matured in this book. She's stronger, and a lot less whiny, and though she's still impulsive she's also grown up a lot and better knows how to control her feelings as well. She does take one action in particular that I didn't like at all, but sometimes that's just how it is!

I love Luca because he's sweet and protective but he also has secrets of his own. He has definitely made mistakes, and I don't like that he hid the truth before, but he's somewhat more forthcoming in this book, and yet he still has that brooding aura I adore. He's also a lot more than I realized in the first book, and his character depth really increases. He's no longer just the old fiancé, but he has a personality in his own right.
At lease one person will come after me for this, but while I did love Falco at one point, I'm kind of over him now. I don't like his behavior in this book at all, and I just think that there is absolutely no excuse for it. He does some things that I find absolutely despicable. I want to keep this particular review spoiler-free, so I won't put any of those actions here, but they were awful enough to permanently turn me off of him. I suppose there is a slight chance he could redeem himself, but it's highly unlikely.

I liked the plot of Belladonna better than that of Venom, actually. I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie, so I loved the rush and more thriller-like feel of this book as opposed to the first one. Where Venom moved a bit slowly for my taste, this book moved quickly enough that my heart definitely pounded from anticipation more than once.

I didn't like the way some of the transitions were. I like when books move quickly, but I don't like when they gloss over things that I think should be included, like some moments that felt awkwardly short or cut out entirely. To be fair, I didn't come across a lot of these, but they existed. But this is really the only fault here, so I wanted to get it out of the way.

One thing I love a lot about this book was Cass's independence. Not just that, but the way she really exemplified and used that independence. There are other people around her who are important to her, and yet while she works with them and needs them on occasion she also isn't afraid to do some things herself. She really pulls herself together in this book and learns that she has to do what needs to be done, and that really is what moves the story along.

There was also a relatively realistic feel to it. It felt more like it could have actually happened in comparison to the first book, and I like that in historical fiction. I liked the details, too, that really helped to develop the story.

There was also a (relatively, arguably major) death that I wasn't expecting and left me feeling a bit disoriented. But I think it was a very good place for a character death, because it's super annoying when there's supposed to be a danger in a book and nobody on the "good side" dies. I'm not kidding. It's like the thing I hate the most.

There's a lot of distinguishing between different types of love in this book. Cass loves Falco, but he's gone, and so she's starting to open her heart up to Luca. I like the way she flashes back and remembers, but I appreciate even more than that the way she's not completely hung up. Without being too spoilery, I like the way Cass really matures in her romantic life and makes a choice that I truly believe is right for her, regardless of my personal feelings. The romance in this book is among my favorite, and maybe one of the best executions of a love triangle I have ever seen.

Also, that one scene where Luca is in prison. Hot. Easily my favorite scene in the entire book. Make of that what you will.

Fiona is one of my favorite writers for many reasons, but the greatest of these is her ability to completely transfer me into a completely different time and place. I am able to feel like I am tromping around Europe with Cass, getting into tough messes and running from the people who always seem to be one step ahead. The world-building is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the touches of Italian the book has. It gives it a little extra something special.

This might actually be one of my favorite endings ever, and it almost makes me wish the series was a duo logy, because I would be really happy with that as an ending. At the same time, I want more, so I guess I'm happy it's not actually the ending. But still, I am torn between my desires. Well, what I want doesn't really matter because there will be a book three anyway regardless of whether or not I would rather have one. But I digress. I especially appreciate the ending's emphasis on new beginnings, because that's a really important thing to me. I also like the way the storyline of book two wrapped up nicely while leaving enough material for book three.

And now for the age-old question: would I recommend this? Absolutely. Venom has my highest recommendation too, but even if you didn't want to read that, read it just so that you can read Belladonna. You might think I'm joking but I'm actually totally serious. It's that good. So good, in fact, that I'm almost hesitant to read Starling (book three) because I'm terrified it will mess up my perfect ending. (Actually, if it does, I will be annoyed for more reasons than one, because I hate it hate it hate it when characters are "sure" of a decision and then change it. I realize this can happen in real life but it still ticks me off.)

Profile Image for Sarah (thegirltheycalljones).
435 reviews290 followers
April 24, 2017
2,5 stars, no time for a review... Let's say I enjoyed the mystery and whatever scenes happened at Belladona's but the rest not so much (and I still loathe this love triangle).
Profile Image for Rebecca.
623 reviews99 followers
March 16, 2017

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.
Profile Image for Natalia.
92 reviews151 followers
October 22, 2013
First off, I want to say that this series somehow awakens my wild and crazy streak. While in most books I want the heroine to act reasonably, reading this story I was all like “You go, Cass!” with a mad glint in my eyes, while understanding perfectly well that this is wrong and dangerous. Is it laced with some substance or what? ☺ May be just so, if the titles “Venom” and “Belladonna” are any indication ☺ What I’m trying to say here is that *mostly* I’m not angry and frustrated with all the stupid stuff Cass does. Her recklessness kind of propels the story forward. For instance, if Madalena (Cass’s friend) were the main character, I think I would have fallen asleep from boredom.

The same applies Falco. Love him or hate him, but his presence makes the story come alive in ways Luca’s can’t. For better or for worse, he and Cass have chemistry that is not so easy to forgo for either of them (and for the reader, for that matter).
I honestly don’t know how I feel about Falco after this book. I like that he is such a controversial character and it is not so easy to label him as either good or bad. I can certainly relate to that.

Just like in the first book, Luca was absent in this one for the most part again, so there isn’t much I can say about him, except that he is a very nice young man with a generous heart and I respect him a lot. I don’t very much mind if Cass chooses him in the end, but I think she cares for him more like a friend than a lover. I wonder how this love triangle is going to be resolved.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable read. Despite the fact that I had stumbled across some spoilers before picking it up, there were still plenty of things for me to guess and wonder about. The story started out a bit slow, but after a while I couldn’t put the book down. And it was pretty spooky too. I must confess that I’m no longer afraid of vampires since Twilight, but after reading this book late into the night, I couldn’t get asleep and began jumping at shadows, looking for vampires hidden under my bed ☺. And at that point I wasn’t even sure if vampires even existed in the first place – in the book, naturally, not in real life.

I also loved the dark atmosphere created by the author. Once again, it was like the setting was a character its own and I was completely immersed into the world of Renaissance Italy.

Now I will wait impatiently for the final installment, Starling, to come out next year.
Profile Image for Merin.
667 reviews58 followers
July 25, 2013
3.5/5 stars.

I want to state up-front that Belladonna is probably the most difficult book I've ever tried to review. The truth is that my feelings while reading this book were literally all over the place: I was frustrated, caught up, annoyed, cheering, sad, tense, and anxious pretty much constantly (and my Goodreads Status Updates prove this), which means that, in terms of storytelling, this book excels quite well. But at the same time, I had such a difficult time with aspects of this story, that I came away from it upon its completion completely uncertain what that meant in terms of my overall feelings, and eventual rating. As such, I want to apologize if this is all over the place. Considering that my reactions are all over the board, that would make perfect sense, but having a complete lack of clarity probably doesn't make for the best review. So feel free to take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

First of all, I want to talk about what I liked in Belladonna. Being a sequel, I liked that the mystery and danger were ratcheted up. I liked that we were slowly getting more and more clarity regarding what's going on, but that there are still plenty of questions left to be answered. I liked seeing a bit more of Luca, and the fact that, even without being in the actual story, he was very much present in Cass' mind, which made him very present for the reader. And I liked Cass' determination and stubbornness - at least in regards to most things - even if some of her actions and ways of thinking weren't particularly historically accurate.

But in Cass lies my biggest issue with this book as well. In Venom, she pretty much dove head-first into trouble, following Falco wherever he led her without any regard to her safety or sense of propriety (Falco's not big on propriety, after all). After the dangers she faced - and endured - I was hoping that she would be a bit more, well ... intelligent, I guess. I wanted her to think things through, to realize that she wasn't as invincible as she'd thought, and most of all, I wanted her to use her head a bit more around Falco. She had a very clear goal here - to figure out a way to save Luca from his impending death - and while she mostly kept that thought in the forefront of her mind, I was still extremely concerned with the way she allowed Falco to affect her, to the point that, once again, she ending up making some rather poor decisions. I find it interesting that I went from liking her to being irritated with her and then back to liking her almost constantly; it's enough to make a person dizzy.

I also want to be clear about this next point, because my feelings for this particular character colored a lot of my opinion of this book. I do not like Falco. I do not like him at all. I do not find him to be your typical bad boy with the fake persona who deep down has a heart of gold. Falco is not a good guy. He is sleazy, and he uses Cass' lust for him to his advantage, to the point where he's almost able to control her because of her physical reactions to him. I don't find him funny or suave or likable in the slightest, and the fact that Cass continues to swoon incessantly over him makes me want to strangle her. He said some incredibly awful things in this book, treated Cass terribly on more than one occasion, and - what was worse - she forgave him for it because, in her mind, she made excuses and "understood" why he said what he said. That is not a healthy relationship, no matter how he makes her insides flutter and her knees weak. I just cannot get behind it at all. And, okay, sure, possibly he redeems himself in the final book. I kind of hope he does, simply because I find that to be personally fascinating. But I definitely don't want them together. I actually want Cass to get as far away from him as possible, because anyone who looks down on people for doing what society dictates - in this case, marrying someone of your same class status - and actually ridicules you because of it isn't worth your time, your attention or - most of all - your love. I'm hoping that Cass' revelations about Falco at the end will stick with her and this will be the last time we see this particular aspect of the "love triangle" because, quite honestly, if she ends up with him at the end of this series I may actually dissolve into a pile of rage! (On a lighter note, you can probably tell that this is the strongest I have ever felt about a love interest in my entire life, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that. I don't know how all of you hardcore shippers out there deal with this!)

All in all, I want to be clear that I did enjoy Belladonna a lot, despite my numerous complaints. The ending left me literally on the edge of my seat, gripping my Kindle tightly in my hands. It also ensured - despite my reservations about Falco which I so nicely outlined above - that I will definitely be reading the final installment. I do think that, in terms of storytelling and pacing and atmosphere that Belladonna is a definite step up from Venom, and I like where the mystery is headed. Considering the situation Cass finds herself in at the end of this book, I look for even more growth from her in Starling, and I shall be eagerly anticipating the trials and tribulations her and the others are going to have to go through to try to set everything to rights.

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Profile Image for Carol.
Author 1 book1 follower
October 1, 2013
I know I bashed on "Venom" a little bit in my review a week ago, but "Belladonna" is a step up. The second book of the "Secrets of the Eternal Rose" trilogy (the third being due out in March 2014), it truly does incorporate more of the morbid and creepy and unknown as a good mystery novel should. While the romantic/emotional drama was still present, it didn't make me think Cass's every waking hour was spent agonizing over how unfair her life turned out.

When Cass's fiance Luca is falsely charged with heresy by a woman he's never met, Cass risks imprisonment, even death, to see him and find out why. When he confesses that their mutual thorn in the flesh, Joseph Dubois, could be behind Luca's arrest, Cass will stop at nothing to find the woman Dubois paid to lie. Motivated by duty and loyalty, and frequently by guilt, Cass enlists the help of her faithful handmaid Siena, her best friend Madelena, and quite accidentally, her love Falco, to find a tome called "The Book of the Eternal Rose," which would prove Dubois' criminal activities and acquit Luca. However, she must travel all the way to Florence to find it, and the exquisite woman Belladonna, rumored to have come back from the dead, seems to hold all the answers, and she's not going to part with them easily...

I'll admit, some parts of this book had me creeped out. But that's good, especially considering this is SUPPOSED to be a mystery novel. If she'd kept to her plot devices from "Venom," it would be just another teen soap opera, and I would have been greatly disappointed.

Paul still maintains her mastery of descriptive detail, painting images and scenes easily in the reader's mind. While there were a few weak points toward the end, most especially during a particularly long swim, the remainder left me quite satisfied that she did the best she could, and it kept me engaged in the story.

As usual, relationships in books are a strong draw for me, hence why the poorly written ones drive me up a wall. While Cass still harbors a passionate love for Falco, she starts realizing that Luca isn't the boring, bookish man he used to be, and only her strong desire to pay him back for saving her life is what drives her to Florence in the first place. However, time, reflection, a near-death experience, and Cass observing Falco's interactions with his new patroness, reveal that her heart might change. I especially like a few lines in one of the last chapters, "But was that what love was supposed to be? Pain? Madness? Or was love something... that motivated a person to be selfless and even self-sacrificing."

I almost didn't decide to read this book, not after all the soap opera drama from the last one. But I'm glad I did, and I'm looking forward to the third installment, released next spring.

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Profile Image for Amanda.
501 reviews
July 10, 2013
I should have stopped with the first one. I felt like this book had even less of an interesting mystery and just more of the usual "I love Falco, but I mustn't since poor Luca... but I love Falco!" I would have been quite happy if Falco died. Cass was annoying and I just couldn't connect with any of the characters. There was some action, but not enough to keep me really interested. I had to force myself to read the last 40 pages (which I predicted the ending to anyway). It was by no means a terrible book, it just really isn't my cup of tea and I will not be continuing the series.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
662 reviews2,256 followers
September 10, 2013
Falco didn't return until 40% in :-(
I don't know what to think of this one. I didn't like it as much as the first but it was exciting towards the end.
Profile Image for Naty.
583 reviews
July 4, 2015
Prvá polovica bola trošku slabšia, Cass mi išla na nervy tým Luca/Falco, pretože sama nevedela, čo chce. Ale druhá polovica to úžasne nahradila a som fakt zvedavá na trojku.
Profile Image for usagi ☆ミ.
1,197 reviews279 followers
July 23, 2013
Okay, guys, if you liked "Venom", you're going to totally fall head over heels for "Belladonna". "Belladonna" builds upon "Venom" in every single way, and ups the stakes to every single extreme. There's also a bit of a potential bit of a retelling of a real-life person, and it's just...awesome. We also get a semi-resolution of the love triangle posed in book one. This review may have spoilers for book one, so if you haven't read book one, you might want to hold off on reading this review. Either way, if you haven't already, you simply MUST give the "Eternal Rose" series a try - it's one of my favorite YA historical paranormal series out there today.

My favorite part about this book: we get so much more worldbuilding! I mean, it's really quite incredible. We get to see Florence, and the path from Venice to Florence, and we also get some backstory with Cass' parents, the Order, and more. We get a richer history of not only our characters, but also what was going on at the time of when Cass would have lived had she been real in terms of what the church was doing with witch hunts (or in this case, vampire hunts). Paul continues to build upon her already very rich and detailed recreation of Venice culture, with the addition of Florence and it's utterly absorbing. Of course, what helps with all of this sensory input is Paul's impressive command of sensory imagery and language, which she's gotten even better at since book one. This book felt soft, sensuous, and at the same time, dangerous. I love it when my books can give me feelings like those.

We also get some new characters in this book - the book's namesake, Belladonna, her resident doctor, and more. I have to say, I love my villains, and Belladonna is one of my favorite villainesses that I've read in YA lit in a long while. She's seductive, she's got an agenda, and she's always ten steps ahead of you. All of the new characters (and even some of the older ones) constantly make you wonder - can you trust them? Can Cass trust them? Is Cass a reliable narrator? At times, these characters do make Cass an unreliable narrator, which is something that not only caught me by surprise but made me love the book even more (since I love unreliable narrators in my books). And of course, all of these characters, new and old, help to support and build the world even more.

But what made me especially happy in this installment? The bloody love triangle gets solved. I won't say who wins (that'd be too much of a spoiler), but let's just say that I was very satisfied with the outcome, and it left me questioning - is that third partner involved with the Order consciously, willingly? Has all of this been just a game to get Cass involved? What does Agnese know? And what does all of this have to do with the agenda of the Order - which has changed drastically over the years, with a kind of retelling of the Countess of Bathory involved in this book? (I absolutely loved how Paul snuck that in - though I don't know if it was conscious or not.) So many questions are raised in this book, and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for "Starling" (book 3) to answer at least a few of these questions.

Final verdict? If you're looking for some amazing renaissance YA lit with a twist of the paranormal, you simply MUST check out this series. "Belladonna" is out now from Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! Definitely on my best of 2013 list so far.

(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
Profile Image for Ashley.
1,011 reviews
January 28, 2016
Why would I read the second book in a series when I rated the first book one star?
Because I was at the gym and bored on the treadmill. It was loaded on my phone and anything was better than listening to my gasps for air. Or so I thought.

The continuation of the story of Cass. Because Cass is the most important, beautiful, smart, and desirable person in the universe and we should all care about her because we should. Her fiance Luca is arrested on trumped up charges and the only solution that Cass can come up with is...traveling to another city, wasting time trying to gather evidence (even after the person she came to see is executed), and longing for Falco.

Things that made me grit my teeth:

Constantly being reminded of Siena's love for Luca. Sweet, devoted Siena loves sweet, devoted Luca. It's treated like a joke. I wish they could just be together. Instead Cass gets prissy and jealous when Siena even looks at Luca even though she never acts inappropriately, while at the same time thinking to herself how she doesn't love him. Cass is so wrapped up in saving Luca herself that she doesn't even spare a thought for the servant girl who proves she would die for the man she quietly loves without any return.

Really Siena is treated terribly. They go to Florence and Siena want's to help Cass clear Luca's name. Instead Cass sends her to go do laundry with her sister. And says it as if she's doing Siena a favor. "No dear- I wouldn't want to keep you from spending time with your sister...while she plunges her arms in boiling water and lye. Enjoy while I go be useless.' I mean really, is the author that oblivious? Maybe if she wrote it and then included some sort of self realization- that Cass selfishly wanted to be Luca's salvation in a sort of redemption for her misbehavior. But no.

Constantly we hear about the great love that Cass has for Falco, they're so bonded. It's why she's disloyal to the man who's always loved her. Then she casually mentions it's been a "few short weeks". Huh. So you're a ho.

The other thing is how apologetic and understanding Cass is towards Falco. 'Oh, you don't want to help me clear an innocent man's name? An innocent man who apart from being my fiance is a childhood friend who saved my life? Who's even now being tortured in a watery dungeon? Oh I'm so sorry I hurt you by implying I might care if Luca lives.' Really? If Falco really cared he wouldn't want her to lose her friend and would help her and not be so dang selfish or unlikable or all around idiotic. I don't like Falco.

The problem I now have? There's one more book in the series. And I'll probably be bored at the gym again and curiosity will get the best of me, and I'll read what is sure to be the ridiculous book three.
Profile Image for Amy.
272 reviews74 followers
July 25, 2017
This series is undeniably entertaining. There's something about the mystery and the setting that keeps me reading. I really enjoyed this book, and getting to learn more about the world. The setting is very atmospheric, however I sometimes felt jarred by a description that felt untrue to the time period. I had a few issues with this book, but nothing that detracted too much from my enjoyment of the story. Cass's poor decision making skills are starting to get on my nerves. I understand that in order for the plot to be furthered, she needs to make those bad choices, but at some point it gets to be a bit much. Some aspects of the plot felt a little convoluted or confusing, but overall I really enjoyed this. Im interested to see how the story concludes in the final book.
Profile Image for Chelsea B..
506 reviews84 followers
October 31, 2016
Finally! I read the sequel!
*cheers for self*

So I didn't enjoy Belladonna quite as much as I enjoyed Venom... it didn't read as engrossing or mysterious. But it was a pretty good middle book. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

Few things...

Cass: She continued to be wishy washy, unfortunately. But honestly...

Falco: ...so did Falco! One second he's like "Oh my starling, how I've missed you." and the next he's like "Girl you crazy I gtg." THESE TWO. GRRRR...

Love triangle: Definite love triangle alert. Now, I love a good love triangle...but only when my team wins *wink* So we shall see.

3 please-tell-me-Cass-lives-up-to-her-potential-in-book-three star...lings ;)
Profile Image for Heather.
869 reviews
December 27, 2018
I could have read this directly after the first book I wanted to read it so badly, and find out the truth. But I had Halloween books planned. I ended up reading it less than a month later.

I was hoping I wouldn't get this cover because it doesn't represent the characters or book at all, and doesn't go with the first book either. Those people look middle-aged.

I didn't like how the book skipped the past few weeks, and instead of us seeing her grow closer to Luca, we're told she has. And I didn't expect the arrest to happen a few pages in.

She said Luca loved her, so much, and idk how or why. They were kids, he was shy around her, then he moved to France. She's like 15. He's been gone for the past 3 years. So when did a relationship develop for him to love her so much? & certainly her feelings for him. They used to be friends. He's been gone for 3 years and she didn't wanna marry him. He comes back, she's around him a lil bit, & suddenly has feelings for someone she's been dreading marrying for 3 years?!

When I read the synopsis I thought a good deal of the book would be Cass growing close to Luca, and him being arrested maybe halfway through and then her having to go to Florence,& I was hoping too much of the book wouldn't be spent with Luca because I wanted her to hurry and get to Falco again.

It was touching knowing Luca became imprisoned because he was helping Cass, trying to get Dubois to send Cristian away. When he said "have your aunt arrange another match, perhaps with someone of your own choosing. Go be happy. It's what I want for you" was sweet.

After Falco's sweet letter about being a better man and providing for her, I was really disappointed and irritated with Cass in wanting to kiss Luca. Her saying 'she wanted to show him that she cared for him, that she was a good and decent woman' while juggling too men was very ironic.

Years ago, around the Twilight days, I used to like love triangles, but as I've gotten older, and matured, I don't like them anymore. Someone gets hurt, there's cheating, betrayal. And think of yourself in the other person's shoes. You're having fun kissing Luca, but how mad would you be if Falco was doing the same?
It's just not right. Especially Falco saying he loves you, and is working to be better to give you the life you deserve.
She loved Falco first but felt guilt kissing him after Luca saved her life when Cristian attacked her. Yet now she feels no guilt kissing Luca while loving Falco? I find that hard to believe. & it doesn't add up.

I remember in the first book the quotes from the book of the eternal rose fit what was happening in the book, but I don't remember it foreshadowing things in the following chapter. It felt like it's giving things away in here, instead of being surprised.

There were too many men finding Cass pretty. In the first book with the magician, Falco, Luca, here with a random carriage driver and a tailor. Not everyone has to find her pretty. When Siena comments the tailor liked her, Cass thinks she didn't need to juggle another boy. No kidding. I'm already annoyed there's two to juggle.

This didn't have that couldn't-put-down feeling that the first did.
I didn't like the plot as much, the settings. I thought Florence would be exciting, and I was looking forward to a change of scenery, because the first book was repetitive with Venice's scenery.

I hated the comparisons between Falco and Luca. How it was foolish to think she could be with Falco. How she was meant to be with Luca, how they had things in common about the important stuff, like right and wrong.

The couple she saw at the brothel in book one was mentioned again, and she sees another couple. She's got a weird penchant for spying on people in intimate moments.

I expected a more grand reentrance of Falco into the book. Not her seeing him and his drunken friends at a piazza.

It was ironic to say girls want to be fed on, that it's an usual fetish, because that was the craze of vampire books.

After the jealousy with Annabella in the first book, and him painting her, I didn't appreciate the belladonna,& that was one reason, the biggest reason, I was dreading reading this. Her thinking the girl in the painting was the bella's daughter, and thinking Falco came to Florence for her, which was a crazy thing to think when you know a patron hired him to paint. & a lady saying speaking of pretty playthings, her new artist was Venetian, and bella saying isn't he something, or something along those lines. Especially since she's around 40.

I was livid at the painting, that was painted in her bedchamber, that she said Falco suggested, that she was posed exactly the same way as Cass. Why would a middle aged woman wanna make a 15 yr old jealous of her bf? Can't find any men your own age?
Cass lost serious points when she wondered if she had a right to be mad at Falco. You can be mad if you want to be. I couldn't wait to have the matter out in the open between them, but when she sees him next, she does what any woman, adult or young, does in books. She let's herself get distracted by his presence & then they kiss& all is forgotten.
As if that wasn't enough, there's another painting of her mostly nude, posing as the birth of Venus. She has Falco show the painting off at dinner, and Falco is pale and avoids Cass's eyes.
I'm tired of jealousy being used as plot conflict & drama. There are other things to use besides that.
And there is no way someone in her 30s or 40s would look 20 years old. Or what did they know in the 1500s that we don't know today?

I started to resent just how much Cass is always in trouble and finds danger when she leaves the party, stupidly follows a deer because she wants to pet it, and gets attacked by wild dogs. She's actually incredibly stupid at times.
The yard has a fence on three sides so idk how Cass went to the garden, somehow ended up in the woods & then ran through a field to the church. How was that even possible?

Cass was slow to put things together, things she should have known, things we readers know. When she said the flower must be the symbol for the order of the eternal rose, I'm thinking we knew that from book one. She's not as smart as you'd think she should be considering the things she's wrapped up in.

Cass had already seen Piero wearing the ring at that party, but is looking for it in his room, saying if she found it then she'd know for certain he's a member. What does that even matter? You already know he's a member.

It annoyed me to no end when she sees Falco next & they remark on Bella admiring him, and his jokes and smooth words distract her from the issue of him painting her like Cass. And where is Falco's guilt? His jokes at serious moments were annoying. Why was he pale at the party if he's not gonna show guilt later?
When Cass commented that Bella admired Falco, he said she admired Cass at the party, and Cass says she's not the one she's posing nude for, and Falco laughs and says she should if she asked, she isn't particular about who admires her. No denial, no guilt, no explanation from Falco.

She said Siena could be fierce and thinks back to when she hit Falco with a pan, saying his head had hurt for days. But it hadn't. It hurt in the moment and I don't remember him mentioning it again. You can't rewrite your book like that.

The scenes with Cass stuck in bed, with her repeatedly drinking the drinks Piero fixed for her, and asking for the drink herself again, were frustrating to read. If she thinks Piero is involved in the order why would she say she could trust him because he was a doctor? & this is a girl that's been in danger repeatedly who's acting this stupid. You think she would be a little smarter, a little more wary of people.

When Siena tells Cass Piero took her blood in secret, she wonders why he'd leave her pale and bed bound, and if he wanted her to think she was being attacked by vampires. And she doesn't even make a connection to the vampire trials, the pale women, and the marks on their necks. He's obviously doing to you what's happening to other women in Florence; they're drugging them, stealing their blood, and making it look like a vampire attack. Even when Siena tells her he kissed her, she isn't upset enough. I wish Cass was smarter.

It was crazy coincidental the quote that said essence and vitality of youth are in the blood of the young, because I just saw something on The Talk recently about injecting teenage blood to look young. That seems such a modern concept, so it seems very advanced for the 1500s.

I really don't like how the quotes from the book of the eternal rose totally give away what's about to happen. We obviously know bella's secret now, that she's using the blood from young people. It just gave it away.

After all that's happened, the murdered servants and courtesans, Cristian after Cass, Dubois and de Gradi, I can't believe Falco didn't believe her about the book and the order, when he's the one who told her bella was head of the order. His lack of belief in her was annoying and just wrong. It was an issue for me.

Why do we have to hear comments about after only a few weeks at the palazzo, Falco knew his way around in the dark as if he'd been there for months. I hate the implications of that.

She follows Piero to the church and it amazes me she does so many brave--foolish things--with no thought yet is seriously simpleminded at other times. She actually thinks they're having a baptism late at night, and then thinks they're baptizing a vampire.

Not wanting to leave the villa after knowing Piero was taking her blood and kissed her, I was actually surprised she said she wasn't going back to the villa ever again. I expected her to go back to the villa and get back in bed.

I couldn't believe she didn't even think of warning Falco, and just left him there. She knows he went out for a drink, walks past the bar she knows he goes to, and didn't even look for him. I was so upset at that. It didn't make any sense!

Because Mada's family villa wasn't expecting her, she doesn't even try knocking on the door. She just goes and sleeps in the stable. Ever heard of waking the staff up?

I was disappointed that Dubois and de Gradi's shady business was for the fifth humor. I expected something...more.

Then the comparisons between Falco and Luca start again. Falco was passionate but had a temper, Luca was calm. You can't love someone because of how they're different from someone else.
It's like the only reason she would choose Luca is because he happens to be different from Falco. But if he wasn't, who knows how she would feel?
I hated how she kept bouncing back and forth between both guys. You need to pick one and stick with it.

I couldn't believe it when Cass announced she was going to go home, and asked Mada to investigate the order for her. The whole reason she was there was to research& find the book.

Falco writes her a note saying he'll come to the palazzo and if she doesn't receive him he'll accept the fact she never wants to see him again. Why would he think that from a simple fight? It annoys me how easily he gives up on Cass, when he supposedly loves her. He left Venice w/o fighting for her, & now he's doing it again.

The author already used the painting drama twice. But she does it again. And this time Cass had to see it in action. He's posing her naked outside and adjusts one of the roses against her breast, his hand lingering, and Bella twines her fingers through his hand and Falco doesn't pull away. She thought they were going to kiss or worse.
I effing knew something like this would happen.
If Cass had warned Falco the night before that his patroness was a psycho she could have gotten him to leave the villa, & we could have avoided this whole infuriating scene. How could she leave Falco with dangerous people? Then again, after his lack of faith in her, maybe he deserves to be left there and be experimented on.

After his letter, how he's trying to be a better man and give her a life she deserves, why would he do that with the belladonna? It doesn't even make sense.
I just knew after the letter, no there's no way Falco could be doing anything like that, because he loves Cass. And that line he fed her about Bella being cold and Cass being ten times prettier. That reassured me, gave me false hope.
And can we talk about how freaking disgusting it is that a 40 year old is with a freaking teenager? Just because you look 20 does not mean you are 20.
I'm assuming Falco is maybe 17 or 18, a couple years older than Cass. I don't actually know his, or Luca's, age because the author doesn't think that's important information. But he's still way too young for her.

It was so easy for Cass to leave the villa. I expected Piero or someone to come after her. What made even less sense is that she goes back just to deliver a letter, and goes right inside as if the people inside weren't drugging her and stealing her blood. How was it possible that she was able to get away?

I find it amazing and extremely ironic that Cass wouldn't go away with Falco because she had Agnes to think of. Yet she was willing to break Luca out of prison, knowing she wouldn't be able to resume normal life after. She'd have to go with Luca and be on the run.

I didn't like how the plot of finding the book, exposing the order, and taking everyone down with it was just scrapped,& then turned into a simple, unimaginative plot to just sneak Luca from the prison. She could have done that from the start without going to Florence.

Siena's death was so unexpected, so unnecessary. I hated that the author just did that. It was like she said, no ones died for a while, and it'll look too easy if they all make it out alive, and Siena's the only expendable one, so I'll get rid of her. I felt so bad Feliciana would never see her sister again.
Why couldn't Siena just return to the villa with Cass's aunt and live there? What was wrong with that?

I suspected, maybe sometime in book one, definitely in this one, that her parents death wasn't accidental. Cass never thought of it herself, of course, so it was surprising when she suddenly throws out the order was responsible for her parent's deaths, Luca's imprisonment and Siena. She's never had that thought before, so what made her think that now? Earlier she was saying she felt it was her fault, because she asked her parents to come home for Christmas.

It amazed me Luca not only knew of the order but their plans for everlasting life, and didn't tell Cass any of it before.
Now the plot is them defeating the order.

This girl is all over the place. She kisses Luca again. Even after saying seeing Falco and Bella had made her realize she still had feelings for him, after the pain and rage she felt. But she doesn't think how Falco would feel knowing or seeing her and Luca kissing. Is no one concerned with being faithful to anyone?!
Luca tells her he loves her and she tells him I love you back, and I just don't know where that came from. You don't go from not liking someone, dreading marrying them, then spending a little time with them, to loving them.
Just because someone messes up, you don't just jump to the next person because they're not an option anymore. She just gets with whoever's there at the time.

There's the mystery of who stole the book, and possibly having someone on their side. I'm curious to see who it is.

After hearing of someone getting a pure dose of blood from Venice, I figured it was Cass's mom, and that her blood was pure. It was no surprise at all when Cass turns out to have the purest blood. The MC always has to be a special snowflake.
Piero says he knows where to find her, but Cass fled, & they just let her go, so how does he know where she is?

I didn't like that Cristian wasn't a threat. He was mentioned in the beginning when she'd see someone who resembled him & then again in the wine cellar at the end, as if to remind us he's still a threat, since he hadn't been mentioned in so long. He was the biggest threat in book 1, so I didn't like for him to fade to the background.
He's thrown in at the end, & it's just exhausting. Of course everyone knows everyone and they're working together. A simple murder plot has turned into so much more.

I think this was a case of Curse of the Second Book. It happens so much in books. It actually reminded me of The Winner's Curse. I really liked the first book, it had my triggers in the second one that ruined the whole series. I felt shades of that all over again.
I was Team Falco and couldn't wait for them to be together again in here. I was dreading reading this because of the belladonna, and I just knew there'd be something between Falco and her, and I was right. I have a sixth sense for things like that in books. I've been burned so many times. Those are my triggers in books, other women, jealousy, cheating, all of it, so that ruined the book for me, and just really upset me. It also made me not like Falco anymore.
I have hope that there'll be an explanation, and he'll be innocent, because at least they didn't kiss. It could have been much worse. She didn't see his face, and might have imagined his hand lingering, but he didn't pull away, so I'm not really holding out hope.
I'm just so freaking sick of this crap in books, and how authors will suddenly ruin a character just so it's easy for the heroine to pick the other guy. She loved Falco first, they spent the most time together, she's barely been around Luca, so their romance wouldn't be as developed anyway.
Of course, this author 'develops' relationships really quickly. She didn't know Falco that well either. And she hasn't spent much time with Luca and suddenly she loves him. And how the heck did things develop so fast with Falco and that stupid woman anyway? He's only been gone a few weeks.

I dreaded reading this, and now even more so about reading the final book. Idw hear anymore of Falco and that woman. His excuses, or god forbid if it's true. I'll hope the author kills him off if it's true. I had hope there was nothing going on, because at least they didn’t kiss, but the evidence was there. How could it be anything else? After Falco’s sweet letter, he turned into a bastard.
Then I go back to: if he's guilty then why did he never act that way? Why tease and joke like Cass's jealousy is unfounded, when she was right? It won't even add up if it turns out to be true because Falco never let on that something was going on. He wrote that letter to Cass, and was jealous of Luca, and wanted to be with her.
I’m so tired of authors using some cheap cop out to ruin a character just so the heroine can get with the other choice.

I don't like the time frames of these books; they take place over a few weeks, and that's just too short for all of this stuff to develop. I wish it skipped time. Thought Florence would be exciting, but it wasn't.

I didn't like the turn the book took, and the direction it suddenly veered off in at the end. I never thought Cass would break Luca out of prison, and that they'd be on the run, and I don't like it at all.
If they’re on the run, how can they search for information?

There's the mystery of Agense’s boxes. I’m actually more intrigued about that. But idk how she'll find that out when she can't go home.

This was nowhere near as good as the first,& actually wasn't enjoyable. There were hardly any good scenes, just when she first saw Falco. And I didn't have many quotes to even get from the book, which means it wasn't good.
This was a low two stars, as in it could almost be one. But then this really would be like The Winner's Curse all over again, and I can't stand that.
Oh, and btw, I hate that this book is named after that woman whose name I don't even like saying.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jessica (Goldenfurpro).
893 reviews253 followers
December 26, 2019
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

I enjoyed reading Venom years ago, but for some reason, it took me seven years to get to this book. I did end up liking this book, but it had a hard time keeping my interest. In Belladonna, Cass is still living with her aunt and Cass’ fiancé, Luca. Falco has since left Venice. When Luca is arrested for hearsay, Cass is convinced that someone is trying to make Luca disappear. Especially since he was arrested shortly after confronting a powerful figure about the deaths of the girls from book one. In order to help prove Luca’s innocence (and stop his execution), Cass travels to Florence and encounters the powerful woman called Belladonna and the mysterious group of the Order of the Eternal Rose (which Cass’ parents may have been involved in).  

There are a lot of details in this book, a lot happens, but I had to keep taking breaks from this book. I am not sure why, I think that even with all of the strange events in the book, the pacing still felt slow. Most of this book was Cass trying to figure out what the Order of the Eternal Rose was and kind of wandering around Florence, around Belladonna’s place, and getting into some trouble. The last part of the book really picks up, but it was very different from the rest of the book. I did like that the Order is actually in this book. In Venom, we saw the excerpts from the Book of the Eternal Rose and some symbols, but it was never explained or part of the story. So, I did like how this book focused more on that mystery. 

I did find this one more difficult to place in terms of genre. I loved that Venom was a mystery taking place during the Renaissance. We continue that here, but sometimes I worried that it was venturing into paranormal territory. Part of this is likely just because, in the time period, there were a lot of superstitions. Things we consider fictional now were not considered fiction then. For instance, in this book, Florence is being overrun by vampires and women are being killed for having puncture wounds on their necks. With this, we also see how the superstitions balance with the emerging science at the time. We saw this a little in book one, but it is very clear here. So, this part is not what I wondered if it were paranormal, because this did feel historical and I liked how it was included. But the Order felt slightly paranormal.  

There is of course romance in this book but it is not as involved as the first book (yet, there is still the love triangle). I was confused at the beginning because it seemed like Cass was actually romantically with Luca and there was little mention of Falco. It seemed like Cass had made a choice when she really had not. It does not take long for Luca to get arrested so Cass spends a majority of the book without Luca. It is really hard to understand sometimes how Luca and Cass are together because we saw very little of him in Venom and very little of him in this book. He does seem to care for Cass though. It takes a while for Falco to show up, but he does come into the book eventually. He is working for Belladonna, mainly painting pictures of Belladonna for Belladonna (some of which she is nude in). This, of course, makes Cass jealous. This frustrated me because this seems to happen in every single sequel or middle book in a trilogy--bring in an attractive girl for the MC to be jealous of. I could understand why Cass was jealous as Falco is painting mostly nudes of this woman, but this is his job. Just because he was painting these pictures did not mean he was sleeping with her. Art students paint nudes all the time in class, it is not a sexual thing! Not that Falco is in the clear because he did a terrible job explaining things and he was a bit rude in this book. He also gaslighted Cass a few times, which I was not a fan of.

While we had the two guys, I do feel like most of the book focused on Cass. There was not as much romance in this book because she was oftentimes on her own. I liked that the romance was not as big in this book. As you could probably tell from above, I had some issues with the guys when they did show up. I kind of liked seeing Cass solve mysteries on her own (although she did have some friends helping her) and it really showed her growth from the last book where she only explored the city with Falco.

Overall, I did like this book. I liked the historical details in this book and I liked how it explained more about the Order of the Eternal Rose. There were a couple of things that bothered me. I was not a fan of the jealousy in the book or the fact that people were questioning Cass’ sanity, but Cass was a lot stronger character and I can really see her becoming independent. I do want to complete this series. There is a lot I am curious about, like Cass' parent's connection to the Order, what will happen to our characters, and Unfortunately, the last book is no longer at my library! It used to be there but they got rid of it! That’s what happens when you wait seven years to finish a series. Here’s to hoping that it comes in from interlibrary loan! 
Profile Image for Hannah (The Curiouser & Curiouser).
480 reviews69 followers
July 10, 2014
First off.


What the hell is that name? I had to swallow down a little immature giggle every time I read his name. But seriously . . . Falco? Of all the names in the book . . . Falco.

Part of the reason I’m having such an issue with his name is due to me having previously known a kid named Falcon. I kid you not. That was his full name. Falcon. I’ll wait as you laugh . . .

I do not remember Falcon, because according to my family, I knew him when I was in elementary school. And, now, I wasn’t the most outgoing of kids, but I did okay. Falcon reminds me of Falco. Why? Because Falcon was seriously broody for a little kid, who was overly protective of me, had a slightly possessive crush on me for a kid, and liked to wear a long, heavy black cloak to school everyday, one that was so long the ends dragged along the ground when he walked. Falco (with Cass) is broody, myyyssstteerrriiioouusss (can’t forget that annoying factor), dark, and has the moral compass of an elementary child.

First off, I don’t like the tall, dark, and mysterious type. I find them inconceivably annoying. If I read a book that uses any of those adjectives to describe the love interest, there’s a pretty good chance that book just lost a star in my eyes.

I cannot put into words just how much I hate it when guys are so smug in books. And just to be clear, there’s a fine line between smug and tall, dark, and mysterious. One that gets crossed far, far too often in books.

I like characters like Luca. He loves Cass, comes from a good family, and is all around adorable. Personally, I prefer my fictional guys more adorable than smothering hot. Now, you’re probably going, “Hannah, it doesn’t matter that Luca comes from a good family and Falco doesn’t. Falco and Cass are in looovvveee and that’s all that matters.” And yes, I do agree with that. TO AN EXTENT. Now, should Cass marry Luca because of his money and good standing? Of course not. But here’s the thing: she obviously has some strong feelings for Luca, all the while still daydreaming about Falco, WHO LEFT HER.

Girl – if a guy tells you he loves you, and then leaves without any warning practically the next day, HE’S STUPID AND NOT WORTH IT. But nooooo . . . Cass has to be forever blinded now by Falco’s Falco-ness and can never see how great of a guy Luca is. Should she marry Luca because he’s a “good guy?” No. But it’s one of those scenarios that makes me think that had Cass meet Luca first, gotten feelings for Luca first, she wouldn’t be this smitten with Falco.

Also, I know everyone loves to talk about how money is no object and you should marry only for love, and that’s completely true, but the thing about Cass marrying Luca is that that would ensure she and her Aunt would be taken care of. There seems to be a good chance of her nephew kicking her and her Aunt out once he comes of age, but marrying Luca with ensure that will never happen. This is not me saying Cass should marry Luca just for this reason, but if I was her, and I had to choose from the stable, steady guy who very much loves me, and who I do have some intense feelings for and the guy who I don’t feel like I can count on, who every time I see him all he wants to do his get his hands under my corset and is constantly whining about how I always deserve better because he’s not rich (when I don’t care but its his own pride getting in the way), who do you think I’m going to choose?

Here’s the thing girls, choose the guy who you can actually have conversations with. Having an intense and smothering relationship is great and all, but I’d rather marry my best friend than the hottie next door who can’t keep his hands to himself.

It annoys me to no end when guys push a girl away for no other reason than his own pride. And that’s why Falco pushes Cass away. He doesn’t feel that he can provide for her, so he leaves her to go away and make more money. Cass has made it blatantly clear that she couldn’t care less what class he is, because she loves him. But is that enough? Nope. Instead, being able to provide for her and giving her “everything she deserves” comes first in his mind. And while that does all matter to an extent, and while I understand that line of thinking, if it came down to it, I don’t believe Falco would marry Cass without those things involved. If he had to choose, he would leave her before he married her with no money to his name. And to me, that’s him saying their love isn’t worth it.

Not all the blame falls to Falco. Cass is just as stupid, making me think at times maybe she and Falco did deserve each other, because I’m not sure she deserves Luca anymore.

“Her fiancé had spent the night alone, in a cramped cell, possibly being starved or tortured while Cass had been drinking ale with Falco.
Kissing Falco.
What was the matter with her?"

I wonder that as well, my dear.

She kisses Luca, then kisses Falco. I don’t get it. I believe that it’s possible to be in love with two different guys at the same time – I do – but you don’t just kiss both of them!! Especially not when you’re encaged to one of them.

I don’t feel like this should have been a series. It would have been much better to have just ended it with the first one. Because this just does not compare to the first one in any way.

Also, I get it that Cass is a time-period gal and all that, but COME ON. Why is she about to faint. Every. Stinkin’. Minute???? I get that the corset is unbearably tight, but seriously?? Can we just take some scissors to it when no one is looking, please?

Check out my blog, where I also review YA books: http://obsessivereads.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Onka.
326 reviews39 followers
October 6, 2017
After reading Venom couple of years ago I was hesitant about picking up the sequel. I expected darker maybe even horror-esque story with a touch of romance. Instead, I got a love triangle and as a bonus one indecisive and whiny heroine who got on my nerve pretty much throughout the whole book.
So imagine my surprise when I finally decided to pick up Belladonna and discovered a whole a new story! I finally got what I wanted – action, secret societies, tension... and I just couldn't stop reading.
Definitely the best one in the series!
Profile Image for tegan.
32 reviews
January 8, 2021
UMH?? WOW ??

okay i don’t even know where to start so i guess let’s start with what i did like since the list is far fewer than what i didn’t 👁👄👁 really like the constant criticism of the church by the characters 😈 i also like how this book put more emphasis on the female characters and their bonds and their helping of each other over the romance! i love a good romance and thought this book could use more, but i also love gals supporting gals 😌🥳

okay time to complain 🥲 i didn’t like how everything felt so fast and so abrupt!! like it seems like the characters just acted without any thought or logic at times and it really made the flow of the book bad ! it seemed like everything happened too easily for the characters at times ! that was my biggest complaint throughout all of the story and tbh it’s what made me dislike it as much as i do :(

i also really didn’t like the Florence part. besides for gathering all the information she did, it seemed a little weird for me that no other progress was made in Florence. she went to Florence to save Luca, but then just had to end up breaking him out anyways ?? i guess it makes sense, it just seemed a little weird to me. again, this seemed really abrupt. and her spending most of her time ill and in bed ?? also makes sense for the story, but still just felt unfulfilling.

POOR SIENA :( SHE DIDN’T DESERVE THAT! but the ending was honestly the redeeming quality for the book! still not as good as the first book, but it made it a bit better.

AND FALCO WAS AN A$$ AT THE END BUT IM NOT READY TO GIVE HIM UP YET :( i’m not ready for her to give him up for luca :( it feels like he barely has a chance now 😔 i know he’s not as sweet as luca but 💔

i never truly hate any book once i finish it, but i know how upset i was while reading it. so i’m debating between 2 and 3 stars but i know how unfulfilled i was while reading so i think we’ll have to settle for 2. 😔
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Katherine.
778 reviews355 followers
August 2, 2013

Dreams are the portal to our fears, and a harbinger of what may come to pass. Thus we must call the most valuable insights of our sleeping minds, unafraid, or risk life's greatest mysteries eluding us forever

Setting:Venice and Florence, Italy; the Renaissance

Coverly Love?:No!!!! I much preferred the other cover design to this one. This looks cheesy and rather contrite. Blah!

Plot:After the events of the first book, Luca and Cass are officially engaged. But no sooner has the story begun then Luca I arrested and charged with heresy, a claim he strongly denies. with the help of her faithful servant Siena, Cass makes the perilous journey to Florence to try and clear Luca's name. In Florence, whispers of vampires and bloodsucking demons run wild, and the appearance of her old flame Falco and the mysterious Belladonna spark mystery within Renaissance Italy.

Unlike the other book, when we don't even find out about the Order of the Eternal Rose until the last 50 pages, we get more of a background on what they do (though it's kind of confusing). Also, the action and the plot are faster paced, and we can see the characters grow and develop as well. The whole vampire plot thing was a more detailed look (I think...) to the Order of the Eternal Rose, but it added a special creep factor into it, considering how they actually get the blood. Gah!

Characters:Cass is back; impetuous and stubborn as ever. Despite these flaws, you can tell she is a very caring person who would do anything for the ones she loves, no matter what the cost. At times brash and irrational, she definitely is an improvement from the first book.

Luca is Cass's loving, caring fiancé. One quibble I have about him s that we never really get to see him much. In Venom, he only appeared during the last hundred pages, and in here, he only appears for a little bit in the beginning and the end because he's locked up in a cell!

Siena is Cass's servant and loyal companion. Always brave and true, she is ferociously loyal towards Cass and her sister Feliciana .

Falco, Cass's former flame and one half of the love triangle, is the Belladonna's protégée. Once he appears, all bets are off when it comes to him and Cass. We get to see more of him than Luca here, since he's free and helping Cass. But I'm sure he'll be back in the next book.

Pros:The author did a much better job with the world building in this second installment, and she cleared up a lot of things that weren't made clear in the first book. There was also nice character development and more action as well. As with the first book, the description of Renaissance Italy were sumptuous and detailed. I was lucky and fortunate enough to actually go to Venice, Florence, and Rome, and this book took me back to all the wonderful happy memories that I had there. Now if only I could get my hands on a Tardis so I could time-travel back to the Renaissance...


Cons: . The love triangle also kind of got a little irritating after a while. You're supposed to be rescuing your fiancé here, Cass!!

Love Triangle?:Yes.

Insta-Love?:Yes; a continuation with Falco and Cass, mind you, but still insta-love.

Conclusion:Much better then Venom, and a good look inside Renaissance Italy. Recommended if you love historical fiction, love anything having to do with the Renaissance.

Read This! Venom by Fiona Paul, Starling by Fiona Paul, For the Love of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli, Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
Profile Image for Allie Grace.
106 reviews21 followers
September 8, 2013

Belladonna was a REALLY action-packed and was the complete opposite from the first book. Belladonna had all the qualities of an AMAZING and compelling book.

The book starts off with Luca getting arrested. It's really weird for everyone-and for Cass- that golden-boy Luca would be arrested for such a big crime against the Church.

He tells her that Joseph Dubois (from book 1) was probably behind his arrest and that he wants the Book of Eternal Rose, which Luca 'claimed' he had. Cass then goes on a trip to Florence where she tries to find the Book, but finds herself in a city obsessed with killing 'vampires'.

When I got to the part of the book where they were talking about Florence being full of vampires, I was really upset- I immediately thought the book was going to take a turn into the supernatural genre. Then I realized that it was during the time periods of the books that Europe was pretty obsessed with witch burnings and erradicating the supernatural in the name of the Church, so I calmed down.

I was really in love with the pace in the book! Book 1 was a little slow (like many book 1's) but Belladonna had a good pace and a complexity to it that you usually don't get from sequels, which, I find, are mostly used as a filler for the next book. This book was used to fill in the gaps and answered questions left from the first book (like what is the Order of the Eternal Rose, and why Joseph Dubois and creepy Angelo de Gradi are all connected). In addition to learning more about the Eternal Rose, we also learn about Belladonna, the namesake of the book. She is mysterious, eerie and creepy, but is described by everyone in the book to be the most beautiful and youthful person in Florence- at the age of forty. I imagine her like Kate Winslet with the timeless beauty, but personality wise, she's much more self-centred, vain and cruel (which is what Kate isn't).

But the action, the mystery and the character devlopment was beautifully written.

I loved how Cass went from the meek, naive noblewoman and slowly came out of her shell in Venom, but in Belladonna, you see her grow a lot. I think her development may stem from the fact that this book revovled AROUND Cass and her task, and not Cass and her boys. Yes, you do see sexy Falco and Luca the Gentleman in the book, and yes, they both play an important role in the book (Cass's mission DOES revolve around her fiance), but for the majority of the time Cass was either on her own or with Mada, Siena or Feliciana.

But going back to the boys...I know very well that fans of either Falco and Luca are probably at war with each other. Luca wasn't in the book much (he was heavily featured in the beginning and the very end), but his spirit was very present throughout the book. I really liked how Paul was able to keep him alive. As for Falco. Falco, Falco, Falco...That boy is such a handful. He was much more distant in the book and played a much symbolic role throughout Cass's time in Florence, but he ended up breaking a lot of hearts in the end. I know that, for anyone that read the book, it seems like Cass made up her mind due to Falco's compromising scene near the end of Belladonna, but let me remind you: the book goes missing. THE BOOK GOES MISSING AND NO ONE KNOWS WHO TOOK IT! Let that sink in guys.

The plot was beautifull written and everything flowed well. I loved everything about the book, even it's tragic ending and mysterious epilogue.

It's arguable to say that there are A LOT of loose ends, but we'll have to wait till March to see what happens.

I would have to give Belladonna 4.5 out of 5 stars! It's DEFINITELY worth the read.
Profile Image for Alex .
1,468 reviews25 followers
July 9, 2016
There are 346 pages in this book. You would think for a decently sized book that something would happen. That there would be some sort of plot to keep readers guessing. You would be right...if you meant that only about 50 or so pages had interesting content. Yep, that's right. Only 50 pages of actual plot and intrigue. The 296 other pages held absolutely nothing. Well, nothing but Cass's whining about Falco vs. Luca, Cass's whining about The Order of the Eternal Rose, and Cass screaming at the drop of a pin. If that interests you, this is the book for you!

Now, I can't really say that nothing happened. There were little bursts of interesting thrown in there every once in a while. Then it's gone for a long time (or what feels like a long time) and it's replaced with Cass's thoughts. Normally, I wouldn't complain if the character were interesting in any way. Cass, however, is not interesting at all. She's impulsive, careless, selfish, and annoying. When she isn't contemplating which boy she should choose she's going on and on about how EVIL The Order of the Eternal Rose is. I could take that for a while. It's just when it started to become repetitive and took over the plot that I became angry. Cass was supposed to be on a mission to get Luca out of trouble. She had ONE JOB, which was to find The Book of the Eternal Rose. ONE JOB. She did not even get CLOSE! I mean, I get that she has to have PTSD from the events at the end of Venom. However, just saying that The Order is evil is not going to help anybody or find the book. Cass needs to get her sh!t together.

I really wish that Paul would have left this book as a stand alone or a duology. The first book was so good! Belladonna was nothing but rising action and Cass's 'spooky' thoughts. Sequels are meant to further the plot, not to keep rising up to the overarching plot. I'm still not sure what The Order is trying to do and why they are evil.

I mean, this is good in some ways. The writing is intriguing and mysterious. It kept me flipping the pages, trying to figure out what was going on. The plot itself-when Cass shuts up-is really cool. I loved all the historical elements. It was not enough to make me love the book as much as the first one.

Profile Image for Nara.
938 reviews126 followers
February 12, 2019
In the media release sheet included with my copy of Belladonna, this statement from Andrea Cremer was included as part of "Praise for Venom":
Venom renders the canals of Renaissance Venice frightening and irresistible in a sensual tale where no one can be trusted and passions kill.
Well, replace "canals of Renaissance Venice" with "streets of Renaissance Florence" and BAM that statement pretty much summarises the awesomeness that is Belladonna. The mystery side of things was so interesting- what exactly is this "Order of the Eternal Rose", where is the "Book of the Eternal Rose" and what is this "fifth humor"?

There is so much intrigue- even more than the first book (which had its fair share as well). The pace is much quicker too. I suppose this is because in the first book, the pace was set on finding the murderer, whereas in this book, Cass is fighting to save Luca's life. And because Luca's life is more important to her than catching the murderer was in the first book, accordingly, the pace is faster. I suppose this also could be because, as a reader, I was more invested in the characters while reading Belladonna.

The love triangle in this series actually reminded me a bit of the one in The Infernal Devices series- passion vs security, a fiance, a person who's going to die- all are elements common to both love triangles. However, initially, I thought that the love triangle in this series was different because it wasn't so equal. Cass clearly prefers Falco in Venom. But then in Belladonna, Falco- WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU?!? He was so awesome in Venom, but he is so damn frustrating in Belladonna. I seriously do not understand why he keeps lying to Cass and hiding things from her. GRRRRR. In terms of Luca, I think that he does grow on you. He's not as bad as you initially think in Venom. Even at the end of Venom it was still a bit "meh, he's average", but I suppose you grow to like him as Cass does too. (I have to admit that I'm still Team Falco though.)

I really love the excerpts from the Book of the Eternal Rose which come just before the start of each chapter (as they did in Venom). They look so pretty in paper form as well. Also, I have to say that the Aussie cover is amazing. (Although the curly script on the US hardcover is quite pretty as well).

DAMN THE CLIFFHANGER! It ensures that I'll definitely be the first in line for a copy of Starling. In any case, if you even remotely enjoyed Venom, you definitely will not be disappointed by Belladonna.

Review also found at my blog: Looking for the Panacea
Profile Image for Elaine Ruth Boe.
580 reviews32 followers
August 5, 2014
I have mixed feelings about this book. I'm always a sucker for a historical setting, so I enjoyed the details about Venice and Florence. Chopines, canals, and the church are all very romantic. I assume Paul did some research about medical knowledge at the time and the church's crusade against vampires. I found those passages fascinating for the insight it gave to the historical mood.

I am ambivalent about Cass's character. Her struggle with the church is a very mature topic. In her time, the church was all-knowing, and every good woman trusted completely in its wisdom. To make a total 180, even with a very handsome Falco pushing you in the opposite direction, would rip out the foundation of your faith. Today it is easy to brush off the idea of vampires as superstitious nonsense, but in Cass's day, her fear of vampires and ghosts had orthodox backing. The fact that she questions their existence at all speaks to her growing autonomy. On the other hand, her lack of control around Falco was just annoying, not romantic. I'm as much of a sucker for bad boys as the next YA reader, but Falco just wasn't doing it for me. His character is very flat, and his sudden changes in mood didn't seem natural. I'm definitely team Luca in this series. Cass's impulsiveness also annoys me, because, coupled with her naiveté, I feel like she really shouldn't be getting anywhere. Impulsive heroines are common in YA literature, but Cass's temperament didn't convince me that she had the strength to back up her plans.

The plot of Belladonna had some pitfalls as well. There should have been more consequences to Cass leaving Belladonna's villa toward the novel's end. We've established that her blood is obviously important to the Order, yet no one appeared to be very alarmed when she escaped. Even her friends on her return didn't seem very surprised. Her illness to begin with annoyed me for its ability to totally disable Cass. She is definitely not the most independent or cunning heroine.

An interesting historical moment, but many stylistic holes.
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