Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Her hands looked unnaturally pale in the moonlight."

In preparation for my reading of the new release The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips, I decided to grab a copy of her first novel featuring historian Claire Donovan, The Rossetti Letter. And so I was again transported to Venice for another adventure featuring intrigue, violence and lovemaking.

Claire Donovan is a graduate student at Harvard writing her thesis on the so-called Spanish Conspiracy, a 1618 plot by high-ranking Spaniards to attack and conquer Venice, a missing jewel in the crown of Spanish dominance. After presenting a draft of her research to a local historical society, one of the kindly old ladies shows her an article that references a Cambridge professor who seems to be about to release a book on this same obscure topic. When the opportunity arises for Claire to travel to Venice (to chaperone fifteen year old Gwen), she decides to attend a historical conference to meet this mysterious author. In Venice, Claire finds that her personal life is as dead as the history she studies and she makes an attempt to breathe new life into both of them.

This book seemed like an intersection between two books that I have recently read. We have the female graduate student caught up in the past (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) who happens to be the divorced woman rediscovering herself in Venice (The Glassblower of Murano). Like both of these other novels, this one also shifts between a narrative from the past and the current one. I would rank this one below The Glassblower because it wasn't as compelling but above Deliverance Dane because Claire was a smarter and less annoying character than Connie. I liked that some issues were unresolved in this book without screaming "series". I look forward to Claire's next historical journey.

Steering my gondola clear of Venice for a bit,

Buy The Rossetti Letter on Amazon or find it at your local library.


  1. I read John Berendt's City of Falling Angels last year, and vowed to read more about Venice. The Glassblower of Murano sounds perfect.

  2. I'm looking forward to this one, though it always seems stories with two entirely different plots taking place in two different periods--one will be stronger than the other. I look forward to hearing about her new book--I'm not sure when I'll get to this one.

  3. Jane - Glassblower is a great one for a feeling for both modern and historical Venice.

    Danielle - I TOTALLY agree that one plot is always stronger or more compelling. I feel that in most cases the modern story just seems thrown on top to make the book not just a historical fiction.

  4. This is one I need to add to my list of TBR's! I've been hearing so much about it lately!

    By the way, I've just passed on an award to you!! Here's the link to the post on my blog:

    Oh, and I've got lots of Poe Friday stuff coming!!! Can't wait to get caught up!! :)