#67 ~ The Venetian Mask

April 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Books | 4 Comments
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Venetian Mask Cover

The Venetian Mask: A Novel by Rosalind Laker

Although I purchased The Golden Tulip last year, this is the first novel I’ve read by Rosalind Laker. It tells the story of Marietta, a girl who lost her parents at an early age. Her mother loved her so much that she ensured that her daughter was given a home at the Pieta, a Roman Catholic home for orphaned girls. This was the place for Marietta because it gave her the opportunity to make the most of her beautiful singing voice. There, she becomes best friends with Elena. The two grow up together like sisters, only to marry into two Venetian families embroiled in a generation’s old vendetta.

While thinking about this novel over the weekend, I kept making comparisons to The Tea Rose. This was because both heroines are similarly strong women, but even more so because everything they touched in business turned to gold. They certainly worked hard for their success, but there is this little part of me that feels that it came too readily. It’s not that I wanted Marietta or Fiona to have an exhaustingly difficult experience building their businesses. I think it would be more realistic to have a tiny idea or two that didn’t pan out.

My feelings for the novels as a whole are similar as well. They both had portions that kept me reading as well as portions that felt too long. Still, I really enjoyed my trip through beauty, lust, and intrigue of Venice. I loved the descriptions of the masks and the parties. I am also interested in learning more about the city’s history. Much like Devourer of Books, I found Venice to be equally compelling and perhaps more fleshed than Marietta or Elena. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend this book. Laker has good writing skills and creates an interesting world. Given its pacing, it would make a good choice if you want to work on a book when you can’t devote all of your time to it. It’s a pleasant diversion that can easily be picked back up after a while without losing its charm.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#57 ~ The Tea Rose

February 8, 2008 at 10:20 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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The Tea Rose: A Novel by Jennifer Donnelly

I heard about this book and ended up reading it somewhat by chance. I was reading through the postings on and saw a posting about The Winter Rose coming out. They were excited to get a chance to read it. A few days later, I got a reminder from one of my book clubs reminding me that I had earned a free book in November. The Winter Rose was one of my choices, so I snapped it up. It was only when I reported back to that thread that I discovered that it was a sequel to The Tea Rose. As luck would have it, the local library had a copy. It was an enjoyable romp through working class London during the late 1800s as well as through New York, when it was still pretty new.

It tells the story of Fiona Finnegan, a feisty teenager from a loving working class family. She is working for the tea factory in order to help with the family expenses, but she is also able to put money aside with her neighbor and love of her life, Joe. The two of them are saving money in order to one day marry and own their own vegetable shop. Life in working class London can seem bleak. Money is tight for everyone and Jack the Ripper is on the loose. Still, their shared dream keeps them alive and happy.

There happiness is shattered by life after Joe accepts a job with a wealthy shopkeeper that takes him away from London. At that same time, Fiona’s family suffers several great tragedies. When Fiona discovers the true nature of her father’s death, she is forced to flee to New York, in hopes that her paternal uncle will be able to care for her and Seamus, her brother. What Fiona finds in America is daunting, but through her perseverance, her strong character shines. She makes many friends and becomes a great success in business at a time when women didn’t normally have the opportunity to do so. It is her success in New York that she hopes will provide her with the tools she needs to avenge her father’s death. Still, which Fiona has all the outward signs of success, she lacks the one thing in life she truly wants: the love and companionship of Joe. With an ocean separating them, she can only dream that all of her hard work will eventually provide her with complete happiness.

I really enjoyed The Tea Rose. Although there were parts that seemed a little long, I enjoyed experiencing London in a different period of time. It was a far cry from the usual escapades during the Tudor or Elizabethan eras. I also don’t read much historical fiction taking place in America. I loved the feel of New York on the rise. Most importantly, it was wonderful to read a story about a strong female character who was able to make her own destiny through hard work, determination, and intelligence. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who relishes reading about strong women.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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