Every week or so, I get an email from an author asking me to read and review their recently published novel. Most of the time I decline, either because my To Read stack is about to topple over and I don't have time, or the book doesn't seem to be in a genre that I would enjoy. I would hate to agree to read a book I don't have time to read, then skim through it and give a less than full effort review.
This week I happened to be taking a bit of a respite from the books I agreed to read for NetGalley. I received an email from Ms. McKenna, asking if I would be interested in reading her historical romance. She also sent an excerpt of the first chapter and a bit of information about her protagonist, Marietta Gatti.
This sadly happens so rarely with self published works but I was hooked from the excerpt alone. I'd already 'met' Marietta but the snippet introduced Dario, who was already unlikable on page one, and his insufferable mother, the elder Signora Gatti. I requested a review copy and when it came, I dug right in.
I'm a big fan of historical romances, but often have a difficult time when they're not set in the US. So many of them take place in London in the 1800's and I just really can't relate. Venice in the Moonlight is set first in Verona, then Venice, Italy and I really had no trouble imagining the Gatti villa, then the more opulent Foscari estate, due to the author's great eye for detail-- simple, yet elaborate enough to paint a portrait in my mind.
Marietta Gatti has just been released from the prison of her own marriage. Her abusive, philandering husband, Dario Gatti, died from food poisoning. Since she is no longer 'married', the elder Signora Gatti tosses her out into the street with a mere 6,000 Ducats annual to survive on. Marietta has no choice but to return to Venice, her hometown, and her father, to whom she hasn't spoken in five years. Not since, in his poor and destitute state, he forced her to marry Dario at 15.
However, Marietta doesn't know that her father has already been dead two months. She arrives in Venice, rescued from a muddy carriage accident by the son of a Venice noble. Nico Foscari is a character-- almost completely blind from cataracts but never lacks for female companionship. He makes his interest in the young widow Gatti apparent. She rebuffs him at every turn but as she gets to know him, her resistance to him transforms into an effort to hold herself back before she throws herself into his arms.
Mixed into this love story is a murder mystery. Marietta's father, a famous painter, didn't just die. He was killed. Why? And by whom? Marietta has to find out-- it's the least she can do, since her father died thinking that she hated him.
This book was really well written throughout, held my attention save a few areas. I didn't really understand the alliance between Savio Foscari, Cassanova and the Consulate... something about Kabballah and saving Venice...I didn't get it. Then there was a duel that was oddly placed, Nico went away to see if he could have surgery to fix his eyes and the surgeon sent him home to think about it.
If my romantic notions are at play here, I would have liked to see a surge into the future-- Nico being able to actually SEE Marietta, and his reaction to the beauty that he perceived her to be versus the beauty that she is. Also, since the author mentioned so many times that she'd buried two babies and longed for children, and there were love scenes with Marietta and Nico, I saw misplaced foreshadowing with Marietta ending up pregnant. Also, she's now with the head of the most influential, noble families in Venice... there was so much more story to be told and the book just... stops.
Overall, however, Moonlight in Venice was a really enjoyable read. I found Marietta wise beyond her 20 years and Nico to be the type of hero for whom the reader's affection grows slowly. Great read, thanks for asking me to read and review it!