Venom is book one in Fiona Paul’s intriguing new series, Secrets of the Eternal Rose, set in Venice at the end of the Renaissance. As the book opens, Cassandra Caravello is attending the funeral of Liviana, one of her oldest friends. Death is no stranger to Cass. Since her parents died, she has been living on tiny San Domenico Island with her aunt, Agnese. Agnese keeps Cass close to home, rarely allowing her to travel to the Rialto, Venice’s commercial center. Cass chafes against the restrictions and the thought of a boring, predictable future with Luca, her fiancé. Luca is studying abroad, and Cass hasn’t even seen him for three years. Writing in her journal and wandering the graveyard at night are about as exciting as her life gets.

But Cass gets more adventure than even she can imagine. On the night of Liviana’s funeral, she makes a gruesome discovery: Liviana’s body has been stolen, replaced by the mutilated corpse of a young girl. While the culprits are nowhere to be found, Cass does meet the mysterious, attractive Falco, a young art student who challenges her to solve the mystery with him.

Soon Cassandra finds herself leading a double life—dutiful young contessa by day, fearless investigator by night. With Falco by her side, Cass goes beyond what is expected for a girl of her station, exploring the dark streets and secrets of Venice in search of the killer. But what about Falco himself? Cass is attracted by his bold impudence and his infectious charm—yet even Falco is keeping secrets from her. And when her fiancé returns, Cass must face a difficult choice.

Venom is a heady combination of romance and intrigue (with some luscious descriptions of Venetian gowns thrown in for good measure). By the end, teen readers will be craving Cassandra’s journey to continue in the next volume of what promises to be a popular YA series set in an unusual and fascinating setting.

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