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The Rossetti Letterby Christi Phillips
Synopses & Reviews
In this captivating debut, Christi Phillips blends fact and fiction, suspense and sensuality into a vibrant, richly imagined novel in which a modern historian uncovers a courtesan's secret role in a shocking conspiracy of seventeenth-century Venice.
Claire Donovan always dreamed of visiting Venice, though not as a chaperone for a surly teenager. But she can't pass up this chance to complete her Ph.D. thesis on Alessandra Rossetti, a mysterious courtesan who wrote a secret letter to the Venetian Council warning of a Spanish plot to overthrow the Venetian Republic in 1618. Claire views Alessandra as a heroine and harbors a secret hope that her findings will elevate Alessandra to a more prominent place in history. But an arrogant Cambridge professor is set to present a paper at a prestigious Venetian university denouncing Alessandra as a co-conspirator — a move that could destroy Claire's paper and career.
As Claire races to locate the documents that will reveal the courtesan's true motives, Alessandra's story comes to life with all the sensuality, political treachery, and violence of seventeenth-century Venice. Claire also falls under the city's spell. She is courted by a handsome Italian, matches wits with her academic adversary, bonds with her troubled young charge, and, amid the boundless beauty of Venice, recaptures the joy of living every moment....
Layering wit and warmth into her portraits of two very different yet equally dynamic heroines, Christi Phillips shifts effortlessly between past and present in a remarkable novel that is at once a love story, a mystery, and an intriguing historical drama. Filled with beautifully rendered details of one of the world's oldestand most magical cities, The Rossetti Letter marks Phillips's debut as a writer of extraordinary skill and grace.
"When the Venetian courtesan Alessandra Rossetti wrote a letter that exposed the 1618 Spanish Conspiracy, Venice was saved. Four hundred years later in Phillips's lovingly researched half-historical, half-contemporary debut, Claire Donovan, an American graduate student, struggles to finish her dissertation on the courtesan's brave act. Claire attends a Venice conference to check out the work of British superstar historian Andrew Kent, who sees Rossetti as nothing more than the pawn of very powerful men in a diplomatic double cross: once Andrew's work is published, his ideas could derail Claire's fledgling career. Phillips, developing parallel plots, unspools Alessandra's story directly to the reader in detail denied Claire and Andrew, who overcome their initial animosity to solve the greater mystery. Academic machinations and missing manuscripts soon add complications. Further, Claire has to deal with her difficult teenage charge, Gwendolyn Fy, and with Giancarlo Baldessari, a handsome and rich admirer. Andrew has to deal with his gorgeous harridan of an Italian girlfriend — and, inevitably, his growing attraction to Claire. Such a profusion of textual plots and characters spread out over past and present recalls A.S. Byatt's Possession, but Phillips, while not aiming as high, misses her mark. Despite a nicely detailed Venice, a clear affection for the main characters and extensive period touches, Phillips's ambitious debut founders long before its predictable happy ending." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The alternate story lines, each including intrigue, adventure, and a touch of romance, are nicely woven together; the details are seamlessly blended." Library Journal
"A fairly romanticized view of history, yet an amiable first effort sure to appeal to the many fans of the genre." Kirkus Reviews
"Moving effortlessly from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century and back, Phillips crafts an entertaining story with intrigue, espionage, and romance in both centuries." Booklist
"Christi Phillips's sexy and suspenseful novel makes you want to hop on the next flight to Venice, book in hand. Reading it is like a visit to that sensual city." Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary
"Reading Christi Phillips's lush, beautifully written novel is like enjoying a sumptuous meal in the Venice it describes with such loving detail. You want to savor every moment." Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
The Rossetti Letter is a captivating debut that blends fact and fiction, past and present into a vibrant, richly imagined masterpiece that traces the adventures of a 17th-century Venetian courtesan and the contemporary historian researching her fate.
About the Author
Christi Phillips lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her interest in European history has led her all over the Continent. The Rossetti Letter is her first novel.
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