Monday, 3 December 2012

The Contessa's Vendetta

Author: Mirella Sichirollo Patzer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: ARC (Kindle ebook), Canadian
First Published: October 2012
Published By: History and Women's Press
First Line: "I know what it is like to be dead, because I was once dead to the world."

Synopsis:  A plague has swept across the countryside and has devastated the town of Vicenza, Italy in the 17th century.  Contessa Carlotta Mancini is a much beloved woman of status but despite her position in the town she also becomes sick with the illness and is assumed dead.  Her body is swiftly tossed into a crude coffin and put into her family's tomb.  The problem is, Contessa Mancini is not dead.

She awakens, weakened from her illness and terrified, inside her coffin.   Luckily for her, the coffin that she was put in was poorly and quickly constructed making her escape possible. But as she escapes her coffin she is disheartened to find that she is locked into her family's mausoleum.  In her attempt to break free of the tomb she unearths a vast fortune of stolen gems as well as the hidden entrance that the thieves used in order to hide their treasure. 

Happy to have escaped certain death, she makes her way back to her villa to her adoring husband, her best friend and her young daughter to let them know that she is still alive.  Unfortunately, when she returns home she witnesses the ultimate betrayal and deceit that, unbeknownst to her, has been going on around her for some time.  Determined to get her vengeance, she decides to not tell her family that she is alive and begins to plan her revenge armed only with her newly found riches.

My Thoughts:  I had high hopes for this book.  I visited Italy 5 1/2 years ago and still have a special place in my heart for that beautiful country as well as its history.  When I read the synopsis of this book I thought it would be perfect for me.  A fictional tale about a woman bent on revenge all set in 17th century Italy?  Yes please!

While this book did hit on some of my favourite themes and places I finished it feeling a little let down.  The star of this book, for me, was the vivid descriptions of 17th century Italy which were stunningly portrayed.  Unfortunately I found the revenge/suspense aspect lacking and the characters came off as very clich├ęd.  We have the betrayed woman hell bent on revenge, we have the wizened old crone who goads her on her quest, the deceitful yet beautiful younger woman, the conceited handsome husband ....  You see where I'm going.  There were no real surprises. 

Carlotta started off as a good main character.  I liked her.  She was a kind yet strong main character but then she gets betrayed and she loses some of her likeability.  I know she's a woman scorned but the book focuses so much on her incessant inner dialogue of plotting her revenge that it gets old and monotonous quickly.  I'd prefer more action and seeing her get her revenge than hear her talk about it incessantly.  She quickly went from interesting character to a caricature of a woman scorned.

My favourite character in the book was the monk who helped the Contessa in the beginning of the book.  Unfortunately he was not used to (what I think was) his full potential.  He seemed like the most authentic character of the whole book and yet he played a very minor role. 

The same can be said for the notorious brigand Cesare Negri (as well as his band of thieves) whose stolen stash the Contessa found and used.  I was hoping and expecting for Negri to come back to claim his loot making a great addition to the story (in my humble opinion anyway) and added more excitement to the overall storyline.  Unfortunately that didn't happen.

Another issue that I had with the book was how unbelievable and contrived the storyline became. We started off on a good note -- there was the beautiful scenery, the buried alive contessa.  Somewhere after she broke out of her tomb and happened upon some jewels is where I think the story got off track for me.  I had to suspend my grasp on reality for me to believe that the loved ones of this contessa wouldn't recognize her after a short time even with her newly whitened hair, some dark glasses and a few scars.  It was just too big of a leap for me to take and it effected how I enjoyed the book.

Finally, I found the writing, at times, to be too melodramatic and over the top for me. {Please note that I admit that I'm not a romantic at heart and not a lover of romance novels in general}.  For example, when a woman (Beatrice) is telling her love how much she adores him she states "I am jealous of the ground you tread, of the air that touches you ..."  Really?  I guess I'm just not a romantic because I've never been jealous of the air around my husband.  The writing just felt too saccharine for my tastes. 

This romantic tidbit uttered by Beatrice was later followed by Carlotta calling her husband's lover a "worthless, frivolous, turd of humanity".  Nice image.  Accurate description of his character but was it historically accurate?  I couldn't be certain that Italians in the 17th century used the word "turd" but it felt a little odd to read.  Funny, but odd.

All in all, this was a decent if you enjoy a very light, historical fiction/romance read.  If you're looking for more of an in-depth, edge of your seat storyline with more plausibility you may not enjoy this book as much as you hope.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Note: Special thanks to Great Historicals and History and Women Press for providing me with this complimentary book in exchange for my honest review.

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