Review: Starling (Secrets of The Eternal Rose #3)

Title: Starling (Secrets of The Eternal Rose #3)
Publication: March 20, 2014 by Philomel
Reviewed by: Isalys
Rating:  5 Stars
Reason for Reviewing:  ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.
The dark, seductive conclusion to the thrilling Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy!

In the final book in the trilogy, Cass and Luca are back in Venice trying to find the Book of the Eternal Rose to clear Luca's name and keep them both out of prison. But the hunters become the hunted when the Order of the Eternal Rose figures out their plan. Filled with twists and turns, danger and torrid romances, this novel brings the Secrets of the Eternal Rose novels to a thrilling, heart-pounding, sexy conclusion.

Starling is the exciting conclusion in the Secrets of The Eternal Rose trilogy by Fiona Paul.  In this series, we are transported to Renaissance Venice where we follow our young heroine Cassandra (known as Cass) as she tries to understand and fight her feelings for Falco and save her fiancé Luca from the gallows, all the while trying to take down the nefarious Order of The Eternal Rose and those behind it.

WARNING: This is a spoiler free review for those who have read Venom and Belladonna. However, if you have not yet read the first two books then proceed with caution.

In Venom, we meet the key players and the stage is set for this daring trilogy filled with mystery, romance, betrayal, and even cults posed as monsters.  In Belladonna, we meet new characters including the ring leader of Order of The Eternal Rose and begin to understand what they are truly up to and who is behind their evil schemes.  Starling picks up right where Belladonna left off, when Cass is forced to leave Falco behind in order to get to Luca in time to save him and take down The Order before they can do any more harm.

I loved Cass' growth over the course of this series.  When we first meet her, she's a sheltered, pampered young noblewoman with no idea of the sins that lurk in her hometown of Venice.  It is a horrifying discovery and a chance encounter with a peasant artist (Falco) that turn her life upside down.  By the time we get to Starling, Cass is no longer that sheltered girl.  Instead, she's transformed into an incredibly independent, brave, and determined woman.  She also knows that she cannot love two men and she needs to make a decision.  Love isn't easy to figure out and she understands that her time with Falco is life-changing and precious, yet she is starting to see Luca through different eyes.  Falco is wild, passionate, and volatile.  He is a whirlwind!  Luca is the antithesis of Falco.  He's well-mannered and civilized, he's strong and steady and loving.  Falco and Luca are so very different and they each spoke to a different part of her heart.

By the conclusion of Starling, I was very pleased with the way the love triangle was handled.  Cass made the decision that truly was best for her (and for him) knowing that her time with the other would never be forgotten. It ended quite beautifully!

The world building is one of my favorite qualities about this series. Fiona Paul did an incredible job taking us to a place and time that is romantic, mysterious, haunting, and sometimes terrifying.  Daytime Venice is colorful and bustling, full of interesting and diverse characters.  Nighttime Venice is dark and dangerous, full of shady and dishonest characters. I love the way she set the scene with her descriptions of the character's clothing and their activities. I was very impressed with her level of research to ensure that this story is told as accurately as possible.

While the love triangle and Cass' relationships are a big part of the story, ultimately, they are not what this tale is about.  Venom has no shortage of adventure, but it really only hints to the Order of The Eternal Rose.  It isn't until books 2 and 3 that we begin to understand how big of a role this group plays. In Starling, Cass' primary objective is to clear Luca's name and find the book that will incriminate the real villains as evil, murderous heretics.  We have to consider the relevance and power of the Catholic church in this time and I thought that Fiona did a fantastic job of blending religion with politics, science, and sociology.  Fear not for there is no shortage of adventure and conflict, though.  Cass dares to do what most others wouldn't even consider, but at a price.  She lands herself in impossible situations and still manages to find it within herself to conquer her fear.

Overall, this is my favorite of the three books and a perfect ending to the series.  I highly recommend these books, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction and mystery/drama.
2 Winners will receive a Copy of Starling by Fiona Paul.
1 Winner will receive a signed Copy of the entire trilogy (PB Venom and Belladonna and hardcover STARLING).
Must be 13+ to Enter
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