Historical Fiction: The Rossetti Letter, by Christi Phillips

The Rossetti Letter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Claire Donovan, still reeling from her divorce and single-mindedly working on her doctoral dissertation, has a heart stopping moment when she reads about another academic who may have evidence that her entire thesis is flawed. The evidence is about to be presented at a prestigious conference in Venice, Italy, but Claire cannot afford to attend. Out of the blue comes an all-expenses-paid opportunity to chaperon a young girl in Venice, while her father honeymoons in France. Off goes Claire, desperate to salvage the goal that has become her sole reason for living.

The plot of this novels revolves around a single letter, written in the 17th century by a courtesan. Claire believes the letter saved Venice from a Spanish takeover, but her rival thinks the “Spanish Conspiracy” was invented by the Venetians to discredit Spain. The reader has the inside track: the narrative takes place in two time periods, from the point of view of Alessandra Rossetti, 17th century courtesan, and Claire Donovan, 21st century historian. Along the way, two love stories develop, Claire’s young ward contributes lots of teenage angst, and the interpretation of history is altered. All of this takes place among the campi and piazzi of Venice, timeless, and always alluring, making this book a pleasurable escape.

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