Friday, July 12, 2013

Belladonna Blog Tour ~ Annotated Excerpt

Hi everyone. I am so excited to host a stop on the Belladonna Blog Tour.  Belladonna is the second book in a series by the wonderful Fiona Paul. 

Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)
by Fiona Paul
YA Historical Mystery
Expected Publication: July 16th 2013
Goodreads Link


Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiance, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he's arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass's life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose -- the only evidence that will prove he is innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of corruption, secret soirees, and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who's working for the Order's eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?

Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

About the Author: 

Fiona Paul is a writer and registered nurse from St. Louis, MO.

(I prefer the short and sweet bio since there's a lot of other stuff to read in these posts that's more relevant than my love of coffee or desire to shark dive, even though, clearly, both of these things mean I'm awesome. :D)

Follow Fiona:
By Blog , on Twitter , and on Facebook

Annotated Excerpt:

    They left the field behind, passing through a series of rolling green hills. A sharp breeze tickled her skin as Cass leaned slightly out the window. She could just barely make out a jagged skyline in the distance. Florence. After a grueling week of travel, they were finally there.
    By the time the carriages reached the outskirts of the city, the storm had blown past and night was beginning to fall. Again, Cass peeked out through the curtains.

    Her first thought of Florence was that it was heavy and deserted. Large, hulking palazzos made of red and tan brick lined both sides of the cobblestoned streets. Elaborately painted chimeras loomed from the rooftops like hideous protectors. Most of the houses looked abandoned, their shutters pulled tight against the gathering dusk. The streets were empty; there were no merchants returning home from a long day at the market, no peasant boys prowling for women and wine.

    Cass inhaled deeply. The air was different, sharp and crisp, with only the faintest tinge of stale water from the Arno River that cut through the city. She had grown used to the sweet moldy smell of Venice, to the low-hanging fog that blanketed everything. The air of Florence was a welcome change, clear and fresh.


    Hooves thundered just outside her window. Cass peeked out, surprised to see not only a carriage passing by, but also seven or eight men mounted on horseback - servants, from the looks of their simple attire - riding alongside it. Silver bells hung from each horse's bridle, jangling loudly as the group rode by. The handful of peasants still gathered around the statue in the piazza turned to watch the procession before returning to their conversation.

    A boy wearing a leather doublet and a hat pulled low over his face appeared at the far side of the piazza. Cass watched him stumble across the cobblestones, a canteen dangling from one hand and a roll of parchment from the other. He could have been anyone - a student, a messenger - but Cass saw the parchment and could think only of artists, and of Falco. Midway across the piazza, the boy weaved dangerously and nearly bumped into one of the peasants.

    Another carriage rolled by, horses whinnying sharply as whips cracked down on their hindquarters. Four men on horseback followed behind the carriage. One hollered a greeting to the peasants as he rode past.

    Cass sat on the windowsill and gathered her skirts around her. She might not get much rest here, but at least Florence was more interesting than being isolated out on San Domenico Island. And the signora was right. The streets might be bare, but the piazza seemed to be full of traffic at all hours of the day. Someone out there would be able to help her in her quest. Cass was certain of it.


Doesn't it just leave you wanting more?

Fiona's thoughts: 

It is really hard to set a book in a place you've never been. Even with Google Earth, even with a Renaissance expert willing to review your draft and give you tips, there's just no substitute for seeing, smelling, listening, feeling, and tasting your setting. I had traveled to Venice a couple of years prior to writing Venom, but I've never been to Florence. To anyone who thinks publishers send authors to places like Florence for research... yeah they don't do that. Maybe if you're John Green. Maybe not even then.

So what's a girl to do? Well sure, the interwebs are a good place to start. You can at least find out about landmarks and get the geographic lay of the land. After that, I went to the library and pored over a bunch of guidebooks. I made a Xerox copy of a map of the city limits of Florence and plotted out all of the locations. Palazzo Alioni, Palazzo Zanotta, Palazzo della Notte, even Villa Briani - I put all of these places onto a grid so that way when Cass was traveling around I could make sure the directions would match up and I could also incorporate things like the Arno River, the Duomo, etc. in a realistic manner. That may seem like pointless extra work but it's really easy to make your character spin around in circles, or continue going west, and then magically arrive back at the place she left from. It's also really tempting to smash all of a city's cool landmarks into two blocks so you can write about all the neat churches and fountains without any of the boring travel parts.

The best way I found to write a place you've never been is to find someone who has been there and interview them in detail. While writing Belladonna, I was lucky to find a coworker who had recently traveled all over Italy. She told me about her personal experiences in Florence and showed me tons of pictures, which really breathed life into the city for me. Thanks Debbie H J.

Picture Time: 

Since I wanted to include some pictures to give you all a better idea of some of the things in Belladonna, I will not be posting my review today. You can come back and see it tomorrow! And believe me, it is a good one. : )

Please note that I do not own the copyright for any of these photos. These photos are being used for this blog tour and can be found on the Venom facebook page. 

Palazzo Ducale (home of the Doge of Venice)
The beautiful Rialto Bridge
And last but not least (since I had to look them up, because I had no idea what they were)...
OMG! Can you imagine trying to walk in these things? I would break my ankle.

The Tour:

Please be sure to check out the rest of the tour. There is a special deleted Venom epilogue on the Paper Lantern Lit's blog, more excerpts, and a giveaway at the end of the tour.

July 8th ~ Paper Lantern Lit
July 9th ~ Bookalicious
July 10th ~ Readers Live a Thousand Lives
July 11th ~ Lili's Reflections
July 12th ~ Hey... that's me! : )
July 13th ~ Fiction Freak
July 14th ~ Forever 17 Books
July 15th ~ Fiona Paul Books (Wrap-up and Giveaway!)


  1. Oh wow, I did not realize chopines were so tall! Those look soooo uncomfortable to walk in. I am glad to live in this century!

  2. I totally looked up chopines when I was reading the books. lol Those things are crazy! I love hearing how much research Fiona put into the setting. I would never be able to do it but she pulled it off remarkably! :)

    1. Haha. I know. I would HATE to have to wear something like that. Even the platform shoes people wore in the 70's don't look that bad.

  3. Publishers totally should send authors to places like Italy do research!! I've been to Venice and Florence before, but my time in both cities were very short, so I'd love to go back one day. I actually don't remember Florence very well, but it's hard to forget Venice, especially when you take a gondola ride there!

  4. Chopines would have been the death of me! I fall down wearing the smallest of high hells! I have no freakin clue how those women did it!