Eighteenth-century Venice, ``the brothel of Europe,'' makes a perfect backdrop for this outstanding historical romance by genre veteran Laker ( The Golden Tulip , etc.). At the Ospedale della Pieta, a famous music school for orphaned girls, Marietta Fontana and Elena Baccini begin a lifelong friendship. Elena is forced to marry Filippo, scion of the powerful Celano family; Marietta weds the mysterious and handsome Domenico Torrisi, a wealthy widower and sworn enemy of the Celanos. But the young women continue their relationship, and when Elena secretly bears the child of a man she truly loves, she relinquishes the infant to be raised by Marietta, who is grieving over the death of her own baby. Domenico is jailed on charges trumped up by the unscrupulous Filippo, but Marietta and Elena search for years for evidence to free him. Although rich with memorable characters and plot, the story is almost secondary to the splendid setting in a city of masks, hidden intentions and sinister complications. Laker has a marvelous gift for evoking atmosphere with assiduously researched, intriguing details which she places throughout a genuinely exciting narrative. A cut above most writers in her genre, the British Laker has written what may be her breakthrough book on these shores. ( Jan. )
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992 Release date: 12/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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