The Rossetti Letter

Christi Phillips, Author . Pocket $24 (383p) ISBN 978-1-4165-2737-4

When the Venetian courtesan Alessandra Rossetti wrote a letter that exposed the 1618 Spanish Conspiracy, Venice was saved. Four hundred years later in Phillips's lovingly researched half-historical, half-contemporary debut, Claire Donovan, an American graduate student, struggles to finish her dissertation on the courtesan's brave act. Claire attends a Venice conference to check out the work of British superstar historian Andrew Kent, who sees Rossetti as nothing more than the pawn of very powerful men in a diplomatic double cross: once Andrew's work is published, his ideas could derail Claire's fledgling career. Phillips, developing parallel plots, unspools Alessandra's story directly to the reader in detail denied Claire and Andrew, who overcome their initial animosity to solve the greater mystery. Academic machinations and missing manuscripts soon add complications. Further, Claire has to deal with her difficult teenage charge, Gwendolyn Fy, and with Giancarlo Baldessari, a handsome and rich admirer. Andrew has to deal with his gorgeous harridan of an Italian girlfriend—and, inevitably, his growing attraction to Claire. Such a profusion of textual plots and characters spread out over past and present recalls A.S. Byatt's Possession , but Phillips, while not aiming as high, misses her mark. Despite a nicely detailed Venice, a clear affection for the main characters and extensive period touches, Phillips's ambitious debut founders long before its predictable happy ending. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-84739-617-4
Paperback - 383 pages - 978-1-84739-076-9
Paperback - 438 pages - 978-1-4165-2738-1
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4165-5391-5
Hardcover - 383 pages - 978-1-84737-067-9
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