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Aug 30, 2009

Book Review: "The Treasures of Venice" by Loucinda McGary

"The Treasures of Venice" by Loucinda McGary
Review Copy provided by Sourcebooks
Paperback 352 pages, 9781402226700
The Burton Review Rating:

"When American librarian Samantha Lewis and Irish rogue Keirnan Fitzgerald set off to find priceless jewels, they become embroiled in a 500-year-old love story that eerily prefigures their own... In 15th century Venice, beautiful and wealthy Serafina falls in love with Nino, a young Florentine sculptor. They decide to flee to Padua, and to fund the trip, Nino copies a set of jewels that then disappear. In modern-day Venice, Keirnan needs Samantha's help to locate the jewels so he can pay his sister's ransom. Samantha must decide whether the man she's so drawn to is her soul mate from a previous life...or are they merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasure?"

I loved this novel by Loucinda McGary for its mixture of suspense, romance and historical fiction. There are two main stories happening throughout the novel as it switches back and forth between the 1485 characters and the present day characters both dealing with sinister forces amidst an all encompassing love. The novel opens up to the recently jilted Samantha Lewis trying to enjoy a much needed vacation in Venice, Italy when a gorgeous guy immediately involves her in a desperate chase against time and kidnappers. Their story is fun and well played as they learn about each other and the mystery of the Jewels of the Madonna, and we are transported back in time to 1485 and another clandestine love affair between Serafina Lombardo and a painter, Nino.

Serafina is supposed to marry her dead sister's husband to fulfill the need for an heir, but Serafina is violently opposed to this fate as she is suddenly magnetically attracted to Nino, and they formulate a diabolical plan to help her escape the same predetermined destiny that took her sister. Fast forward to present day, Sam and her new friend, Kiernan, also share a magnetic attraction that could get them both killed as they try to unravel the mysterious past of Serafina and the mysterious legacy she left behind. There are killers on the loose, the pesky Interpol and other obstacles that still cannot hamper the love instantly shared between Sam and Kiernan. Their attractions are mirrored with Serafina's and Nino's, so there is more than a hint of reincarnation in the story. Even though the story jettisons back and forth frequently between the two time periods, it did not disturb the rhythm since all of the characters were intriguing.

Sam occasionally has flashes of visions which also leads one to rely on the reincarnate factor, and there are other similarities between the two sets of star-crossed lovers. Serafina and Samantha also seem to mirror the same hair coloring and complexion so much so that one of the bad guys even mistakes Sam for Serafina. Kiernan is one of those guys that seems perfect, totally loyal to his kidnapped sister and ever the sensitive one when it comes to Sam. As the mystery comes to a close, the romance question remains if Sam and Kiernan can function together outside of the intrigue and mayhem that first threw them together. This was an enjoyable well rounded and fast-paced story that had me eagerly turning the pages to see what would happen next, but I would have enjoyed it even more if the historical story was more developed. As a whole, the novel had a great plot and breezed through quickly most of the adventures so that there was not any room for slow points.

I enjoyed the mystery, the suspense, and the intrigue of this imaginative story line. Coupled with the strong romances and the hunt for the Jewels of the Madonna, this would also make an impressive film; a well-kept Matthew McConaughey would be an excellent actor as Kiernan, and Sandra Bullock would make an excellent Sam. The setting of Venice with its gondolas, old churches, cemeteries and palazzos are a magnificent setting for the story and you wouldn't go wrong choosing this read to spend your weekend on.