Title: The Rose and the Mask
Author: Victoria Leybourne
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA/ Fairytale/ Romance
Source: Kindle Recommendation
Favourite Quote: ‘The masks had become a habit, a part of him, and now he felt naked without one.’
Faustina Casanova found herself once again down on her luck, always striving to pay rent in her current boarding house, resorting to stealing was the only was to keep a roof over her head after her grandmother died. Faustina has a rule though, only steal from those who don’t need it, she would never take from someone who has nothing. When her brother, Giacomo, returns to Venice asking for money, she can’t understand why she would be so willing to give up all she has for him once again. When Giacomo is caught cheating and shamed out of everything he had left in a card game, getting revenge by stealing from the Bellini estate is the only way to return what’s his, along with his personal pride and dignity. Faustina is dragged along for the ride, only to quickly realise that Giacomo has tricked her, she’s stranded on her own on an island home to Benedetto Bellini himself, a cursed masked man who hasn’t left his home in a year. Faustina finds herself with a curse of her own and now has no choice but to stay with the perplexing masked man.
‘The flowers, meanwhile, seemed to allow too much light through, detaining it only long enough to imbue it with a crimson glow. It almost looked as though the entire plant were made of glass. But that’s impossible. Or just highly improbable. A moment later, a tiny breeze disturbed the sweeping leaves and she heard the sound: a light tinkling, like hundreds of tiny bells. It was the sound of countless delicate glass leaves brushing into one another. Faustina blinked hard several times, trying to clear the mirage from her retinas. But she was still looking at a glass rose tree. Kneeling down, she cupped a palm and swept up a handful of the leaves from the very tip of a branch.’
I’ve read quite a few re-tellings of Beauty and the Beast, never knowing what twist to expect next but always knowing the final outcome. This story was no different, set in European setting in Venice with it’s enchanting masquerade balls and secret identities behind a mask. I quite liked how not only our woman protagonist was forced onto the cursed island by her brother, but also that she was made to be cursed herself.
A stubborn independent woman who doesn’t believe in curses but caught in the middle of one all the same. I really enjoyed reading about Faustina. She’s a bold, strong, fighter, after spending time on the streets adapting to survive, who can blame her. She doesn’t trust what she doesn’t see, so being held prisoner in a large solitary estate on an island because a strange man in a mask doesn’t want to risk her life over unseen magic means very little to her and doesn’t stop her from trying to escape. It took a while for any feelings to become apparent between the two characters, far longer than expected, even after she discovered that he was her mystery man at the masquerade a year ago. Knowing that she not only was cursed alongside Benedetto but that she *SPOILER* was the cause of the curse to begin with was really an interesting take.
The author did a great job of setting the scene, particularly at Benedetto Bellini’s estate. The large empty rooms and servant corridors made the atmosphere feel even more isolated and lonely. You begin to sympathise with Benedetto for having to spend the past year in complete abandoned solitude, exiled from society away from Venice. I loved the scenes with the masquerade dances the most, something I’ve always wanted to see for myself personally, the author succeeds in putting you right in the center of it all in pieces.
‘Across the room, a small orchestra played a sedate tune, to which a lace-drenched, gilt-edged crowd marched and twirled. If she tried, Faustina could see it the way Chiara did. A Carnevale ball – even a second-rate one – was a remarkable thing to behold. Among the masks, she saw demons and angels, fairies and centaurs – even one brave woman dancing with Death. Faustina sighed. She really did love Carnevale.’
The characters were well told, once you discovered Giocomo’s last name; Casanova, it brought risk and judgement for his reputation that had him forced from Venice years ago. His return was bound to cause a few sparks. You can tell that he really does care for his sister even through his means to use her for his own personal gain. His pride to win back what he lost overpowers everything, he isn’t used to losing, especially as he has the means to ensure otherwise. His gambling nature gives us enough of his personality, the fact that he’s also a famous libertine who’s ability to enchant and entice women was known throughout, but what he’s hiding from his sister is definitely intriguing.
Benedetto was an interesting character, played out to be the beast but besides his cursed appearance, he is anything but unchivalrous. For a man who’s been alone for so long, he maintains his gentlemanly appearance in both attire and mannerism as to not let the beast control what’s left of his humanity. Benedetto’s only escape is his garden, where he can focus on something besides a lifetime of loneliness and seclusion. When Faustina shows up looking to steal his silver but instead get’s caught up in the same curse that ties him to the grounds, it brings a new meaning back into his life even when he tries to fight it when he realises she was the one who caused everything to change a year ago.
‘It was the shoes he had been most tempted to give up on, but to stop dressing properly would have been to admit to losing his humanity. He’d been lucky, in a way. At least it was possible to hide the curse’s effects, even if it did involve keeping himself almost completely covered.’
Overall I really enjoyed the book. The story continues into a Cinderella re-telling with the hints of a glass slipper at the end for those who want more fairytale from Victoria Leybourne!
Faustina Casanova is a beauty and a thief, not necessarily in that order. Surviving in the darkness beneath Venice’s glittering façade, she knows better than to believe in magic, or trust too much to luck.
Benedetto Bellini was lucky once, but not anymore. Not since the curse. Now he’s got a second problem, one that’s washed up on his island and tried to steal his silverware. He finds Faustina intriguing and infuriating in equal measure. And, thanks to the curse, he’s stuck with her.
Faustina doesn’t know what to make of her shy, gentle and deeply irritating captor, or his island garden. But, at the heart of it all, there’s the glass rose. Like love, it’s beautiful, fragile and dangerous – and finding it changes everything.
A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast set in 18th Century Venice, perfect for fans of fairy tale romance. The Rose and the Mask is a standalone novel that can be read on its own or alongside the other book in the series, The Murano Glass Slipper.