I finished this book a week ago and have been meaning to write this ever since. But I consider it a good sign that I still remember the book well enough to write about it. Unlike some books that I forget within days, if not hours.
Veiled Passions by Tracy MacNish is the 3rd book in a series. I did not read the others first and while I might go back and do that someday, I didn’t feel I was missing anything regarding this story by not having read them. VP is a historical set in 1777 Venice and England. The time period and setting alone were enough to make me interested in this. This blurb describes a traumatized heroine and had me eager to find out more:
Three years ago, Kieran Mullen was a carefree, confident beauty. One fateful night, everything changed, and she became solitary and aloof, reluctant to leave her London home even when her brother, Rogan, insists she accompany him on holiday to Venice. There, amid the wild revelries of Carnivale, Kieran is attacked by a masked villain and rescued by a charismatic stranger who offers her the one thing that might free her from her haunting past: revenge...Matteo de Gama is a study in contradiction - a gambler and a philosopher, a reckless libertine and a most unlikely saviour. When he pulls Kieran from a canal's watery depths and learns her secrets, he resolves to help her exact justice. But soon he has another mission in mind - to release the unmistakable fire buried beneath her icy beauty, and teach her the bliss that comes with trusting in her own desires, and in their fierce, abiding love...
Three years before the book’s opening, Kieran was the victim of a crime which left her ashamed, humiliated, and horrified. She buried herself behind an aloof, cold façade that no one could break through—not even her loving brother. She runs into the villain of this crime while in Venice. A clumsy attempt to get Samuel out of her life fails and she ends up being rescued by a Venetian who senses the depth of her despair and offers her an alternative. At first she ignores him, but when circumstances have Matteo traveling back to England with Kieran, she begins to listen and consider taking back her life by exacting revenge. Kieran is fascinated by and attracted to Matteo, but she has an awful lot of garbage to wade through.
I really appreciated how the author slowly brought Kieran along. Details of Kieran’s trauma are brought to light a little at a time until she tells it all to Matteo. The crime is not quite (although close to) what you might think it to be. Instead the crime is actually a bit more complex and Kieran’s shame much deeper. As Kieran makes a decision about how to handle Samuel we’re given a lot to think about including the nature of revenge and justice. Can these things be achieved without losing a piece of our souls?
Matteo was a wonderful hero, even too good to be true. He is the illegitimate son of a prostitute who manages to escape that cycle of life and death and become an educated, charismatic charmer. He sees Kieran’s wounded spirit and for the first time in his life meets someone he wants to take care of. He wants to help her right the wrongs that were done and takes it upon himself to do so. He feels deeply the social chasm that is between them. He recognizes his love for her rather soon, and even confesses to it, but continually tells Kieran that he’ll go back to Venice as there can be nothing between them.
I found this to be a really meaty book with a lot to consider as I read it. I liked the unusual settings and while I’m no expert, I think many of the actions, including those of the villain, were consistent with the time and place. The late 18th century was a decadent time; men of high rank had unquestioned power and while that’s no excuse for Samuel’s actions, I could understand why he thought his behavior was not out of line.
As much as I did like this book, I was disappointed in the last 20-30 pages. Kieran has a confrontation with Matteo’s ex-mistress. Now, over the course of a rather lengthy book, Kieran has learned to trust Matteo with just about everything. So why does she suddenly allow herself to believe Carina’s lies? To me this became a contrivance to set up a dramatic ending. It just didn’t ring true that after all of the changes Kieran has been through she still needs to hang onto her pride, especially since Matteo continually makes himself vulnerable to her.
Nonetheless, I do recommend this book. It was a nice long read that I stretched out over several days and enjoyed coming back to. While a couple of other reviews have said they didn’t like the heroine, I found her actions pretty believable (until the end as I just said). And Matteo was a great hero--much different than your typical historical romance hero.
One question though, for some reason I kept waiting for a mention of people and their powdered hair. It was the 1770s. What a gross custom that was. But I don’t recall seeing it mentioned once in this book. Seems like it should have been. Did I miss it?