It’s Venice of the 1700s that has captured my reading attention this week, with the fun YA novel Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading but I can say I truly loved this book. It was a stark departure from my usual love of dystopian YA as it is a pure romance novel set in the fabulous city of Venice. Kylie Fornasier writes exceptionally well with a cast of fascinating characters, witty prose and sweet romance.

In the city of masks, everyone is keeping secrets – from the son of the Doge to the lowly house maid – our cast of characters have their secret hopes and ambitions, but are trapped by social conventions, overbearing parents or dark family secrets!

Orelia has come to Venice to find answers about her mother’s past and the true reason she left 20 years earlier. She arrives at the house of her Uncle, who is quite senior in government only to find that her mother is even more shrouded in mystery – a woman Venice does not dare to speak of. Adopted as a god-daughter, Orelia is quickly swept up in Venetian high society with her new family.

Angelique and Veronica are sisters of complete opposites – Angelique has dreams of romance and plans to marry the lothario, Bastian, while Veronica flouts social conventions and is determined to not marry anyone (not even the cute Luca!). Together they intend to have a wonderful Carnevale. But Bastian has a bet to win against his best friend – he will make Orelia fall in love with him before Carnevale ends or he will have to to pay Marco tonnes of money! However, what starts as a joke becomes a sudden entanglement of very real emotions.

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Masquerade is like a bottle of champagne – it’s fun, bright and bubbly. I can’t say it was a strenuous read, but I found the characters sweet and the romantic cliches actually bearable and in some cases, perfectly subverted! And the description is breathtaking! The description of opera houses, canals, old Casas are just perfect and hypnotic in how powerfully they can transport you straight into the pages of the book! I loved the attention to the detail of fashion, masks and houses – it’s one of the greatest strengths of the novel.

It’s a great book and while I think it is aimed at younger readers of the 15-17 bracket, I still enjoyed it. It has plenty of romance, allusions to Shakespeare (think Taming of the Shrew) and many cases of mistaken identity, rash decisions, subterfuge, backstabbing, humour, great fashion, and parties. Also the characters are all interconnected in a Love Actually kind of way, which drives the narrative forward with great speed and class.

I am hoping that the end of this book has left it open for a sequel. Our heroine Orelia has defied the cliche and left Venice to find more answers about her past, and many of the characters have the buds of new love to explore. I really loved Masquerade and would not say no to another round!

(Kylie Fornasier has also put together a rad Pinterest board for the book, which features locations and fashions in the books! Browse and enjoy)


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