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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I really wanted to love this book with its focus on a possible identity for Shakespeare's Dark Lady, and the C16th sonnet... but sadly I found it extremely contrived, with gaping holes in the plot, and characters I just couldn't believe in.

Rose Asher is an academic at a New York university. One of her students, Robin, (with whom some people think she might be having an affair, though no-one seems particularly bothered that he's an undergraduate and she's his lecturer...) writes a film script which gets snapped up by Hollywood (right!) but then is either pushed or jumps off a balcony on the night he wins a film prize. The possible pushee just happens to be the son of the one man Rose has ever loved, even though that was 20 years ago, and (again) she was an undergraduate and he was her lecturer. Despite the balcony being crowded with students no-one noticed whether Robin jumped or was pushed, and the main suspect is allowed to just run out of the room and no-one ever bothers to follow him, question him or anything.

The main characters then congregate at an Italian villa in Florence where evidence might lie that will reveal the identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the sonnets. Did Robin find them (even though he's just an undergradute, not even sure he's that interested in literature, and Rose's ex-lover is a Renaissance professor who's been living there for the last twenty years and has never found anything...) and why would someone want to kill him for this discovery?

More murders abound, there are a plethora of roses everywhere (not least the main character) some of which might be drops of blood. And tied up with this plot are various shady deals taking place between the academics, the film producers and the Italians.

For me this was a book that was all about plot, not character, but the plot failed to grip. There were just too many coincidences, too many easy ways out, and the central romance was so ridiculously Mills & Boon!

The sonnets written by the author's husband for the book and supposed to represent the thoughts of a C16th courtesan/mistress were just embarrassing (sorry!). Rose as a supposed expert on the sonnet can't tell whether a manuscript page she is given is a C16th original or a modern copy. And once she's figureed out the story she finds the evidence to back her up in one morning after a few hours in an archive - sorted!

I did read this through to the end in the hope that the story would pick up but no. Altogether I found this a very unsatisfying book with too many loose ends, and people acting in completely unbelievable ways. Very disappointing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2010
At first I nearly gave up on this book. The protagonist of the story is a lecturer in America, Rose Asher. Then one of her students fell down a building and everybody insists it was suicide, but she thinks otherwise. Her student claims to have made a major discovery about Shakespeare and his 'dark lady'. Then Rose gets an offer to go to a villa/academy in Tuscany (where she had been studying 20 years ago and got her heart broken by an Italian) for some work during the summer months, which she takes up, and while there discovers what really happened to her student.

The start of this book was extremely slow to the point of, as already mentioned, me nearly tossing it aside, but I persisted and was glad I did. It wasn't until our heroine went to Italy that the book came alive - the descriptions were very vivid and although I've never been to Italy, it made me feel like I was there. The book is beautifully written but is written in the present tense, which I personally do not like. This, and the slow start, are the reasons that the book is only getting four stars, but apart from this it was a pretty good book, and I will definitely read some of the author's other books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2012
This book started out really well, good plot and beautifully written.

The deal breaker for me however, was the constant naval gazing by the MC. After the initial 'hook', the plot began to severely drag, and characters started to wander around looking for the storyline. My first degree was in English Literature and the constant quoting Shakespeare et al really started to grate on me after 100 pages.

In the end the author only succeeded in reminding me why after graduating, I switched to Classical Studies/Roman studies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2009
Having started with Lake of Dead Languages am slowly working my way through Goodman's books. I did 'A' Level Classical Literature in the 80's which was absolutely no use for my career, however, my love for the classics has stood me in good stead for Carol Goodman's books!
Like the others, The Sonnet Lover is un-put-down-able, a thriller that draws you in from the outset, beautiful imagery and a love story to boot. Goodman's books usually focus on Greek literature, but this one has a Shakespearian theme, the heroine of the story searching for the identity (reluctantly) of Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

If you want a book written by a woman, with a strong female main character and a hefty dose of literature and beautiful poetry, then this is the book for you.
A very well written book, no pap or nonsense, looking forward to the next one!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Rose Asher lost her heart to Bruno Brunelli in Italy 20 years ago. She has built a succesful academic career for herself and when circumstances conspire to send her back to La Civetta near Florence she is afraid old wounds will be re-opened. A promising student of hers - Robin Weiss - dies in mysterious circumstances which seem to be linked to his apparent discovery of the identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the sonnets. But there is more than a historical problem involved and Rose and several other people are in danger at La Civetta. This is a tense thriller with a fascinating historical and literary background and gorgeous descriptions of the Italian scenery and the villa itself. I enjoyed it and recommend it if you like history mixed with modern day events.
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on 31 May 2014
like all of the other books I have read by this author this book employs a wide knowledge of literature and classics to create a very intriguing story. In this case a murder hunt around the death of a student, but also the 'story within a story' constructed around the possible identity of Shakespeare's dark lady.
The book is well researched and written and the modern relationships between the academics kept me interested, however the story of Genevra and her life in renaissance Italy fascinated me.

I would definitely recommend this.
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i have read all carol goodmans books and always wait for the next one to come out , this was fantastic agan , i feel like i am in the places she writes about, the fact she manages to run the time of the presnt around of the near past and then around the far past is somthing i love. Her research seems to be to be well done, but i read a book for enjoyment not to pick the history apart. If you enjoy a good mystery with a little bit more i strongley recomend this book
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Every once in a great while along comes a book that I don't want to finish, simply because of the letdown when it ends. There's so much enjoyment in the reading - lush and evocative descriptions, graceful prose, characters that spring to life from black printed lines, undercurrents of mystery, an imaginary bridge between today and years long past, plus romance. So much to savor! In Carol Goodman's hands there is often the deft turn of a phrase, a telling detail capturing both eye and mind. Or, one finds a described scene more vivid than a painting.

An extraordinarily capable writer, this author blended all of the above into one remarkable book - The Sonnet Lover.

The bare bones of the plot: Rose Asher is a literary professor at New York's fictional Hudson College. As she notes, "The most thankless job on the planet may well be teaching Renaissance love poetry to a group of hormone-dazed adolescents." Nevertheless, there are other perks - she is involved in a love affair with Mark Abrams, the college president, and she has a star pupil - Robin Weiss who has written a prize winning film.

Sadly Robin's potential is not to be fulfilled as he falls to his death from a balcony following the interruption of a college party. Was it an accident, was he pushed?

To try to answer these questions Rose agrees to return to La Civetta, a Tuscan estate near Florence which has been loaned to Hudson College as a teaching institution. She joins Mark, other faculty members, and possible producers of a film who believe that Robin may have discovered a sonnet written by Shakespeare's mysterious Dark Lady. This is quite a cast - from Mark who begins to act strangely to Mara, the wife of the head of the film department, an always acquisitive buyer who finds the beauty of Tuscany in Hermes scarves.

Waiting at La Civetta is Bruno Brunelli, the first and greatest love of Rose's life. Waiting with him is his wife.

As said earlier, these are the "bare bones" of the plot. The reading pleasure is found in the way Goodman puts flesh on these bones. Sonnets woven throughout are by the author's husband, Lee Slonimsky. Granted, a pivotal meeting Rose "chances" to overhear in the church of Santa Margherita and the denouement do seem a bit contrived. But an author who writes as engagingly as Goodman is forgiven all.

As one who has never entered a bookstore she didn't love the overflow of books at our house falls into three categories: donations to libraries, loaners, and keepers.

The Sonnet Lover is most definitely a keeper!

- Gail Cooke
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2007
I've been hocked on her books since Lake Of Dead Languages, but this is the best yet.

At first I was put off by the title, but fear not - this is a thriller, and a good one at that.

Perfect holiday read.
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