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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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I had been very disappointed by Marina Fiorato's last book, The Daughter of Siena, which was a rather dull affair in comparison to her other books - The Glassblower of Murano, The Madonna of the Almonds and, especially, The Botticelli Secret. I was worried that she had run of steam. She hasn't. The Venetian Contract is a splendid book - an exciting thriller full of credible historical detail set in Venice and Constantinople redolent with the atmosphere of the East.

Feyra Adalet bint Timurhan Murad is doctor cum taster to the dowager Sultana, Nur Banu Sultan. She arrives at the palace late to find that Nur has already broken her fast and has become very ill. After investigation, Feyra works out that she has been poisoned and the whole household, especially herself, will be in grave danger because of it. Nur rallies slightly before she dies and reveals a secret to Feyra which increases her danger, and means that she and her father, a ship's captain, must leave the city immediately. Unfortunately, Nur's son, the Sultan, knows the secret and has other plans for Feyra and her father. Feyra is shut away in her house and on the next day, her father is forced to set sail for Venice with a deadly cargo. Feyra manages to escape and stow away on what she hopes is her father's ship. Unbelievable? Unlikely? Fiorato makes it work so that you do not have to suspend too much of your disbelief.

It turns out that the Sultan wishes to take revenge on the city of Venice for the routing of the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto and has unleashed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the city. What will Feyra do? She is a Turk in a plague ridden city of her country's deadliest foe. She is a woman in a city where women have no standing and she is a Muslim which restricts her behaviour and makes her even more hated by the Christian Venetians.

The resolution of all these problems makes a very satisfactory story. It is very pleasing that Feyra stays true to character and does not become a 21st century super woman and the rest of the characters also remain firmly rooted in their time and place.

I really enjoyed this book and, much as I hoped I could, it was not possible to foretell how it ended accurately.
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on 9 February 2013
This was my first Marina Fiorato novel and I wasn't disappointed. Venice is one of my favourite Italian cities and I wanted to read a novel set there in Renaissance times, which is why I chose "The Venetian Contract". I found it un-put-down-able right from the start. The prologue introduces us to Andrea Palladio, the great Venetian architect (1508-1580), the Doge Sebastiano Venier (1496-1578), and the arrival of a terrible plague in the city. In Constantinople, the heroine Feyra discovers that the mother she thought dead is actually Cecilia Baffo, the Doge's niece, who had been abducted from Paros and taken to the royal harem of the Ottoman Sultan. Fiorato weaves fact and fiction turning Feyra's father into the original captor. The intrigue and political wrangling of the era make for a fascinating read and I loved the settings, which I thought really well depicted. The style of writing, detached third person point of view, could have distanced me from the characters when I wanted to be inside their heads more, but that didn't detract from a hugely enjoyable reading experience. The love story between Feyra and Annibale the plague doctor, a cross-cultural romance, was handled beautifully and I was hoping for a happy ending. I won't spoil the read for others by revealing what happens, but the next time I visit Venice I shall visit Palladio's Church of the Redentore and imagine Feyra had something to do with its building. A fascinating read which I have no hesitation in recommending to lovers of romantic historical fiction set in Italy.
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A novel centred in Venice with Ottoman exoticism thrown in can hardly fail to entice readers. Marina Fiorato's tale of Feyra, half Venetian, half Turkish, who brings love and adventure, along with the plague, from Istanbul to Venice, is an interesting twist on the usual romantic novel. Feyra, unusually for a 16th-century woman, is a doctor. She and an Italian doctor - their relationship is at the heart of the novel - arrange for a plague hospital on one of the Venetian lagoon islands. The story takes place in the aftermath of the famous sea Battle of Lepanto - which the Venetians won against the Turks - and weaves together strands of Ottoman and Italian cultures. A secondary thread is the building of Palladio's Redentore church on Guidecca: Palladio and the Doge of Venice are important characters in the book.

Fiorata's attention to detail is exquisite. Her research into medical history, medicaments, and healing herbs as well as her knowledge of Venetian architectural and political history, exude verisimilitude. Her characters are fascinating and the setting of a plague hospital takes this novel above the realm of the merely romantic into something much more interesting.

Although Fiorata's writing style is very straightforward, with little subtlety and fairly simple narrative, her story and characters illuminate the words on the page and offer a glimpse of a little known area of Venetian history. That originality will certainly encourage me to try more of her books.
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on 2 August 2012
I really loved `The Glassblower of Murano' by Marina Fiorato, but thoroughly disliked `The Botticelli Secret,' so I admit that when this was lent to me by a friend, I did hesitate somewhat in picking it up, not wanting to be disappointed for a second time. The premise sounded really fascinating, but I did find the language a little bit `flowery' and overly descriptive for my tastes at first. Getting past that however, I was soon drawn into the plot and what quickly became an absorbing read- for me, books set in Italy, no matter what their time period, are usually a winner!

This novel is set in the 16th Century, shortly following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. We meet Feyra, a harem doctor from Constantinople who stows away on a ship at the behest of her dying mother to take a message to the Doge in Venice. Unbeknownst to Feyra, the ship is carrying something lethal--a gift from the Turkish sultan which has the power to destroy an entire city...

I have to say that this book just oozes atmosphere, you can almost smell the scent of the medicinal herbs and spices that Feyra uses and the odour of the canal water seeping from the pages. The novel is very good at depicting the darker, sinful side of Venice. I also loved the way the author incorporated the old myths around the cures for the bubonic plague, including the belief that toad skins would slow the pestilence down- if only! The imagery of Annibale, the plague doctor, was quite chilling with his beak mask, but felt very authentic and just leapt from the pages at me.

Character building is very solid and I appreciated the journey that all of the characters made through this book- both physical and metaphorical. Annibale and Freya both grow as people and were great protagonists to read about. Annibale in particular, had many interesting facets to his persona that made me want to know more about him. The secondary characters too, were well drawn- though I would have perhaps liked to know a bit more about the Doge than we did.

Also, the descriptions of the architecture were very vivid- both the Constantinople and Venetian buildings sprung from the pages and I could envisage the dark alleys and bustling markets very clearly. Fiorato doesn't overwhelm the reader with historical detail; it is effortlessly incorporated into the story, so the novel doesn't read in a `textbook' manner, thankfully.

I have given this book 3.5 stars as admittedly, it does drag a little bit in places. I didn't fall in love with it the way I did with `The Glassblower...' and it just never seemed to quite live up to the excellent sounding premise. I don't really like the title very much- it sounds a bit dull to be honest, not really alluding very much to the contents of the book itself. I also found the ending to be just a little bit far-fetched and predictable for my liking. The romantic aspect also felt a little bit `light' in places and to some extent, glossed over. I feel that more could have been made of it, particularly given the completely different dynamics between the two main characters and the repercussions of such a relationship during that time.

Nevertheless, for fans of historical fiction and particularly admirers of Venice, I think this is a book that you will appreciate- it is certainly worth a read.
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It is the year 1576 and a ship carrying a deadly cargo is sent from the Turkish Sultan to Turkey's old enemy, Venice. On board the ship is a sarcophagus containing a man who is suffering from a deadly disease and when the ship steals into Venice during a storm and the cargo is deposited on dry land, within days the city is infected with bubonic plague. On board this same ship is a stowaway: a young and beautiful half-Turkish, half-Venetian, harem doctor named Feyra who has been sent on a mission from her dying mother to carry a vitally important message to the Doge. However, when Feyra is set upon by a crowd of Venetians, who consider her an infidel and an enemy to Venice, she has to go into hiding until she can manage to gain an audience with the Doge and deliver her important message. The Doge, deeply worried at the death toll in his city, decides to build a church so magnificent that God will save Venice - and in order to keep his architect, Palladio, free from illness, the Doge employs the finest plague doctor, Annibale Carson, to attend to Palladio's health. When the number of victims from the deadly disease rapidly increases, and Dr Annibale realizes that he needs help to cope with the sick and dying, the last person he would have expected to supply this help would be a beautiful female doctor from a Turkish harem, but he has no choice when Feyra shows how talented she is in the field of medicine. And while Annibale and Feyra work together to nurse the plague victims and to attempt to develop a cure, they find themselves becoming much closer than either of them would have thought possible.

Marina Fiorato's latest novel, partly based on real characters and historical events, is an escapist adventure story with romance very firmly at its heart. Given to me by a friend to read, I must admit that when I started the book I found the style of writing a little overblown for my taste - Feyra's appearance with her amber, slanted cat-like eyes, her coffee-coloured skin and abundant tawny hair, was much mentioned, as were the curly locks and handsome looks of Dr Annibale Carson. However, that said, I read this on a long train journey and enjoyed the author's descriptions of the city of Venice and found parts of the story quite entertaining, if a little over-dramatic and rather ghoulish (especially when Feyra was incarcerated in the ship's hold with a diseased body in a sarcophagus!). In some ways this novel is a light, undemanding romantic read and, in other ways, because of the subject matter, it becomes something rather more serious in nature; therefore, this book could work as an easy holiday or weekend read - if you don't mind reading about death and pestilence on holiday - or an undemanding bedtime read - if you don't mind reading about boils and bubonic plague before you turn out the light - or put the gory bits to the back of your mind, switch off your critical faculties and focus on the romance and the storytelling talents of the author.

3 Stars.
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on 12 February 2016
I would have given it 3.5 as I basically did enjoy it. I just wish the ending hadn't felt so rushed. The main character spent most of the book needing to meet her great uncle and the build up was fine. Then all of a sudden Whammo, she meets up and it was such an anti-climax. The story I found interesting and I did become invested into what would happen to the main characters but after all the build-up I felt a bit cheated by the "And they lived happily ever after" type of conclusion. It was an easy read and I liked the style of it. It's just that feeling of, when I had finished it, of "Oh, that's it then". I'll probably check out some of her other books though so please don't be put off by my review - maybe I would give it a 3.75 ?
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on 2 May 2016
The storyline of the Ottoman Empire and Venice in the 1500 is told by Marina Fiorato in an exciting, page turning way. Marina holds the reader's attention to the very end of the book, the reader must expect the unexpected from the characters. Feyra, a Turk who is female doctor to the Hareem in Constantinople, ends up in Venice. It is the time of The Plague, . Annebale is a Venetian doctor, they set up a hospital on an island near Venice.
Excellent read.
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on 12 July 2014
Set both in Venice and Constantinople, this story spans the different cultures using a young girl, Feyra, a Turk with a Venetian mother. The main backdrop is the animosity between the two great nations and the story unfolds with pace and historical details, which keep the reader entranced. History, medical practices, religion, architecture and warfare are all part of the narrative and the reader is carried along to the conclusion.
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on 22 September 2014
Another great book by Marina Fiorato. I have read all of Marina's books. Although a similar theme runs through the novels (like many other books by popular authors) the characters are always different and her description of life in Italy during the 1500s is wonderful. I would recommend any of her books.
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on 26 May 2014
I have just finished this book.It is the fourth book I have read by this author and it was brilliant.In fact they all are.I haven't read the newest one yet but it is in my kindle, but my congratulations to a very talented author.Please keep writing.
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