Blog Tour Guest Post: Belladonna by Fiona Paul
I'm very excited to be hosting Fiona Paul on the blog today as part of her Canadian Belladonna Blog Tour! My gushing review of Belladonna went up yesterday, so if you haven't heard me express my love for this series yet (as unlikely as that is), you can head over to my review to get caught up. Now, onto the tour goodies!
First, a bit about Belladonna:
Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he's arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass's life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose -- the only evidence that will prove he is innocent.
So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of corruption, secret soirees, and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who's working for the Order's eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.
Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.
I'm so excited that Fiona is here with a scene cut from Belladonna and a little explanation. Take it away, Fiona!
Fiona: Today on the blog tour I’m talking about the importance of killing darlings. Earlier in the USA tour, I mentioned how a certain scene was a favorite of mine because it showed Cass being clever to contrive permission from her aunt to go to Florence. It irks me when book narrators are like “MC so-and-so is very smart. See her study? See her quote philosophy?” but then she acts like a dunce.
I know Cass does a certain amount of boy-following in Venom and much of that is intentional due to the historical setting, but I really wanted her to start driving the action herself in Belladonna. I purposely looked for ways to SHOW her ingenuity, but the problem with showing is that it often takes a lot more space than telling, which can be problematic.
In the finished book, Luca tells Cass exactly where he has hidden a key for her. In the first draft, Luca leaves Cass a mysterious present—a lily necklace--before he is arrested, and Cass finds the key via a series of steps, like this:
As she fixed the cover back on the little golden box, her hand caught on a lump in the bed of velvet as she did. She ran a finger across it. There was something hidden beneath.
Holding her breath, Cass peeled back a corner of the velvet to unearth a square of folded parchment.
Her mouth went dry as she unfolded the page. Blood hummed in her veins Was this was Luca meant when he said he had left her something? The parchment contained just two sentences:
This lily will always guide you home. Study it well and you will discover the knowledge it unlocks.
Cass touched the petals of the lily again. Study it well? She took the note and the golden box back to her bed chamber, slipped them into the drawer of her dressing table, and stood in front of her mirror. She probed each petal with her thumb and forefinger. Gently, she flipped the pendant over to consider the back. Solid silver. No secret engravings, no detachable parts. She ran one hand along the length of the chain, feeling for any imperfections, but it was flawless. What did Luca mean, study it well?
She and Luca had played a game when they were younger. Luca liked to collect little trinkets: stones shaped like hearts, ceramic beads, pieces of wood turned almost to glass by the tide. He would hide these treasures for Cass and mark their location with a lily plucked from Agnese’s garden. Cass’s fingers went to the pendant around her throat. Maybe the pendant wasn’t a gift.
Maybe it was a clue.
Guide you home... Had Luca hidden something else inside the villa? He hadn’t even seemed remotely concerned when the soldiers tore apart his quarters, so Cass was certain there was nothing to find there. What about her own room? But no, Luca wouldn’t snoop through her things. He was too proper for that.
But if not his room and not hers, then where?
AND THEN, SEVERAL PAGES LATER
A breeze blew through the garden, rustling ivy and sending flower petals spinning across the grass. Cass watched as the silky white bloom of a lily tumbled past her feet.
She thought again of Luca’s note: This lily will always guide you home. Study it well and you will discover the knowledge it unlocks.
And then Cass knew. It was as Luca had said; he had spent the entire day at Palazzo da Peraga after his visit to Dubois. Whatever she was supposed to find was there.
AND THEN, SEVERAL PAGES LATER
Siena followed her to the next room. Luca’s bedroom. Cass could tell as soon as she crossed the threshold. The room was dark-paneled and plain, with several books stacked on the floor next to the bed. Cass flipped through the volumes, looking for messages tucked within the pages. Nothing. Not a single underlined passage or folded page. Siena bent down to peer under the bed and Cass went to the wardrobe and threw open the doors. White chemises were stacked neatly on one shelf; colored doublets and breeches on another. Cass peeked beneath the piles of neatly folded clothes but found nothing except a sachet of herbs, tied with an orange ribbon. She picked up the small cloth bag and inhaled—citrus and spice. Tears sprung up from nowhere, hot at the corners of her eyes. Luca’s smell. She tucked the sachet into her pocket.
Siena flopped down on the bed with a sigh. “We’ve got at least ten more rooms to go. Whatever he left for you—it’ll take forever to find it.”
Cass wished she had brought the letter with her. She tried to remember Luca’s exact words. Study it well and you will discover the knowledge it unlocks.
The words rearranged themselves in her head. Unlock...study... Suddenly inspired, Cass blurted out: “The study.” When she was a child, the thick wooden door had always remained closed, the voices behind it never rising above a whisper. Perhaps the da Peragas had their own share of secrets. She was already moving back into the hall. “We’re looking for a key, I’m almost positive. And it’s in the study.”
Fiona: Cass goes on to find the key as written in the published book. But I really, really liked the riddle part! First, Luca is all kinds of clever with the wording of the note and in hiding it in the gift box where the soldiers who came to search the villa wouldn’t find it. Then Cass mulls it over while she is doing other things and the answer slowly comes to her in pieces, much like we solve riddles in real life. The problem here is the word slowly. My Penguin editor expressed concern about how long it took to get to Florence where the meat of the plot takes place and she was 100% right. As much as it killed me to cut several pages and again let Cass get crucial information handed to her by a boy, the more important element here was to get the story moving more quickly.
Go Cass! I love seeing her smarts come through for her there. And of course it's always nice to get to see more of the characters we love, so thank you, Fiona, for sharing that with us!
Fiona Paul is a writer and registered nurse from St. Louis, MO.
Fiona's Blog: fionapaulbooks.blogspot.com
Fiona's Twitter: twitter.com/fionawritesYA
Fiona's FB: www.facebook.com/fionapaulbooks
Belladonna on GR: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18042405-belladonna
Did you miss yesterday's stop on the tour? Check out the author interview over at Fantasy's Ink. Tomorrow, make sure to stop by Emilie's Book World for an excerpted teaser scene!