Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review - - The Secret of the Glass

The Secret of the Glass
By Donna Russo Morin
Published by: Kensington
Release Date: March 1, 2010

In the seventeenth century, Venice was a city of political intrigue, scientific discovery, power struggles between church and state and secrets. One of the most closely guarded secrets was the process of making the exquisite Murano glass - that prized and highly lucrative commodity of Venice that the men in power were determined to protect at all costs. Their fear of losing the secret to other countries was so great that they even went so far as to pass laws requiring all glassmakers to live on the island of Murano and prohibiting them from leaving Venice. It’s in this exciting, and dangerous, period of history that Morin has set her story.

The eldest of three daughters of renowned glassmaker, Zeno Fiolario, Sophia shares her father’s passion, and talent, for glassmaking. But, while Zeno is lauded for his skill, Sophia must ply hers in the middle of the night. The laws of the time prohibit women from engaging in trade and discovery would mean dire consequences for the Fiolario family so Sophia secretly creates masterpieces and her father presents them to the world as his own. Money flows into the family’s coffers, Sophia fulfills her dream of creating the glass and her father successfully hides his worsening health.

Everything is going well until the day a message arrives from a noble family asking for Sophia’s hand in marriage to a bitter, unattractive, middle-aged man who makes it very clear that his only interest in Sophia is the income from the family’s glassworks factory that will be his upon her father’s death. Suddenly, Sophia is thrust into an engagement with a reluctant and unwanted fiancĂ© and must navigate the treacherous waters of the Venice Court where the slightest misstep could reveal the secret she’s been keeping, threatening the loss of her family’s home and business. But, when her worst fear comes true, who will come to her rescue: the handsome young man who makes her heart race, or the fiancĂ© whose touch she can barely tolerate?

This is a story about a young woman struggling to realize her dreams while protecting her family, all within the confines of a restrictive society ruled by fear. Morin’s lush descriptions and captivating story held my attention throughout this book and by introducing real people, such as Galileo, into the story she has brought history to life. I was so deeply immersed in the time and place that I could feel the oppressive heat of the glass furnaces, the sea breeze that surrounds the island of Murano and would not have been at all surprised to open my window and hear the water of the Grand Canal lapping at a dock below or to gaze out that same window and see the campanile in Piazza San Marco where Galileo tested his telescope. There’s history and intrigue around every corner of Morin’s book with a healthy dose of romance giving it just the right flavor. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author.



  1. PJ, ever since I saw this book on our ARC list, I've wanted to read it. I will definitely be adding this one to my list!

    Great review!

  2. Ooohh... Pretty cover, nice story, and I am from Seattle, where there is glass all over... Dad blows glass bowls too. =) Nothing like Murano I am sure.

    I love historicals, and am a little tired of London society historicals.

    This will be a nice change!

  3. Great review, PJ!! After reading your review and Donna's story on her inspiration for the book, I'll have to pick this one up!

  4. Jessica, how cool that your day blows glass bowls!!

  5. Jessica, I've always been fascinated by glass blowers. How cool it must be to have someone in the family with that skill. Have you ever tried it?

  6. As part of my research I took glass blowing lessons. I wanted to speak to the process from first hand experience (much as I did with fencing lessons for my first book). The results were embarrassingly disastrous. Not expecting the torturous heat of the ovens, I found my mascara literally melting on my lashes, my eyes sticking together. I got so excited when it came time to blow, so tangled in the multi efforts of blowing and turning and shaping, that I put in too much air and the poor blob blew up in the cooling mechanism. My patient teacher and I had a good laugh. It made for wonderful research (and a fun scene toward the middle of the book). It is truly an art to be mastered.

  7. This does sound good, the glass-blowing and intrigue around it is interesting.

  8. I have never tried it. Not sure I could stand the heat. I do love Dad's pieces! It cost him a lot, but he loved giving his pieces away. He would make a lot of candy dishes, then he would make a lot of vases, a couple of large wonky bowls, and even some fish! =)

    We have a glass museum here (in Tacoma). It is very interesting, and rotates exhibits.

    You can buy a boxed lunch and watch from "bleachers" (sp?) as students/teachers/artists blow glass at the bottom of a auditorium/studio!