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Secrets of the Tower Paperback – March 19, 2015
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The world’s most iconic building… and the woman that history forgot.Pisa, 1999
Sam Campbell sits by her husband’s hospital bed. Far from home and her children, she must care for Michael who is recovering from a stroke. A man she loves deeply. A man who has been unfaithful to her.
Alone and in need of distraction, Sam decides to pick up Michael’s research into the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Immersing herself in the ancient city, she begins to piece together the mystery behind the creation of the Tower, and discovers the woman that history forgot…Pisa, 1171
Berta di Bernardo, the wife of a rich merchant, sits in her chamber, dressing for a dinner party. A gathering that will change the course of her life and that of a young master mason, Gerardo, forever.
A strong, intelligent woman, Berta’s passion for architecture also draws her closer to Gerardo. As she embarks on a love affair, her maid Aurelia also becomes spellbound by the same man. Yet for Berta, her heart’s desire is to see the Tower built, and her determination knows no bounds…
A richly drawn and absorbing novel of passion and power, love and redemption that will captivate fans of Victoria Hislop, Tracy Chevalier and Kate Furnivall.
‘Perfect historical fiction mixed with present day. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book. It had just the right mix of emotions, love scenes, history, and atmosphere. I gobbled it up over the afternoon and night. Definitely want to read this author again. Debbie Rix found a unique part of history to explore, and it was just right.’ Nik Book Lover Blog
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- Publisher : Bookouture; 1st edition (March 19, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 380 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1909490830
- ISBN-13 : 978-1909490833
- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.06 x 0.86 x 7.81 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,234,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The story itself was captivating. Starting from the present-day question of who built the Tower of Pisa, the book moves back and forth in time to show us both the modern research and what actually happened in the past. Of course, most of it is fiction, but still the author put in an amazing amount of research to make all the historical bits feel realistic. And it really pays off. If I didn't know that the story of Berta and Gerardo probably didn't go quite like it is told in this book, I may just have believed it completely. I loved getting to know the characters, especially Berta. I adore strong, independent women who challenge their predetermined role in society, so Berta, with her desire to become a patron of the arts and leave her mark on the city of Pisa, was right up my alley.
There were a few things that didn't quite work for me, mainly the love triangle. Even though this one was constructed pretty well, it just bothered me that it existed at all, and just made me really angry with the characters involved, especially Gerardo. A few times, I wanted to shake him and shout "Just make up your mind already!". I also had a bit of trouble connecting with Aurelia, as I failed to see her role in the story for most of the book, except as a rival in love for Berta. I'm not sure if she could have had any other role though, so maybe my dislike for her was only due to the fact that she made the love triangle a reality. Mmm, I still have to make up my mind on that one. I also liked the way snippets of the present were inserted to show us the research that Sam carries out in modern Pisa to unearth the mystery of the Tower. I was definitely more invested in the story of Berta than in that of Sam though, but that may just be because I had more time to get myself attached to the character, since the past is given considerably more space than the present.
Overall, this is a really solid read, perfect for those who like a good historical mystery with interesting characters and a beautiful setting. And if you're anything like me, it might prompt you to do a little bit of your own research into the history of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (READ: I googled it) and find out more great trivia about this architectural masterpiece, which can then be used to dazzle your friends with your knowledge at the next dinner party (I know I might just do that).
In Secrets of the Tower, which I received free for a candid review from Bookouture, we are engrossed in the lives of 21st century researchers and documentarians, their loves and struggles, as well as in the times 800 years prior, when the Tower of Pisa was built.
Rix has most of her facts woven well into a book laden with characters and intrigue. We switch narrators from the present-day to the time of Pisa's decision to build their great campanile. The narrator, only 18 and married to a 36-year old man (very old in those days of early death), Berta di Bernardo is swept into the architecture and fulfillment of Gerardo's dream. Though her own maid is given reason to hope for Gerado's love (those Italian lovers!), Berta is too smart to allow a love triangle to end her vision of the finished tower.
As another reader noted in her review, some of the research (on tomatoes for example) is not 100% correct, but most of us won't know that. What we will know is that this book skillfully tells a story of two women, one modern, one ancient. Rix creates drama, suspense, and doubt, in the lives of both women. SECRETS OF THE TOWER is a truly delightful read, offering those of us who admire Italy from afar to take a tour with a sure-handed guide.
Sam’s husband, who is researching Pisa’s wonderful history, has had a stroke. Sam starts to read his notes and learns about Berta. Berta is remarkable, she is strong and fiesty, which in the 12th century was probably uncommon.
Told in two time phases, this tale is captivating and fabulous.
I must admit I am not a fan of historical novels but this one amazed me. What I loved most was Debbie’s distinctive insight into the relationships of the characters and also the historical facts.
Combining romance, drama and tragedy, Secrets of the Tower is a clever and interesting debut novel. I loved the descriptions of the place and was completely absorbed as Pisa was brought to life.
Debbie has given me an interest in this part of the world, and if ever I get to go, I will take this book and re-read on location.
Top reviews from other countries
I enjoy stories written about strong women and was initially intrigued by Berta, a woman who has the courage and education to be both independent and influential, certainly a rarity in her era. In fact, courage emerges as one of the main themes and Rix is not afraid to tackle tragedy either. However, with so many forceful characters, I found some segments to be melodramatic. Also, as the characters are very explicit, yet at times inconsistent, about their feelings, subtext is lacking. This is a positive for those who are after a relaxing read although there is an exhausting level of spite, jealousy and conflict, often resolved too swiftly. In addition, Berta can be irritating at times although I think this is actually because her sense of entitlement is so well portrayed.
Secrets of the Tower is written as a parallel story, which I liked, and most of the time there is a good rhythm between the accounts of Sam and Berta. There is also a sense of omnipresence, with a game of head-hopscotch at times, and I would have preferred to have hovered only over the shoulders of the two, fascinating protagonists, with observations of other characters based on their opinions. Both voices also sound very contemporary and I would have liked a greater sense the period from Berta in addition to her more formal tone because underpinning Secrets of the Tower is clearly an impressive level of insight and research. Although I felt, on occasions, I was reading a tourist guide, press release or footnote rather than a story, I found the details very interesting and Pisa in now on my travel wish list!
The novel has some generic descriptions such as “women sat at the tables; noisy and brightly coloured” and has an overreliance on clichés but there are also many wonderful moments when the Tuscan city comes alive with sensory prose...
Read the full Literary Lightbox review here: www.literarylightbox.com/secrets-of-the-tower-book-review