3 out of 4 stars
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The Girl Who Knew Da Vinci follows art historian Angela Renatus and art theft detective Alex Caine as they embark on an international journey to discover the mysteries behind a rumored lost Da Vinci painting. Lately Angela has been having the strangest dreams, ones all about Leonardo Da Vinci and the subjects of his supposed lost painting: his friend Fioretta Gorini and her secret lover Giuliano Medici. But they aren’t just normal dreams, they leave Angela completely shaken, especially when she begins to realize they may not be dreams, but Fioretta’s memories. And when Alex, investigating the painting for a client, discovers that Angela’s visions may hold secrets to finding this painting, he seeks her out. Soon their professional relationship turns romantic and Angela begins having visions of Sophia and Gerhard, the last couple to discover the lost painting, and Alex and Angela start to come to terms with the fact that Angela’s visions aren’t just visions; her and Alex are actually reincarnations of both significant couples. As the stakes get higher, the new partnership realizes that perhaps all of this was meant to be from the very beginning and they that in order to survive in the present, they have to listen to the past.
Right from the very beginning, I was totally enamored with the idea of a lost Da Vinci painting and this team up of an art historian and a detective trying to find it. I found the beginning of the novel a bit cumbersome, just because there were a lot of characters being mentioned in the present day and in Angela’s dreams of the past, but once their roles started to click, I became invested in the characters. I’m normally not a huge fan of paranormal novels, but this was done so well and was such an important part of the plot that I found myself loving every aspect of Angela’s visions and the discovery of their reincarnated selves.
While the story truly follows Alex and Angela, my absolute favorite character was actually Fioretta, the first woman Angela has visions of. She was incredibly feisty and bold, especially for a woman in that time period, and I found myself aggressively rooting for her. While Fioretta and Giuliano and then Sophia and Gerhard were meant to be characters that only existed in the visions Angela had, the author did a great job of flushing out their motivations and history. The visions were important for the plot, but they also were enjoyable to read because I appreciated the detail that went into forming those characters as well.
But as much as I adored the other women Angela embodied, I occasionally struggled with Angela’s character. Because so much of the plot came from her visions, that meant she was often incapacitated in order to further the storyline. And while that was understandable from a storytelling perspective, it made it hard for me to care about her character. For an incredibly brilliant and savvy woman, she was often the damsel in distress because her contribution to the investigation mostly involved her being passed out. She was constantly weak and Alex always had to be the hero and I ultimately wished that such an intelligent female character didn’t have to be the victim so often throughout the book.
For the most part, I was intrigued by the villain, Angela’s former boss who will go to any lengths to find the painting before Alex does. What he lacked in motivation (all he was really interested in was the money), he made up for in sheer villainy, which left me on the edge of my seat, wondering what extreme lengths he’d go to next. I was made thoroughly uncomfortable by how often it was brought up that he wanted to rape Angela, but perhaps that was purposeful and the author meant it to drive home how awful Scordato really was. Regardless, he and his henchmen made for an excellent foil to Alex and Angela and their quest to do the right thing.
The major detraction for me, and a big reason I couldn’t give this book four stars, was surprisingly the romance. I’m normally a romance fan, but I had a hard time with Angela and Alex’s. I felt like it happened really suddenly and once their relationship turned physical, I felt like a significant portion of the book focused on their sex scenes, nearly to the point where I felt like it was gratuitous rather than doing anything to further the plot. In a more slow moving book, I maybe wouldn’t have minded as much, but in one that was relatively short and a quick read, I would have rather there been less sex and more time spent exploring the emotional side of their relationship.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars and recommend it to readers who are fans of novels that combine romance with mystery and historical intrigue. It was an absolute page turner, but some character decisions by the author regarding Angela and her relationship with Alex left me just unsatisfied enough that I couldn’t give it four out of four stars.
The Girl Who Knew Da Vinci
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