The Rossetti Letter

The Rossetti Letter

In this captivating debut, Christi Phillips blends fact and fiction, suspense and sensuality into a vibrant, richly imagined novel in which a modern historian uncovers a courtesan's secret role in a shocking conspiracy of seventeenth-century Venice.

Claire Donovan always dreamed of visiting Venice, though not as a chaperone for a surly teenager. But she can't pass up this chance to complete her Ph.D. thesis on Alessandra Rossetti, a mysterious courtesan who wrote a secret letter to the Venetian Council warning of a Spanish plot to overthrow the Venetian Republic in 1618. Claire views Alessandra as a heroine and harbors a secret hope that her findings will elevate Alessandra to a more prominent place in history. But an arrogant Cambridge professor is set to present a paper at a prestigious Venetian university denouncing Alessandra as a co-conspirator -- a move that could destroy Claire's paper and career.

As Claire races to locate the documents that will reveal the courtesan's true motives, Alessandra's story comes to life with all the sensuality, political treachery, and violence of seventeenth-century Venice. Claire also falls under the city's spell. She is courted by a handsome Italian, matches wits with her academic adversary, bonds with her troubled young charge, and, amid the boundless beauty of Venice, recaptures the joy of living every moment....

Layering wit and warmth into her portraits of two very different yet equally dynamic heroines, Christi Phillips shifts effortlessly between past and present in a remarkable novel that is at once a love story, a mystery, and an intriguing historical drama. Filled with beautifully rendered details of one of the world's oldest and most magical cities, The Rossetti Letter marks Phillips's debut as a writer of extraordinary skill and grace.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 480 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416527381 | 
  • February 2008
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
The Rossetti Letter
by Christi Phillips

In seventeenth-century Venice, Alessandra Rossetti becomes entangled in a dangerous political conspiracy when the Spanish viceroy of Naples and the Spanish ambassador to Venice devise a scheme to bring the Venetian Republic under the dominance of Spain. Historians know that Alessandra wrote a letter to the Venetian Council exposing the plot, but they have never been able to determine how she learned of the conspiracy or what became of the young courtesan after the treachery was revealed.
Claire Donovan, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, is researching Alessandra's role in the Spanish Conspiracy of 1618. Divorced and broke, Claire has doubts that she will ever make it to Venice to complete her thesis. When she finds out that an academic rival is researching the Spanish Conspiracy for a book, she reluctantly agrees to her best friend's suggestion that she chaperone a wealthy, spoiled teenage girl on an Italian vacation. Claire is soon on her way to Venice, where Cambridge University professor Andrew Kent is lecturing on the conspiracy at an academic conference. If Kent's theory that Alessandra was a co-conspirator of the Spanish proves right, it will destroy Claire's work -- jeopardizing not just her dissertation but her future in academia.
The Rossetti Letter weaves together Claire's and Alessandra's stories see more

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About the Author

Christi Phillips
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Christi Phillips

Christi Phillips is the author of The Rossetti Letter, which has been translated into six foreign languages. Her research combines a few of her favorite things: old books, libraries, and travel. When she’s not rummaging around in an archive or exploring the historic heart of a European city, she lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is at work on her next novel, set in France. Visit