“Remember this” Jaques smiled, “the primary pleasure in life is to do what’s forbidden.”
The Secrets of Casanova by Greg Michaels is a very fictionalized account of Jacques Casanova and his adventures after escaping prison. Michaels holds a BA in anthropology from the university of Texas in Austin. He has also worked as an actor in Hollywood in over forty roles, including the role of Scott Garrett in The X-Files.
Never judge a book by its cover…or title. When I first was offered this book for review, I thought oh, no. Visions of Valentino’s The Sheik and Fabio covered romance novels came to mind. I was hesitant, but the publisher explained that, yes, it was historical fiction and not a romance novel set in a historic time period. I agreed and readied my notebook for fact checking.
I started the book was positively surprised. The characters all came to life in the way that makes the reader feel like an observer in the story and not an outsider looking in. Jacques Casanova seemed much more like Rousseau in thought and James Bond in action. He was a thinker and associated with great thinkers of the times like Voltaire. He name drops others like Locke and carries around a book of quotations from Horace to impress the ladies.
The James Bond part is more the smooth talker, the living by his wits and tricks, and the international setting. He escaped prison in Venice and went on the run to Paris where the story starts. Casanova may have been lucky at love, but he was not lucky at gambling. In fact, gambling debts in Paris and his exile from Venice guide his hand to accept the quest offered by the Vicomte. The story moves through Europe and the Mid East as Jacque his servant Petrine and his brother’s wife Dominique (he is Casanova after all) enter on a quest. The quest involves the secret of the Knights Templar which is believed to be a treasure…and an impressive and unexpected treasure it will be if it can be found.
The fast action, historical input, and Catholic Church’s Templar Knights mythology all combine to make this a great story. Jacques Casanova may have his way with the ladies, but this is far from a romance novel. This is 18th Century action adventure at its best. Add in a bit of philosophy, mathematics, and a mystery to complete the mix and it is a well thought out novel that will keep you at the edge of your seat. Character development is excellent to the point that the characters seem real in the actions and words. The time period creates an interesting setting that is distant, but fully believable and understandable to most readers. I highly recommend The Secrets of Casanova to all lovers of adventure, the Romantic Period, The Age of Enlightenment, and the rise of science and reason. As far as my fact checking went, I was too involved in the story to take many notes, and Michaels makes clear that this is a complete work of fiction in his afterword. So enjoy the story.
Joseph Spuckler gives The Secrets of Casanova 4 1/2 Stars