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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Eleonora and Joseph by Julieta Almeida Rodrigues is a passionate novel of love and revolution. In 1799, Eleonora Pimentel stands before the High Court of the Kingdom of Naples. She has been accused of treason. During her trial, Eleonora pens a memoir, giving details of the life events that led up to her arrest. Eleonora’s life was revolutionary in thought, word, and deed. As a writer, her poetry was renowned and admired by many, including Queen Carolina. As a young woman, Eleonora falls in love with Joseph Correia de Sierra. The young lovers are passionate about their love and about the Enlightenment movement. Sadly, their love is forfeited when Joseph decides to enter the priesthood. Yet, this is not where their tragic love story ends, it is where it begins. Regardless of their separation, Eleonora's and Joseph’s revolutionary lives are forever intertwined. Eleonora lives her life audaciously, while Joseph lives his cautiously, each seeking their own version of liberty.
Julieta Almeida Rodrigues’ Portuguese roots shine brightly in her romantic historical novel, Eleonora and Joseph. The narrative is fiction, yet full of historical accuracy. Rodrigues’ imagery takes the reader into the setting, allowing them to feel and visually be a part of the scene. The novel is written in a biographical style. However, the point of view changes from chapter to chapter, allowing both main characters' thoughts and actions to be shared. The setting changes from the prison cell outside Naples to Thomas Jefferson’s American home of Monticello, two distinctly different locations, yet pivotal to the storytelling. The characteristics of the heroine and hero are vastly individual as well. Eleonora is bold, courageous, and a risk-taker. She is strong and uncompromising in her beliefs. As she stands before her accusers, one states, “You’re only a woman and a reckless one at that.” Eleonora’s character is self-sacrificing, laying her life down for the sake of her cause. On the other hand, Joseph’s character is self-preserving, forsaking love and relationships to protect himself. Living a life of duplicity, Joseph hides the truth of who he is from others, and even at times from himself. The inclusion of Thomas Jefferson’s character creates an interesting historical trinity. Rodrigues weaves events and ideas of the era between these major Enlightenment figures. The narrative depicts contrasts: Monarchy versus Republic, the pursuit of happiness and equal rights during slave ownership, and politics versus diplomacy. As a result of these bipolar ideas, many ironic situations unfold. Julieta Almeida Rodrigues' Eleonora and Joseph touch your heart while stirring your soul to a deeper appreciation of the Age of Enlightenment.