Book Review: Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

I got offered a chance to review this book, and given that it was historical fiction, I grabbed it.

I still find it difficult to believe that there was a time when I used to find history boring. I couldn’t stand it, while in school. It took Philippa Gregory’s books to make a convert of me.


Two women, centuries apart, bound together by the secrets of one of the most iconic buildings ever created.

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 who 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 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…

The author has done an interesting take on the mysteries surrounding the Leaning Tower of Pisa, while interweaving it with the life of a modern woman in 1999. Pisa in the 12th Century comes alive in Rix’s words. The details of everyday life at that time is beautifully narrated. You are transported into Berta’s life and city and then just as quickly, you are back in modern-day Pisa as Sam goes about with her day, trying hard to find out more about the elusive architect that designed the monument. The one thing in common in both times being the turmoil of human emotions. The emotions that could change the tide of our lives, our motivator in so many ways.

A well researched, well written book about two strong women characters. I especially love reading about strong women in history, especially when the society didn’t allow for it. Berta was one such character. I particularly like the fact that she wasn’t a black and white character. She was admirable, strong and also quite annoying in some ways, or just real, in other words. Sam was a character I could identify with.

If I have a complaint about this book, it would be that some ‘complications’ were resolved a bit too easily.

A 3.5/5 read for me. One that I would recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction.

Thank you Bookouture for the review copy of this book.

About the Author

began her career at the BBC where she was a presenter on BBC’s Breakfast Time before moving to present a variety of factual programmes. She is now a Communications Consultant, specialising in the charitable sector.


Secrets of the Tower is inspired by Debbie’s own story: her husband, a television producer, had a stroke whilst making a film for Channel 4 about the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 1990s. The novel also reflects her love of architecture – an interest which is hard-wired into her DNA as both her parents were architects. Many of the historical characters featured are based on real people.

This book is available from Amazon (UK).