Cross My Heart
By Sasha Gould
Expected publication March 13, 2012
by Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Laura della Scala has lived the last few years in a convent, where her
father forcibly entered her when she was young. Her life is about to change in
ways she never could have imagined. When she discovers her older sister,
Beatrice, has died, she is devastated. But instead of being able to mourn, she
is told she will marry Beatrice’s intended – a repugnant old merchant named
Vincenzo. Desperate for a way out of this fate, Laura stumbles upon the Segreta
– a society of Venetian women that specialize in secrets. For a price, they may
be able to help her.
I can’t remember if I picked this one up or if a publisher gave it to me but
either way, I was happy to delve into it. I’m a big fan of historical fiction,
but I don’t read a whole lot nowadays that doesn’t take place in America. Gould
does a decent job of evoking the Venice of the 16th century – what’s
proper behavior, courtly intrigue, vengeance, secrets, suspicion, and the high
value of esteem. It’s interesting because I don’t really think the writing is
spectacular, but it had me hooked all the same. I think the atmosphere that
Gould has created is the most compelling aspect of the novel – who doesn’t want
to read about deadly secrets, intrigue and, yes, forbidden romance? Laura is, at times, an annoying character,
but it’s not hard to believe that a typical Venetian convent girl in the 16th
century would probably have annoyed the hell out of me. I like that she is
clueless because of her upbringing and not just because she’s a silly little
girl. I also like how she eventually finds her voice and stands up for herself
– even to her father, something that was definitely not okay at the time. The
romance is a bit too convenient – as in, we only met twice but I know that I
totally love you forever – so that part of the book fell a little flat. I’m
glad to say that I didn’t have the mystery solved before the end of the book
and I think the layers of deception and treachery will keep readers engaged.
This is not a perfect book but it’s a pretty good one.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader’s copy.