Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

by Sasha Gould
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
2012 Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Ebook Edition; 262 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-74150-7
ASIN: B00570A1IY (Delacorte Books for Young Readers - Sold by Random House Digital, Inc.)
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Venice, 1585. When 16-year-old Laura della Scala learns that her older sister, Beatrice, has drowned, she is given no time to grieve. Instead, Laura's father removes her from the convent where he forcibly sent her years earlier and orders her to marry Beatrice's fiancĂ©, a repulsive old merchant named Vincenzo. Panicked, Laura betrays a powerful man to earn her way into the Segreta, a shadowy society of women who deal in only one currency—secrets. The Segreta seems like the answer to Laura's prayers. The day after she joins their ranks, Vincenzo is publicly humiliated and conveniently exiled. Soon, however, Laura begins to suspect that her sister's death was not a tragic accident but a cold-blooded murder—one that might involve the Segreta and the women she has come to trust.

My Thoughts
Cross My Heart is a very interesting mix a historical fiction and mystery and I thought it was very well done for the reading audience for which it was intended.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and as an adult, while I may prefer something quite convoluted and intense, I know my 12-year-old son is not quite ready for the kinds of historical fiction that I prefer, simply because he does not have my education or knowledge base as of yet.  Therefore, I felt that Ms. Gould achieved the perfect balance between historical fact and mystery that was quite enjoyable and yet was not too far above the intended reading audience.

The descriptions of Venice during this time period were very well done, and the atmosphere of Venice came through the pages quite well.  I took a lot of pleasure in immersing myself in the time period and in her descriptions of the clothing and behaviours of the people and even in what they ate.  The author is very knowledgeable and it is very evident that meticulous research went into her writing.  The story is considered to be suspense, and the atmosphere definitely does justice to that as the tension slowly builds throughout the novel.  There were moments when I flipped through the scenes quite rapidly as I could feel the tension building and wanted to find out what was going to happen, yet there were also moments that seemed to slip away and the wonderful suspense just abated, which was too bad.  And I did figure out quite early the mystery to the story although that didn't take away too much from my reading pleasure.

I enjoyed many of the characters in this novel, but unfortunately, the main character Laura was not one of my favourites.  Laura had just been released from the convent after the mysterious death of her sister and was supposed to marry her sister's fiance in order to win back some of the glory her family had lost due to her father's poor political decisions in the past.  A wizened, frightening man, Laura did not wish to marry this man, and as a last resort, Laura was summoned to a secret society who would be willing to help for a price; Laura had to reveal a dangerous secret to them, a secret that could affect the life of someone else.  Desperate, Laura became entangled in the world of the Segreta, and as their web became tighter and tighter, Laura had to figure out how to become untangled from their snares.  For an adult novel, I wouldn't have felt like there was enough use of the Segreta as the potential for disaster the is unlimited, but from the point of view of a young adult novel, it felt just fine.  My largest issue I had with the novel didn't stem from the plot or the atmosphere and I thought the novel was beautifully written, but I had a difficult time connecting with Laura and thought she was just a ho-hum personality.  I also didn't feel like her romance had a lot of depth to it; I mean the painter and Laura met three times before they declared themselves in love - this is something that I never bought into and still don't as far as romances go and it kind of turned me off.

Cross My Heart is a beautifully written atmospheric historical novel that is perfect for the 12 and up age group in that the material is easy to grasp and not written too far above their age level.  I did have a difficult time connecting with the main character Laura and thought her romance with the painter was somewhat far-fetched, but I have never bought into the love at first-sight business anyways.  Overall, I think this a fun book that many people will enjoy, and I believe readers will enjoy the many descriptions of Venice itself.  For me, I am looking forward to reading Heart of Glass when if releases later this year.