Author: Sasha Gould
Series: This is book 1 in an unnamed series
Genre: Historical Fiction YA
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Release date: March 13, 2012
Challenge: YA Historical Fiction Challenge
Summary: 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 fiancé, 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.
Friends, historical fiction used to be my favorite, go-to genre. I read tons of Margaret George and lots of historical mysteries. As a history minor in college, I always had a soft spot for it. But when I started reading YA, I became a slave to the TREND. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Vampires. Dystopians. Mermaids. I cannot resist their pull, and so, somehow overnight it seems, historical fiction has fallen by the wayside, and YA historical fiction in particular always manages to fall through the cracks. THANKFULLY, Sasha Gould has written a solid, if not perfect, historical fiction YA in CROSS MY HEART.
So, quick background: Venice. Late 1500s. There is scandal. There is DRAMZ. Betrayal, lies, murder, cheating, etc. etc. If I had to choose an environment RIPE for some good storytelling, historical Italy would probably be near the top of my list. It’s basically thousands of years of The Sopranos meets the Vatican. I KNOW, it’s somehow both weird and a cliche at the same time. But seriously. So when, in CROSS MY HEART, the main character Laura’s sister, Beatrice, turns up dead in one of the canals while Laura is living in a convent, it’s pretty much a given that she didn’t trip on her dress and fall in by accident. Unless by “tripped” you mean “pushed forcibly,” and by “accident” you mean ” totally on purpose with malicious intent.” Then yes to those things.
CROSS MY HEART by Sasha Gould tells the story of Laura, who is released from the convent by her father to basically take her sister’s place both in marriage to NASTY old man and in her father’s schemes to get their family back in the good graces of the Doge, ruler of Venice. I liked this whole aspect. A lot. I wish that there had been some more with her father. No, you know what it is? I wish that her father had been a little more fleshed out. He is basically there only to be a social grasper who is essentially broke and using his daughters to advance him politically and socially and to get him some money. This probably would have bothered me more if Laura’s father was more prominent to the story.
Laura herself was a great character. She was the perfect amounts of clever and…not so clever. She spends a good deal of CROSS MY HEART jumping to conclusions about her sister’s death and the involvement of The Segreta, this secret organization of powerful women who are basically…well, MORE MOB, except they don’t kill people, as far as I can tell. You could tell that Laura was glad to be out of the convent but still unsure of how to behave around people. But I liked her. She was strong and brave and also a little silly and dumb. I mean that it a good way, because real people are that way, too.
Perhaps my only gripe with Laura was, unfortunately, the romance with Giacomo. When they were together, it was nice, although not super swoony. No my issue was INSTA-LOVE related. Guys, this was somehow more bothersome to me because I WANTED Laura and Giacomo to be together. I liked them. But Laura was talking about how she was in love with him after they had met only four times, and briefly. URGH. AND THEN! Giacomo basically says that he was in love with Laura before they even MET (HELLO!) because he knew her sister before she died, and the two of them always talked about Laura. It isn’t as creepy as it sounds, but still…weird, yes?
CROSS MY HEART is one of those books for me that sacrificed a little bit in the way of smooth storytelling for fast pace. I read it quickly, but things happened a little choppily sometimes, or without preamble. I enjoyed it, though, and when I found out just recently that Sasha Gould is writing a sequel, I was both happy and surprised. Happy because I’d totally read more about Laura, and the Segreta especially. (Seriously. Those ladies are COOL. I WANT to know more about them.) Surprised because if there had only been CROSS MY HEART, that would have been enough, too.
But I’ll tell you this: I LOVE a book about Venice friends. Historical fictions set in Venice even more. The whole atmosphere there was incredible. And the city itself is so unique that I’ve never read a book set there–good or bad–and not loved the setting.
CROSS MY HEART by Sasha Gould was fast-paced and most certainly very good. Not perfect, but good. I TOTALLY didn’t see the biggest twist coming, although I’m super gullible, so some of you might spot it. Laura was a great character who wasn’t without imperfections, and the romance was good, too. Not overly tingly, but nice, and it would have been even BETTER if the insta-love hadn’t reared its head. I’ll be reading the second book in this series, friends. I haven’t read many historical fictions so far this year, but CROSS MY HEART was a good one.