Cross My Heart

( 7 )

Overview

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 ...

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Cross My Heart

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Laura della Scala becomes dangerously embroiled in the secrets, scandal and political intrigue of 16th-century upper-class Venice as she seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding her sister's unexpected death. Summoned home from the convent where she's lived for five years, Laura discovers her beloved sister Beatrice has drowned, and her father expects her to marry Beatrice's wealthy fiancé, Vincenzo. Still grieving for Beatrice, Laura's pulled into the gossip and rivalries of Venetian society, in which everyone is "part of a scheme or a plot." When Laura realizes her future husband is elderly, cruel and lecherous, she feels powerless to disobey her father. Desperate to avoid marrying Vincenzo, Laura betrays a confidence to join the Segreta, a powerful secret society of masked women who arrange for Vincenzo's disgrace and exile. Saved from the marriage, Laura feels indebted to the Segreta, but she also suspects they may be involved in her sister's death. As she searches for Beatrice's murderer, Laura falls in love with a penniless young artist with his own volatile secret guaranteed to rock Venetian society. Told in the first person, present tense from Laura's perspective and set amid glittering ballrooms and dark canals, this richly atmospheric thriller stars a bold heroine who tackles murder, betrayal and revenge with contemporary gusto. Enticing, exciting fare. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2012:
"Told in the first person, present tense from Laura’s perspective and set amid glittering ballrooms and dark canals, this richly atmospheric thriller stars a bold heroine who tackles murder, betrayal and revenge with contemporary gusto. Enticing, exciting fare."

VOYA, February 2012:
"Determined to unravel the truth behind her sister’s untimely death, the beautiful young heroine quickly discovers danger and intrigue involving arranged marriages, family feuds, political power plays, clandestine meetings, and a secret society of powerful women...The author is adept at portraying action scenes, and the story moves rapidly."

VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
Feisty sixteen-year-old Laura della Scala, isolated in a convent where her self-centered father callously sent her when she was twelve years old, is thrilled when informed that she is going home. Upon arrival, a heartbroken Laura discovers that the mysterious drowning of her beloved sister, Beatrice, is the reason she was summoned. Determined to unravel the truth behind her sister's untimely death, the beautiful young heroine quickly discovers danger and intrigue involving arranged marriages, family feuds, political power plays, clandestine meetings, and a secret society of powerful women. To complicate matters, she finds herself attracted to a handsome young man who may be a gifted artist but whose questionable social status prevents the prospect of a romantic relationship. Set in Venice during the height of the Italian Renaissance, this work of historical fiction suffers from abundant anachronisms, stereotypical characters, and a predicable plot. Laura's narration seems far too contemporary to be authentic for the time period. (In sixteenth-century Italy, would a wealthy young female have so much freedom, effortlessly master complicated dance steps, or independently slip out of a multilayered evening gown?) The author is adept at portraying action scenes, and the story moves rapidly. The revelation of various secrets and schemes may be easily foreseen by most readers; however, validation in discovering that accurate deductions were made can prove to be gratifying. Reviewer: Lynne Farrell Stover
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Born into an aristocratic family in 16th-century Venice, 16-year-old Laura della Scala should have been living a glamorous life of balls and dinner parties. Instead, she was sold to a convent. As the second daughter in a family on the brink of financial ruin, she was sent away so that her older sister, Beatrice, could have a large enough dowry to marry well. Laura despairs at being away from her sister, so when she unexpectedly gets sent back home, she is elated. She is devastated to learn the reason: her sister has drowned, and her money-hungry father is forcing her to marry Beatrice's wealthy fiancé. Laura meets Vincenzo, who is more than 30 years her senior and an unpleasant man who leers at her youthful beauty. She is desperate to save herself when she is approached by a secret society called the Segreta, that offers a way out of the marriage in exchange for Venice's most powerful currency: a secret. Laura realizes that she does possess just such information, but she is unsure if she can trust this group. To further complicate her life, she meets a lowly painter with whom she forms an instant bond, yet she knows that they could never be together due to their class differences. All the while, Laura suspects that Beatrice's drowning was no accident. Secrets, mysteries, and twists and turns appear throughout this riveting story. It will appeal to mature readers who are willing and able keep up with the many revelations. Fans of Tracy Chevalier's The Girl with the Pearl Earring (Plume, 1999) will enjoy it.—Tara Kehoe, Plainsboro Public Library, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385741507
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 858,644
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

SASHA GOULD lived in Venice until she was nine years old. She later studied fashion in London. Her favorite things are opera, ballet, and romantic movies. She now lives in the Lake District of England with her cat, Tosca, and writes about Venice, the beautiful and mysterious city she knows and loves.

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Read an Excerpt

1

None of us is known by our real name in here. Almost as soon as you arrive, you're christened all over again: La Grossa, La Cadavara, La Lunatica, La Trista, La Puera, La Pungenta—Fat, Deathly, Mad, Sad, Fearful and Stinky. Inside the walls of the convent, sneering adjectives are transformed, sooner or later, into names.

They call me La Muta—The Silent One. It isn't that I don't have plenty to say, it's just that most of the time I keep things to myself. Daughters learn this early. Second daughters sooner.

The Abbess used to tell me that she could see something feral in my soul—that there was something of the animal about me. A dog, perhaps, or maybe a rat. The creatures that slip into the convent at night in search of chicken bones and rotting food. It's something that she's determined to stamp out.

My life, which once belonged to my father, now belongs to her. I am awake before two for prayers and then again at five, to go and sing perfect harmonies as the Venetian sun rises behind the grilles and the bars, dancing on the marble and gold in the chapel.

The Abbess controls all the correspondence coming in and going out. Sometimes she withholds the letters from my sister Beatrice and I can't read them. Tell me your news, I beg Beatrice in writing. When will you marry Vincenzo? Does he make you happy? None of my questions can be asked without undergoing the prudish scrutiny of the Abbess. To a suspicious mind, alert to all possible evils, any of my words could somehow appear saturated with sin.

"I see everything," the Abbess tells me. "I know what is in your mind."

I used to believe her. I used to think that perhaps she really did have the power to see my secret longings leaking like olive oil from the press. Certainly, I've seen her holding our letters out in front of her by the corners as if there's a danger they'll smear her cowl or habit. As if they're greasy, grubby things.

Some of Beatrice's letters reach me. I hide them under a wooden floorboard with my own ring and with a silk-ribboned lock of her hair. Late at night, when Annalena is snoring and shifting under her sheets, I take my sister's folded ink-filled paper treasures and I read them again and again. Each of her letters carries something from the outside world, smuggling it inside these walls that separate us. Through nothing but an accident of birth, she remains free, while I languish.

Annalena is my conversa, my lay sister, my servant nun, and she teases me for smiling in my sleep. She says my eyelids flutter and she wonders what worlds I'm traveling to in the dark.

In my dreams I'm a child again. Beatrice and I are running down to the Lido for treats from Paulina's grandmother. Paulina—my friend without a father. It always saddened me that her papa had died when he was young, but now I wonder whether she might actually have been blessed, living as she did, alone with her mother. Her grandmama shrouded her body in black clothes, and the skin on her face was hard and grooved like a walnut.

"The little princesses," she would call us. And she would lisp, "Shhh!" and say "Don't tell your papa you were here." And as she looked at our faces she would gasp, "Oh, what husbands you'll have! What riches! How many men will long to touch your skin and to comb your hair with their fingers!"

She had a bakery, and in the summer, when she couldn't bear the heat of the ovens, she would let them cool down and make nothing but meringues. She was famous for them. The recipe was known only to her, given to her by her own mother and her mother's mother before her. Sospiri di monaca. That's what they were called. "The sighs of nuns." Many recipes share this poignant name, but none have ever tasted like the meringues of Paulina's grandmother.

On my seventh birthday, Paulina had taken me by the hand and we had run sweating and serious to her grandmother's bakery, where we both stood silently, looking at the wizened woman. "Grandmama," she had said eventually. "Laura's seven years old today."

"E vero?"

"Yes, it's true."

With fingers bent and twisted and brown, like twigs on an old tree, she put seven "sighs" in a little basket and handed it to me. I took a meringue and I bit into it. Brittle at first, and then soft, slowly giving up its flavors of golden sugar from the East, roasted hazelnuts from the South and the zest of Tuscan lemons. I closed my eyes. The sigh that came out of my mouth was hot on my hand.

"Oh, sweetheart!" The old woman grinned. "May all the pleasures in your life be so rapturous and so easy to make."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    Awesome

    This is a great book I can't wait to get the second!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2013

    Wonderful

    Best book I have read in a very long time. Breathtaking history, mystery, romance and intrigue that is guranteed to make your heart beat fast, and grab ahold of you tightly. It will not let you go until you turnthe last page. And then you will reach for the sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    Cmcncn

    Book 2 is out if u guys r still looking

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  • Posted May 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    It was a book I coveted because of the cover, as well as the pro

    It was a book I coveted because of the cover, as well as the promising synopsis that I read. The first few words in the synopsis are, “High society, murder, romance, and intrigue…” I mean, how can you not want to read Cross My Heart? Gould caught my interest in the first few pages. She killed someone right away! It set the tone for the book, promising to showcase both the beautiful and ugly side of the Italian city.

    Laura della Scala entered the convent at an early age, free of any responsibilities. Unfortunately, those responsibilities belong to her sister. Laura’s father never gave her the time of day, only reminding her that she was the burden on the family. But that all changes and Laura must leave the protection and shelter of the convent. Laura’s sister dies abruptly. Now, Laura must marry for the sake of the family name as well as to salvage her father’s reputation. But like the mysterious rivers of Venice, the tranquility of her sister’s passing is ruined by the ugliness of a mystery – one only Laura must solve.

    I had a love and hate relationship with Laura. Maybe hate is a strong word for this instance, but there were definitely times where I did not care for her at all. Understandably, growing up within the confines of a convent, Laura has a sense of ignorance, but maybe that was the point. It would have been unrealistic for Laura to know everything, to have this sixth sense that would have done her wonders. Laura needed to open her eyes and be aware. Wasn’t that the point of Laura’s journey, despite any shortcomings?

    Set in the late 1500s, Venice was a great setting for Cross My Heart. From the architecture and art, Gould brought light to the emotions that come from the Renaissance era. Add in the natural feel of the rivers and the streets, it was a perfect backdrop for the mystery of it all. Gould included artisan guilds, religious communities, as well as political intrigue. It added to the perfect world for Laura and the others. The mask on the cover is a perfect symbol for Venice, the story, and the characters – beautiful and wealthy on the outside, dark and intriguing on the inside. I thought it was a good play of symbolism, and it definitely carried throughout.

    Gould’s style of writing was natural, bringing an ease to the flow and pacing of the story. The dialogue between the characters seemed realistic, at least from what I can imagine would take place in late 1500s Venice. I was a little annoyed with a few of the characters, but I’m pretty sure that’s how they were created. The story was filled with drama, and I really enjoyed it. From the masquerades and mystery of it all, it was thought provoking and the love story was romantic.

    I suggest that you check out Sasha Gould’s Cross My Heart. Who knows what you’ll unmask next.

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  • Posted March 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould is a historical fiction/mystery an

    Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould is a historical fiction/mystery and is perfectly styled towards its target audience of ages twelve and up. While I enjoy historical fictions with a lot of historical details, I am not convinced that a younger audience is always looking for the same thing in that area, so I find this nicely balance. The setting is historical, but Sasha Gould has done a wonderful job in creating characters and a suspense story line that are more in-depth than the historical piece itself. She manages to keep a nice writing style while keeping it MG/YA. I am always happy to read a book for a younger reading audience that isn’t trying to eek out good reviews by writing for their adult reviewers.

    The beginning of the story lays the groundwork for the protagonist, Laura, where the reader gets familiarized with her circumstance of living in the convent, her family relations, and then the tragedy that changes everything. From that point on, the suspense builds and romance buds.

    This is a mystery, so the suspense element is built better than the romance piece, but I would have liked to have seen a few more real and intimate moments between Laura and her love interest before love was declared. I did love the suspense portion, it is done in a way that leaves the reader unsure of which characters can be trusted until the end, and plenty of unexpected turns that keep the pages turning, which is why I enjoyed this read as much as I did.

    I found a lot of pleasure reading about all of the interesting characters that are involved here. One minute I was sure that the Segreta, the secret society, was responsible for the death of Laura’s sister, and the next minute I thought that it could be Laura’s love interest, who is full of his own secrets. I am not going to give anything away here, so if you enjoy MG/YA suspense, give it a try. I hope that you enjoy it.

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Secrets never prosper

    The cover for Cross My Heart may not look all that snazzy, and I understand if you choose to pass it by for a more colorful selection with a lusty boy or artsy pizazz. Pardon me as I grab your elbows, dear Readers, and pull you back because YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! Behind this demure cover is a rich and luscious story that will seduce you like a tall, dark Italian lover and make you revel in the darkness.

    THE GOOD BITS
    {Twisty mystery.} Mio Dio, I thought France was the city of love, but clearly I forgot how passionate Italy can be! After all, it is the home of Romeo and Juliet - and Cross My Heart definitely contains all the familiar signs of heartaches, heartbreaks, betrayals, and vendettas. No one can be trusted with a secret, and it was nail-biting to watch Laura try to figure out friend from foe.

    {Laura + Giacomo!} Can there be another delightful pairing that makes my heart swoon? I haven't felt this smitten since Anna and Etienne - and from the very second that Laura stumbles upon Giacomo, it was instant love at first sight for this reader. Oh, I am a fool for the artistic of male specimen - and Giacomo was absolute perfection.

    {Secret societies.} I love all this cloak-and-dagger nonsense like nobody's business - and a secret society run by women even more so! While I prefer women use their powers for good, I can understand how the Segreta had to be more cutthroat in an Italy that thrive on vengeance. Men may want to believe that all the power rests in their hands, but I love watching women exercise some of their own ingenuity to nudge the world in a different direction.

    THE BAD BITS
    {Left some storylines unfinished.} Certain plot points never went anywhere. Laura gives up a secret that could definitely destroy the Doge of Venice, but the Segreta does not do anything with it. One of Laura's childhood friend has made a love match with the Doge's son, but panicks when a new Segreta recruit reveals that affects his stature as heir. However, this issue does not get mentioned again. I only hope that these unfinished bits and pieces means that there may be a follow-up, although I am half-afraid that it will not bode well for Laura and Giacomo.

    THE OVERALL
    If Cross My Heart gets a sequel, it may want to get a bouncer because someone will need to reign in my excitement as I try to push myself to the front of the line. I usually don't get this excited for a historical novel, but Sasha Gould has created such a vivid and provocative Italy that brings to mind all the greatness of Romeo & Juliet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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