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Passion Blue

Passion Blue

4.0 2
by Victoria Strauss

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Passion Blue is a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2012

When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true


Passion Blue is a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2012

When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs. But does she really know the compass of her heart? The convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises, including a workshop of nuns who are creating paintings of astonishing beauty using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion Blue. As Giulia’s own artistic self is awakened she’s torn: should she follow the young man who promises to help her escape? Or stay and satisfy her growing desire to paint?

This richly imagined novel of a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into the fascinating world of Renaissance Italy where love and faith and art inspire passion—of many different hues.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Giulia’s late mother was the “favorite mistress” of a count in 15th-century Milan, and when Giulia’s noble father also dies, his jealous wife arranges to send the illegitimate 17-year-old girl to a convent. Feeling like she is “falling down a well that has no bottom,” Giulia asks a sorcerer to make her a talisman, hoping it will help her find a husband instead. At the convent, Giulia begins to contemplate her true “heart’s desire” after she is invited to train as a painter under a talented maestra. The maestra tells Giulia she could run the workshop one day if she takes her vows and becomes a nun, but Giulia is falling for a craftsman repairing a fresco. Strauss (Guardian of the Hills) takes great care to illustrate Giulia’s complicated world fully, including the limited choices available to women during the Renaissance, convent life, and painting techniques of the time. Giulia’s path may not surprise readers, but her unusual story is sure to capture their attention. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Nov.)
VOYA - Donna Miller
Being the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and a servant, Guilia Borromeo’s destiny seemed set--following in her mother’s footsteps as a servant in the Borromeo’s magnificent palazzo. Fate intervenes with the death of her father, and Guilia is sent, against her will, by her stepmother to a convent. Although this appears to be aligned with her horoscope, which indicates that she will never marry nor bear children, Guilia yearns for just that. She decides to defy fate, and even God, by purchasing a talisman guaranteed by its creator to give Guilia her “heart’s desire.” As Guilia becomes a part of Maestra Humilita’s artist workshop in the convent (which enables her to use her gifts without outside restraint), she begins to question whether the man she has met will fulfill her dreams or whether painting is truly her passion. During the Italian Renaissance, female artists were not typically accepted, so for Guilia to paint, she must stay in the convent. Maestra’s astonishingly beautiful color--Passion Blue--is sought after by someone who is willing to risk anything to get its secret formula. Guilia becomes a pawn in a scheme that may cost her dearly, but she finally realizes that the talisman has been revealing her true heart’s desire all along, had she only been paying attention. Teens will truly relate to Guilia’ struggle to do what is right and still have her way in a world that presents on-going challenges, danger, betrayal, and finally, enlightenment. Ages 11 to 18.
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
For sixteen years Giulia, the illegitimate daughter of Count Federico di Assulo Borromeo, has enjoyed his protection and privilege but with his death she finds her status in jeopardy. She is to be unceremoniously dropped off at Santa Marta convent but before she leaves she asks a local astrologer for a talisman to help her know her heart's desire. Once behind the convent walls she immediately begins to plan her escape. Her talent as an artist is soon discovered by Maestra Humilita and she is invited to join an elite group of nuns to learn the artist's craft. Here she perfects the mixing of paints and learns the painter's tools and techniques all under the tutelage of a master artist. Giulia relishes this opportunity to hone her craft. Maestra Humilita has created a perfect color she calls Passion Blue and like all artists of the time protects her formula with a cipher. Confusion sets in for Giulia when she meets a handsome young man who comes to the convent to repair frescoes and they soon begin a clandestine affair. Ormanno professes his love for Giulia and Giulia is torn by her desire for marriage and children and her need to be an artist—something she knows will be forbidden to her outside the convent. Much as she loves Ormanno, Giulia is troubled by his obsession for the rare and coveted Passion Blue color. When a confrontation on the night of her planned escape with her beloved reveals his true self, Giulia realizes just what her heart's desire is. Romance and intrigue and adventure combine in this richly told tale set in fifteenth century Italy. The novel explores the world of Renaissance Italy revealing the few opportunities open to women and the intricacies of convent life. Giulia's soul-searching, a budding first love, fragile friendships, the introduction of several villains, deception, and harrowing escapes work to create a compelling story that is hard to put down. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Vividly set during the 15th-century Italian Renaissance, Strauss's novel has a strong and thoroughly likable heroine who is only one of many well-developed female characters. Artistically brilliant, 17-year-old Giulia Borromeo is desperately searching for her heart's desire-a husband. She is so desperate that she makes a bargain with a sorcerer for a talisman to aid her. He warns her, "Be very sure you know what [it] is. Or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive." As the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, she has no security regarding her future. When her father dies, Giulia is forced into a convent by her father's jealous wife. From the moment she is dragged through Santa Marta's door, she plots her escape. She is surprised to learn of the beauty within, and that nuns and novices have vocations. When her extraordinary talents are discovered, Giulia is offered a place in the famous painting workshop. Her world expands as she learns the tools, materials, and techniques of great Renaissance painters. By chance, she meets a young male artisan repairing a convent masterpiece. They begin a clandestine romance. Her two desires-painting and a husband-war within as she contemplates her future. In a time and place when women were excluded from nearly every realm of life, Giulia and the other members of Santa Marta excel in spite of gender and cultural restrictions.Lisa Crandall, Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Giulia is bright, curious and a gifted artist, born to a noble father and his humble mistress in 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Now her fate rests with her father's widow, who's sending Giulia to a Padua convent. Desperate to avoid a cloistered life, Giulia obtains a talisman that's promised to deliver her heart's desire: marriage to a good man and a home of her own. Convent life is hard. Highborn nuns enjoy freedom; others, like Giulia, labor at menial tasks. When her artistic talent's discovered, she's invited to join the close-knit group of artist nuns whose renowned work helps support the convent. Guided by Maestra Humilità, daughter of a famous artist, Giulia begins to learn this exacting craft with tasks like mixing egg tempera. Artists create their own colors, their recipes closely guarded secrets. Humilità's precious passion blue is one; its beauty draws Giulia like a flame. So do visions of love and freedom beyond convent walls. But stealing away to meet handsome Ormanno, another talented artist, is risky. Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it's Giulia's achingly real search for her heart's desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices. A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion. (author's note) (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Victoria Strauss’s previous books include The Arm of the Stone. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. www.victoriastrauss.com

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Passion Blue 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
woven More than 1 year ago
4.5 Historical fiction usually isn't a genre I seek out to read, but after finding out that Megan Whalen Turner, the author of The Queen's Thief fantasy series, praised it as a "lovely read," I knew I had to give Passion Blue a chance. I'm so glad I did because it was such a beautiful and vivid story. Passion Blue centered around a young woman named Giulia, who desperately wanted a family of her own so that she could be cherished and loved. It was easy to root for Giulia. She was a wonderful character and very relatable. Who wouldn't want to be loved? And why would you deny anyone that? After she was forced to go to Santa Marta to become a nun, I loved that she didn't lose hope and did whatever she could to reach her dream. Her bravery and determination were inspiring. She wasn't perfect, though. She made naive decisions, but I really appreciate characters who are strong enough to own up to their choices and admit when they are wrong. It was great seeing her learn from her mistakes and grow tremendously as a person. I also loved how passionate Giulia was about both having a family and creating artwork. I'm glad she didn't focus completely on one of those things. In the beginning I was all for Giulia finding love. I felt she deserved that kind of happiness because she had been alone for a long time. Plus, I love romance. It's what I always want in the books I read. But as the story progressed, I began to realize how much she deeply loved drawing and painting. Seeing as this book was set hundreds of years ago in Italy, and having an idea of what was expected of women back then, I knew she wouldn't be able to seriously continue doing artwork if she left the convent. Still, I couldn't help but hope that somehow Giulia would be able to have both things in her life. That's another thing I liked about this book. Giulia may have wanted a family and she may have wanted to paint, but in the end, she couldn't have both. She had to sacrifice one thing in order to gain the other. It was a hard choice, but it made the story much more realistic. It probably doesn't seem like it would result in a happy ending, but I truly believe the choice Giulia made at the end is what will bring her the most joy in her life. I was in complete support of the path she chose. Passion Blue was a vibrant story about yearning and sacrifice and discovering what is the heart's true desire. It was a very satisfying read. I think readers who love a passionate and determined heroine and who appreciate realistic stories with a touch of fantasy in a historical setting will greatly enjoy Passion Blue.
tamsparks More than 1 year ago
I was entranced by this imaginative story set in Renaissance Italy that follows a young girl as she seeks her heart’s desire. Not only does this book focus on the fascinating subject of Renaissance painting, but it gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of women during the 1480’s and their place in the world. The beautiful writing and engaging characters and story make this a book that’s hard to put down until you’ve reached the end. Giulia is sixteen when her stepmother decides to pack her off to the convent of Santa Marta, to spend the rest of her life in service to God. Despite the marriage dowry her father has left for her, Giulia’s dreams of marrying one day and having a home of her own are dashed when her stepmother ignores her father’s wishes and gives the dowry to the convent. She reluctantly begins her new life with strict rules, harsh discipline, and a bevy of mean girls with whom she must live and work. But Giulia wears a secret talisman that promises to lead her to her heart's desire. Given to her by a sorcerer, she believes the spirit trapped inside will be able to help her escape the convent some day. But Giulia’s heart’s desire may not be what she thinks it is. After one of the nuns discovers a charcoal drawing among her possessions, Giulia is reassigned to the workshop where female artists are creating beautiful paintings. She is apprenticed to Suor Humilità, the convent’s master painter, and she begins to learn the craft of preparing canvases, mixing paints, and keeping the workshop neat and tidy, with the tempting possibility of becoming a painter herself someday. Her new friends and the joy of spending her days with artists make convent life much easier, but fate intervenes and puts temptation in her path when she meets a visiting craftsman and unwisely falls for him. This sets off a chain of events that will cause Giulia to reevaluate what she really wants in life. The last third of the book is filled with nail-biting action that will leave the reader guessing which path Giulia will ultimately choose. At the heart of it all is the mysterious paint known as Passion Blue, a deep, rich hue unlike any other, created by Humilità herself, the recipe of which is kept under lock and key and written in code so it can’t be stolen. I was fascinated by Giulia’s journey toward becoming a painter and the careful steps that are taken before one can actually pick up a paint brush. Strauss lovingly details the exhaustive process of how paint is made, the ingredients that went into paint at that time in history, and the preparations of the work surface before any paint could be applied. Even more fascinating is the role of women painters during the Renaissance. Giulia makes mistakes of the worst kind, but she is able to learn from those mistakes and accept the consequences. For young girls today who are raised to believe they can do anything, the plight of women during Renaissance times may be hard to relate to. But Giulia is a plucky and smart heroine, and by the end of the story, manages to rise above her station. Passion Blue sends a strong message to girls to strive for their dreams, despite the expectations of society. Filled with adventure, mystery, romance, hope and joy, this book should be on every teen's reading list. Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.