Passion Blue

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781477847374
  • Publisher: Amazon Childrens Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/26/2014
  • 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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