Author: Sasha Gould
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (hardcover)
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 3.5 Stars
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.
What first attracted me to Cross My Heart was its cover, without a doubt. I love the dark background and the glamour of the girl's gorgeous Venetian mask, and after I read the plot description, the mystery aspects continued to draw my attention. Venice, a shadowy secret society of women, and a dash of forbidden romance... how could I resist?
When Laura della Scalla learns she is to leave the convent her father forced her into many years ago, her happiness is soon shattered after she discovers she's only coming home because her beloved sister, Beatrice, has drowned. With a dwindling estate and ambitions for more political power, Laura's father is now forcing his daughter to marry the cold, old merchant Vincenzo whom Beatrice had been engaged to previously. Desperate to avoid exchanging one form of prison for another, Laura finds herself joining the Segreta, who are her only hope in avoiding the marriage. But when Laura learns there's more to Beatrice's death than a tragic accident, she doesn't know who to trust anymore...
The novel really brings to light the limitations of the freedom woman had during the time period, and how their futures were often in the hands of men. Daughters were often forced into marriages that were more like business arrangements, so I admired Laura finding the strength to try and change her fate on her own terms. Not surprisingly, Laura practically has a non-existent relationship with her father, but she still has to play nice for him and not bring shame to her family name. But her years in the convent have also left her naive and unprepared in many ways for a high society where gossip, secrets, and power are everything.
Sasha Gould's debut novel Cross My Heart is a wonderful historical novel that will allure readers with its Venice setting and the power of dark secrets just waiting to be revealed. I would have liked to possibly learn more about the origins of the Segreta and seen more suspense in Laura's inquiries into the death of her sister... but nevertheless, I still very much enjoyed seeing the storyline unfold before my eyes.
Thanks so much to Random House Canada for providing this review copy!