Laura has spent the last few years of her life in a convent, and when her father calls her back to her family home, she is thrilled to leave its restrictive walls. When she arrives back at the Venetian house she grew up in, however, she discovers it run down and her family tragically changed. Her father tells her she is to wed, in a match intended to repair his fortune. But will Laura accept her father’s choice.. or look for assistance behind the fans and masks of Venetian society.
Firstly, I must say that I really didn’t like the cover choice for Cross My Heart. I don’t think it captures the feel of the book at all, and certainly doesn’t indicate it’s historical fiction. The blurb isn’t great either. It’s only very loosely tied to the actual action of the novel, and has the wrong tone to sit well with the actual text. Luckily, however, in this case I didn’t judge the book by its cover!
Cross My Heart is a well crafted historical YA novel. Set in Renaissance Venice, it is full of little details that help set the scene and draw the reader into the past. It’s not my area of historical expertise, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of Gould’s world, but it’s certainly attractive and easy to visualise. Venice is a memorable location but, interestingly, it was the descriptions of the Venetians’ clothing and grooming that proved particularly evocative to me.
Gould’s characters are good, if a little too close to archetype in places. Laura is a strong protagonist, and I was able to forgive her head-turning beauty due to the fact that she proved likeable in most other ways. Paulina, although rarely present, is an enjoyable character, who I was disappointed I didn’t see more of. For me, however, the stand-outs were Allegreza and Grazia, who would certainly be able to command an audience for further novels based on their respective stories.
In contrast, I found the male characters a little close to type. Giacomo is the typical handsome love interest, Vincenzo a near-caricature of repugnance and Laura’s father the standard power-focussed strict parent. I’m sure there will be plenty of teenage girls swooning over the thought of a good-looking fresco painter, but I found his and Laura’s romance a little unsupported by the action. Then again, we do live in the fiction era of Soulmates At First Sight 😉
I think, though, that the combination of romance and intrigue was what prevented me from enjoying Cross My Heart more than I did. The romance was very traditional in form (as the male character descriptions probably suggest) and followed a standard structure: so much so that I joked with my mother about what I expected would happen in Giacomo’s story line – and then was proven right as the book progressed! There is absolutely a market for this kind of historical romance… but I’m not really it
The other aspect of the novel, however, was a tale of intrigue, complete with murders, false identities and secret societies. I loved that side of Cross My Heart. Historical thrillers are right up my alley, and I think Gould did a very good job of weaving the different threads of information together and tying them up at the end. The reader is thrust into a world of politics, society, danger and secrets, all against the backdrop of Venice. Great stuff!
The ending of Cross My Heart seems to suggest that there will be a sequel and I would certainly like to read more about the Segreta. I feel that Laura’s story has reached its natural conclusion with the end of this book, however, so if Gould writes more in this universe, I hope her focus rests upon other women.