Release date: 7th April 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Razorbill
Cross My Heart is a historical novel set in Venice. It is a tale of secrets, deceptions, power and love.
Laura was sent to live in the convent when she was twelve years old. She never understood why her father sent her away but she missed her older sister terribly. In the convent they call her La Muta – she is the silent one. She has learned not to ask questions and to wear her face as a mask to avoid the wrath of the Abbess. Despite her faith, Laura has never felt like she belonged in the convent. One night she is called to the infirmary to assist Sister Maria save a dying man. It is a night that will change her life forever. The next day she is called by the Abbess and told she is to leave the convent. Laura can hardly understand what would bring such a change. She has longed for the chance to see her family again and so she has many hopes for a happy future when she leaves.
Of course, there are great dangers ahead and Laura has not been educated as to the ways of the Venetian aristocracy. She is an innocent girl and so the plot unfolds with her becoming both a victim of deception and a deceiver in her own right.
The image of the mask and the concept of disguise are very much a part of this story. Venice is full of wealthy, beautiful characters with secrets – many of them dark and sinister. Laura has to navigate her way through this unfamiliar world of liars and false friends to find a truth. I don’t want to tell you which truth she is looking for as it is a bit of a spoiler.
Her father is a self-centred imbecile. He is determined to marry Laura off to whichever man can secure him a position on the Grand Council. His political position and his wealth are all he cares about. And so, poor innocent Laura is devastated when she meets her betrothed: Vincenzo – an old, decaying man who looks at her like a piece of succulent meat. Laura cannot face being married to such a man. She would rather return to the convent and be a bride of Christ. In among all this fear and anguish, there is the joy of first love too. But Laura’s father will never let her marry a poor man. An opportunity to escape the marriage is presented to her but it comes at a heavy price. Is it a price she is willing to pay? The consequences may be greater than she ever imagined.
I found Cross My Heart such an easy book to get into. The writing was elegant, the story was full of drama – think masked balls, cloaked figures, daggers and spies – and the love story was endearing. I loved all the gondola references, the way the author evoked Venice through her descriptions of the architecture and the feeling that the book was built on “secrets and lies”. Fans of Mary Hoffman’s David and Karen Wallace’s Emerald are sure to enjoy this book. I know that I certainly did.