"Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."
This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.
But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?
Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.
A review copy of the book was provided for me to read.
I was actually kind of excited for this book. I read the synopsis more than looked at the cover and thought it sounded interesting. Being that I love historical fiction (and having my Italian pride), this book was something that I wanted to read soon. It wasn't something that I'd normally read since it wasn't fantasy or some other paranormal type, but as my philosophy goes, I will attempt to read any book.
Giulia is the social Pariah amongst her community. She is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and has to endure bullying and hard work as a servant in her own father's home. She aspires to be seen as something more than the illegitimate daughter and her fierce passion for drawing drives her forward. Immediately, readers who feel as if they don't belong are drawn into her character. Also, Giulia wants to marry--very badly. But since her horoscope told her she won't have one, there's almost an obsessive streak in her. However, this behavior is understandable for a girl of her time. Not getting married was unheard of unless you became a nun. Unfortunately, I didn't find her to be very interesting.
Sadly, things just kind of went down hill from there for me. The story got boring for me and I had put it down for a few weeks, hoping that I could pick it back up and resume reading it, but my interest for it was lost. And you know that when you get bored, you skip a few pages to see if things pick up? Well, yeah. I did that and also happened to spoil the rest of the book for myself and then the book was just completely ruined for me. Sure, I've spoiled the endings of books I've read before, but no matter how hard I tried to keep my attention on to the page, I couldn't do it. Reading became arduous for me, and that's not the reason why I read. I've read and loved contemporaries before, so I can't blame Passion Blue for the lack of action the reason why I didn't like it.
On the upside, the historical accuracy of this book was phenomenal. I've never seen so much attention to historical detail before in a book before. Strauss stayed very true to the general beliefs and culture of Renaissance Italy, and for that, I am grateful.
Another bone I have to pick with this book is that I am not a painter. I can't even draw clouds or flowers or stick figures, for that matter, without it looking like a kindergartner did it. And with that in mind, I never will be a painter. But in the book, Giulia names a whole bunch of these painter/art terms and I have no clue what they are or what they mean. While I was reading, I felt like I was supposed to know this stuff, but didn't, and that ticked me off a little bit. A little more description or down-play on painter terms might have helped me read a bit easier.
And here I will bring this review into full circle and discuss the cover. While I've read books with unremarkable covers, I've never seen one such as this one. I've never really had to complain about the covers of the book, but if this book were to even make a little bit more of a profit, I think that a revision of the cover is needed. I mean, the blue doesn't cover all of her hair and it's streaked across the cover model's face. I don't know what the cover was trying to achieve, but I think, and I'm trying to be as nice as I can be here, that it isn't very good.
Overall, I did not finish this book. I gave it one star because I did not find the book to be entertaining and I lost my interest quickly. I truly wish I could have given it a better review, but I can't. And I don't think that I will read this book in the future to give it another shot because it was just that monotonous and arduous. I'm not saying that others aren't going to like it, because I've read reviews from people who enjoyed this book, but Passion Blue was not the book for me.