Author: Victoria Strauss
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Release Date: November 6, 2012
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?
My Thoughts: Historical fiction usually isn't a genre I seek out to read, but after finding out that Megan Whalen Turner, the author of The Queen's Thief fantasy series, praised it as a "lovely read," I knew I had to give Passion Blue a chance. I'm so glad I did because it was such a beautiful and vivid story.
Passion Blue centered around a young woman named Giulia, who desperately wanted a family of her own so that she could be cherished and loved. It was easy to root for Giulia. She was a wonderful character and very relatable. Who wouldn't want to be loved? And why would you deny anyone that? After she was forced to go to Santa Marta to become a nun, I loved that she didn't lose hope and did whatever she could to reach her dream. Her bravery and determination were inspiring. She wasn't perfect, though. She made naive decisions, but I really appreciate characters who are strong enough to own up to their choices and admit when they are wrong. It was great seeing her learn from her mistakes and grow tremendously as a person.
I also loved how passionate Giulia was about both having a family and creating artwork. I'm glad she didn't focus completely on one of those things. In the beginning I was all for Giulia finding love. I felt she deserved that kind of happiness because she had been alone for a long time. Plus, I love romance. It's what I always want in the books I read. But as the story progressed, I began to realize how much she deeply loved drawing and painting. Seeing as this book was set hundreds of years ago in Italy, and having an idea of what was expected of women back then, I knew she wouldn't be able to seriously continue doing artwork if she left the convent. Still, I couldn't help but hope that somehow Giulia would be able to have both things in her life.
That's another thing I liked about this book. Giulia may have wanted a family and she may have wanted to paint, but in the end, she couldn't have both. She had to sacrifice one thing in order to gain the other. It was a hard choice, but it made the story much more realistic. It probably doesn't seem like it would result in a happy ending, but I truly believe the choice Giulia made at the end is what will bring her the most joy in her life. I was in complete support of the path she chose.
Passion Blue was a vibrant story about yearning and sacrifice and discovering what is the heart's true desire. It was a very satisfying read. I think readers who love a passionate and determined heroine and who appreciate realistic stories with a touch of fantasy in a historical setting will greatly enjoy Passion Blue.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Thanks to Amazon Children's Publishing for the ARC!