I received a review copy of Sasha Gould’s Cross My Heart in March, but the been-there, done-that cover art didn’t catch my attention, so I set it aside. Recently, though, I ran across a blog post that discussed the drastic changes that Delacorte made to the artwork.

They changed it from the look of literary historical fiction on the advanced copy to a romantic mystery/paranormal look. A big shift in the marketing angle? Now that piqued my interest.

Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on 'Code Name Verity.'

And now, after actually reading the book, I feel comfortable in passing judgment—neither one completely works. The first doesn’t come close to conveying the book’s atmosphere or plot-driven storyline, while the second suggests magical doings in contemporary New Orleans, rather than secret societies in 16th-century Venice. I mean, glitter*?

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Let’s not ever discuss the cover art on the UK edition, which is easily the ugliest thing I’ve seen this year. Seriously. OK, let’s. I can’t help myself. It’s, like, heartstoppingly bad. The color scheme? The paint splotches in conjunction with the scrollwork? Is there someone out there who really, truly approves of the neon splatter paint** look? Have we been catapulted back to the early-1990s? Just, WHAT? And also, WHY? I weep for humanity.

Judging by the description alone, Cross My Heart has loads of potential—setting, time period, mystery, murders, class and gender issues, secret freaking societies—but ultimately, unfortunately, it reads like...eh. It’s got a plotline standard to any number of movies you’ve seen and forgotten—girl attempts to solve her sister’s murder, gets involved with a shady secret society, falls in love with someone unsuitable—and neither the characterization nor the narration is a particular stand out. If forced to chose a comparison, I’d say that it’s on par with The Luxe, though The Luxe was more lusciously soap-operatic. I found the characters in The Luxe far more interesting, too, but that may have been because I imagined them all as the actors from Gossip Girl.

Even though the plot is familiar, it moves along quickly—shady deals are made, alliances are broken, assumptions are made, backs are stabbed—and Gould makes good use of the setting for some creepy, atmospheric moments. While I headdesked when the heroine fell not only for every red herring thrown her way, but also for the oldest trick in the book—a scribbled note from her lover telling her to “come alone”—I did appreciate it that, surprisingly, the secret society turned out [SPOILER!] not to be evil [END SPOILER].

So, long story short? Despite the anachronism problem, the cover art actually does match the book—generically attractive.


*It was invented in the ’30s or ’40s—the 1930s or ’40s. Yeah, that’s right. I looked it up.

**Full disclosure: I had a splatter-paint shirt in middle school. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Actually, now that I think about it, the color scheme was not dissimilar from the color scheme of that cover art. Which makes it That Much Worse.

Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.