Release Day for PASSION BLUE!

Passion Blue officially releases today! I’m super excited that it’s finally out there in the wild, and for the wonderful reviews it has been receiving.

I’ve got a terrific virtual book tour scheduled for this month–there will be reviews, interviews, giveaways, and more. The schedule is below; I’ll also be posting and tweeting links daily, so be sure to check back.

11/6    WTF Are You Reading? (review and giveaway)
11/7    The Book Muncher (giveaway)
11/9    The Book Monsters (review, interview and giveaway)
11/9    Kirkus Reviews YA Blog (interview)
11/11   Books, Bones & Buffy (interview and giveaway; review already posted)
11/12   The Bookish Babe (review, guest post, and giveaway)
11/14   Books Complete Me (review and guest post)
11/14   Twitterchat! Guest slot at #YALITCHAT, discussing YA historical fiction (9:00pm EST)
11/15   Get Lost in a Story (interview)
11/16   Katie’s Book Blog (review, interview and giveaway)
11/19   Literary Rambles (interview and giveaway)
11/20   Moosubi Reviews (interview, review and giveaway)
11/23   Writers’ Alley (interview)
11/26   Girls PWN (interview and giveaway)
11/27   Catherine Stine (interview)
11/28   Ladybug Storytime (review and giveaway)
11/29   The Daily Harrell (interview)
11/30   YA Books Central (interview and giveaway; review already posted)


Amazon Children’s Publishing
ISBN: 978-0761462309

Hardcover: $17.99
Ebook: $7.99 $3.99

Order from Amazon
Order from Barnes & Noble
Order from IndieBound

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 rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.
- Kirkus (starred review, editor’s pick for Fall 2012) 

Vividly set during the 15th-century Italian Renaissance, Strauss’s novel has a strong and thoroughly likable heroine who is only one of many well-developed female characters.
- School Library Journal 

Giulia’s unusual story is sure to capture readers’ attention.
- Publishers Weekly 

I don’t just like Passion Blue, I love it. Though much of it takes place within the walls of a nunnery it has adventure, arguments, soul-searching, several villains, romance, hair-breadth escapes, dastardly betrayals, and girl power. I simply galloped through it.
- Jane Yolen, author of The Devil’s Arithmetic

A lovely read.
- Megan Whalen Turner, author of The Queen’s Thief series 

An elegant retelling of that old, crucial story of finding one’s place in the world, set against a vivid evocation of the Italian Renaissance.
- Robin McKinley, author of The Hero and the Crown-

A glimpse of 15th century Italian life as sure-handed and brilliantly illuminated as the work of a Renaissance master…Passion Blue is both a soul-felt journey and a triumphant work of art.
- Meredith Ann Pierce, author of the Darkangel Trilogy 

A lush, vibrant read that is utterly transporting.
- Lesley Livingston, author of the Wondrous Strange series


The afternoon was almost gone by the time Giulia reached the sorcerer’s house.

She’d known where Porta Orientale was, at least in theory–Maestro had showed her plans of Milan, with its six districts, or porte, arranged like pie slices around the central piazza that housed the Duomo, the city’s vast cathedral. But finding her way through the streets was not the same as poring over maps. She’d quickly become lost, and the conflicting directions she had begged from passersby had taken her far out of her way. She’d begun to worry that she would still be wandering the city when night fell, at the mercy of cutpurses or worse.

But finally, like a miracle, there it was–a pillar painted with seven stilettos, marking the entrance to the Via Sette Coltelli, the Street of Seven Knives.

The sorcerer’s house was protected by a stucco wall. An iron gate allowed glimpses of a garden full of overgrown yews and cypresses, through whose twisted branches Giulia could just see the house itself. Perhaps because of all the heavy vegetation, the garden seemed much darker than the avenue outside, as if night had already fallen there. A bell rope hung beside the gate.

Giulia had wondered what a sorcerer’s home might look like. This gloomy place fulfilled all her expectations.

For just a moment, the fear she’d fought as she trudged the city rose up and overwhelmed her, and Maestro’s words of warning sounded in her mind. She pushed them away. I’ve come this far. I cannot turn back.

She drew a deep breath. She stepped forward and rang the bell.

Clang. The sound echoed back into the shadowed garden. For a long moment nothing happened. Then she heard a creak, as of a door opening, and saw someone coming toward her–a woman, bent with age, her head wrapped in a kerchief. The woman shuffled up to the gates and peered through the bars.

“What d’you want?”

“I’ve come–” Giulia cleared her throat. “I’ve come to see Maestro Francisco Barbaro, the sor–the astrologer. It’s urgent.”

“It always is. Can you pay?”


The crone lifted the bar that secured the gates. She dragged at one of them, pulling it back a little way. “Well?” Impatiently, she beckoned. “Don’t be all day.”

Giulia slipped through the narrow gap. The crone heaved the gate closed and reset the bar, then led the way along the wide stone path that split the tangled garden, beneath the dimness of the trees. She hurried Giulia through the house’s great oaken door and down a magnificent candle-lit corridor whose elaborate frescos and polished marble were the very opposite of the garden’s neglect. An enormous, high-ceilinged room lay at the corridor’s end.

“Wait here,” the crone instructed, pointing to a spot by the door. “I’ll see if he’ll receive you. He may not. He doesn’t see everyone.”

She hurried toward the room’s other side, where a curtain hung across an opening.

“Tell him Maestro Carlo Bruni gave me his name,” Giulia called after her. “They were friends once.”

The old woman gave no sign that she had heard. She lifted the curtain and vanished.

The blue-gray twilight admitted by the windows did little to relieve the chamber’s gloom. Her back against the door, her teeth chattering with chill and fright, Giulia could almost imagine that the old woman had been a ghost, that there were no living beings in this place besides herself. For courage, she rested her hand on her mother’s topaz necklace, hidden under the neck of her gown.

The curtain swept aside. A man came through, clad in a flowing robe and carrying a branch of candles.

“You say you come from Carlo Bruni, girl?”

Giulia had to try twice to find her voice. “Yes, sir.”

“Who are you?” The sorcerer approached, holding up the candles. “Why has he sent you?”

“My name is Giulia, sir. I’m his pupil.”

“His pupil?” He sounded skeptical.

“Yes, sir. And he didn’t send me. That is, he told me your name…but I’m here…I’m here on my own.”


Was it disappointment in his voice? He set the candles on a table and began to move around the room, lighting more candles in sconces on the walls. Giulia couldn’t tell how he accomplished this–it looked as if the flame sprang directly from his fingers. The rising illumination revealed the magnificent zodiac wheel inlaid upon the marble floor, showing the twelve signs, their associated houses, and their ruling planets. As the candle flames flared up, points of light seemed to kindle on the ceiling as well. With astonishment, Giulia recognized the zodiac constellations, arranged in a ring that exactly matched the circle on the floor. Awed, she gazed upward. Scorpio glittered directly overhead; to the left was Pisces, under which she had been born.

“Carlo Bruni and I were friends, years ago.”

The sorcerer stood before her. She had imagined someone crabbed and stooped, made ugly by his outlaw pursuits, but this man was well-formed and straight, with a handsome face and large, calm eyes of crystalline blue. The silk of his robe was a deeper blue. His hair was entirely covered by a close-fitting cap that appeared, strangely, to be made of polished metal.

“The best of friends,” he continued. “Did he tell you that?”

Giulia nodded. She’d assumed that Maestro and the sorcerer were of an age, but this man looked at least twenty years younger. She felt a thrill of fear. If he can light candles with his fingers and make stars shine on his ceiling, what else can he do?

“Did he tell you why we are friends no longer?”

“He said you quarreled, sir.”

“It was the magic. It destroyed our friendship. When I heard you were here, I thought–” The sorcerer paused. “No matter. I was angry when we parted, but I’ve come to understand the choice he made. Will you tell him that for me?”

“Yes, sir,” Giulia said, though she knew that if she ever saw Maestro again, she could never admit she had come here.

Want more? Download the first two chapters.

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