Set in 1570 as Renaissance and Reformation converge in the northern Italian city of Ferrara, Sacred Hearts focuses on the nuns at the convent of Santa Caterina.
Serafina is sent to the convent to put an end to her nascent love affair with her music master and to free up funds for the dowry of her younger, more worldly wise sister. Sister Zuana, the convent herbalist and physician, had been forced to enter the convent following the death of her physician father almost two decades earlier.
Whilst on the surface Sacred Hearts is a love story, the setting allows Sarah Dunant to demonstrate the unexpected opportunities and freedoms women could find within convent walls, opportunities threatened, paradoxically, by both Renaissance and Reformation.
Amazon.co.uk link: Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant