Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
It seems like I keep picking up novels by authors that I've enjoyed before and being disappointed. Sarah Dunant has written a few historical novels set in Renaissance Italy, and the first, The Birth of Venus, was very good - it was entertaining, had some scandal, and it seemed well researched.
This novel is also set in Renaissance Italy, and the plot, at least as described on the back cover, sounded promising. It takes place in a convent, and many of the women in the convent are there not because of their extreme religious devotion but because it was cheaper than marrying them off. The newest novice, Serafina, is there due to a forbidden romance. Throw in some political intrigue within the convent itself, and it seems like all the ingredients are there for a fun read, even if not a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the most I can say about this novel is that it was boring.
It was obviously well-researched but it was just lacking something. When promised forbidden love, I want some sex, dammit, not memories of chaste kisses! What the hell? Also for a novel that was said to be about women that were in a convent to pursue their own interests and not due to their faith, there was way too much talk about God and Bible-verse-citing. Yes, yes, I know, Renaissance Italy, people were more pious but I was still disappointed. The thing is there is a good story hidden in this novel, even if it is entirely predictable but the pacing was just off. It felt like Dunant spent so much time doing research that she wanted to describe everything but forgot to have anything of essence happen for the first half of the novel. And as I said, the forbidden love was just boring. It worked so much better in The Birth of Venus but that was probably because the reader actually got to see the object of desire in that novel rather than just hear about how devoted he was.