In 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expel the Jews from Spain, six year old Esther Sarfati finds herself travelling to Rome to join her father, a successful banker who has helped his fellow Spaniard, Rodrigo Borgia, finance his bid for the Papacy. Nine years later, as Pope Alexander VI, he repays the favour by offering Esther a place in the household of his daughter, Lucrezia, who is about to marry Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duchy of Ferrara. Against her own better judgement, but in accordance with her father's wishes for her future, the re-named Violante converts to Christianity and enters Lucrezia's service as lady-in-waiting.
Flattered by Lucrezia's favour, seduced by the friendship of her cousin, Angela Borgia and swept off her feet by Lucrezia's glamorous and dangerous brother, Cesare, she is drawn into a web of intrigue and deceit which will test her heart to its utmost and burden her with secrets she must carry to her grave. Set against the glittering background of the court of Ferrara in the early sixteenth century, this is the heart-breaking story of what happens to an innocent abroad in the world of the Borgias.