The story begins in 1554 during the time of the Inquisition. Queen Catherine of Montalcino finds herself becoming distressed over the Church's abuse of power. People of her realm, whom she considers under her protection, are being falsely accused of heresy and then tortured and murdered. Catherine personally finds a woman being brutally tortured and raped. This woman, Lady Isabella, has had her whole family branded heretics and murdered. As Catherine helps her to recover she finds herself falling in love with her. This goes against everything she believes is right. She is afraid that God will punish her for these feelings.
The Queen also has a Bishop in her court who she knows hates her and would like to destroy her. This Bishop is not a good man, and he has a sick attraction to boys. In her determination to help save her people Catherine has to try to make sure that her allies will support her, and she must also avoid being accused of heresy by this Bishop. In order to hide her relationship with Lady Isabella, she agrees to marry. She seeks a man to be King who will help her bear an heir and then leave her alone. When she finds the perfect Prince for this role, she marries him and they have a daughter named Sofia.