Enduring friendships and long-held vendettas come alive against the splendor and decadence of eighteenth-century Venice.
In 1775 Venice -- known to outsiders as "the brothel of Europe" -- the tradition of mask-wearing has allowed adultery and debauchery to flourish. But Marietta and Elena, two dear friends at the Ospedale della Pietà, a world-famous orphanage and music school for girls, know little of that milieu -- until they come of age.
Elena is forced to wed the head of the Celano clan, a jealous, brutal man, while Marietta marries Domenico Torrisi, whose family vendetta with the Celanos is centuries old. Tradition dictates that the friends should never speak again, but their bond is too strong to break.
As the French Revolution unsettles all of Europe, Elena's husband frames Domenico and he becomes a political prisoner. Marietta and Elena plot to save him, and the women discover that Venetian masks have noble purposes, too -- but will their efforts put their own lives at risk?