shortlisted for book of the month
"Spain, 1526. Sister Ernestine is desperate for redemption. Wracked with guilt over having tragically caused her spouse's execution, the newly minted nun arrives at St. Francis Abbey to fulfill a promise to deliver secret documents to the brother of her dead husband. But after discovering she has to wait several months for him to return, she fears being stuck in the middle of a region terrorized by the Inquisition. Pulled into intrigues of the devout community and its residents, Sister Ernestine discovers a French spy has tracked her down, intent on stealing the plans that would alter the European balance of power. And as her old enemy closes in, she must protect the world-changing information from falling into the wrong hands... and survive the rising threat within the abbey's sacred walls.
With the future of Europe at stake, can the grieving woman complete her honor-bound mission before she loses her life?
Ernestine is an intriguing standalone historical fiction novel. If you like well-drawn characters, richly researched settings, then you'll adore Ernestine's story of emotional healing, redemption, and forgiveness."
Sister Ernestine is an enigma from the moment she rides into our lives, meeting us at the Alhambra on a bleak winter’s day. She arrives at the convent walls, apparently a nun seeking refuge, and yet within minutes we discover she is fleeing unknown dangers, she is atoning for a terrible sin, and carries a pair of ivory dice in her bag.
This beautifully crafted debut novel peels away layers of complex characters and brings us immediately into a fascinating world of sixteenth-century Spain. Ernestine holds her secrets close, and her past is gradually revealed by interactions with the people around her.
The outcome is a brilliant mosaic of intrigue, horror, love, and retribution. Against a backdrop of the burnings of heretics during the Inquisition to the importance of the cultivation of olives, with the ensuing conversion of Ernestine to understand her own life’s journey, this is a story that entertains on so many levels. On the one hand, it’s a dramatic morality play; on the other, it’s a fascinating, adventurous, love story. “Living to the fullest takes courage,” Ernestine is told by her lover. And indeed, her story is one of exceptional tenacity, survival, and the heart to live life to the fullest.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds