The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga

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Margot Harrington, an American volunteer in Florence, is an expert at book conservancy. While struggling to save a waterlogged convent library, she comes across a fabulous volume of sixteen erotic drawings by Giulio Romano, accompanying sixteen steamy sonnets by Pietro Aretino. When first published over four centuries ago, the Vatican ordered all copies destroyed. This one—now unique—volume has survived.

The abbess prevails upon Margot to save the order’s finances by selling the magnificently illustrated erotica discreetly—meaning without the bishop’s knowledge.

Margot’s other clandestine project is a middle-aged Italian who is boldly attempting radical measures to save endangered frescoes. She is 29 and available; he, older and married. He shares her sense of mission and soon her bed in this daring story of spiritual longing and earthly desire.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Robert Hellenga

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Robert Hellenga teaches at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, six Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowships, an Illinois Arts Council Literacy Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.
Published September 1, 2009 by Soho Press. 381 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Biographies & Memoirs, Romance. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Forced to find her own way, Margot ends up working in the waterlogged library of a convent, falling in love with an older, married man and also coming, clandestinely, into possession of an extremely rare book, The Sixteen Pleasures, a volume of exquisite erotic drawings and sonnets from the 16th ...

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Publishers Weekly

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Many strands wind through the rest of the narrative: details about techniques of book and art restoration, observations of convent life refracted through Margot's Protestant sensibilities and such arcane (and humorous) information as the methods by which a canonical court decides whether a man is...

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