Veronica Franco is an adventurous, curious, slightly tomboyish young woman in Venice. Her lover Marco, who will be a Senator like his father, cannot marry her because her family is too poor; he marries a foreign noblewoman instead. Veronica's mother plans for her family's financial security, as she still requires dowries for her younger daughters and money for her son's commission. Rather than go to a convent, Veronica's mother suggests she become a courtesan, a highly paid, cultured prostitute like her mother and grandmother before her. At first Veronica is repelled by the idea, but once she discovers that courtesans are allowed access to libraries and education, she tentatively embraces the idea.