The Priest's Madonna: A Novel

Amy Hassinger

Putnam Adult,  April 2006

At the end of the nineteenth century, a priest in the village of Rennes-le-Château suddenly came into possession of immense wealth. Legend has it that he found some documents that threatened the Catholic Church -- and that he was paid handsomely for his silence. And while his secret died with him, there may have been one person, a young woman -- his housekeeper and lover, Marie Dénarnaud-who knew the truth.

In 1884 in southern France, sixteen-year-old Marie Dénarnaud's family is forced to move when their house burns to the ground. They find a new home in nearby Rennes-le-Château, a beautiful village set among hills steeped in history -- from stories of a Visigothic presence in the Dark Ages, to tales of Cathar heretics who may have fled crusaders through rumored underground passages, to rumors of gold buried in the caves that perforate the hillsides.

Marie and her family face a chilly welcome in Rennes until the day a new parish priest is assigned to the village. By coincidence, the charismatic young priest is a friend of Marie's mother, and because his presbytery is in ruins, Bérenger Saunière takes up temporary residence with the Dénarnauds. Young Marie is enthralled by the passionate Bérenger, and she revels in his priestly attention, though heavily conflicted by her own growing attraction to him.

Meanwhile, Bérenger has attracted the patronage of a wealthy aristocrat who is willing to fund reconstruction of the church. His only condition is that Bérenger keep an eye out for anything unusual he might find. Marie begins to suspect that the request has to do with the local legend of a woman who claimed to be descended from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Bérenger grows secretive, even as their affection deepens, and Marie must seek the truth without his help.

Historically lush, full of romance and intrigue, The Priest's Madonna blends fact and fiction. Interweaving scenes of ancient Judea with the spiritual journey of a vibrant and intense heroine, it tells a mesmerizing tale of faith, doubt, forbidden love, and illicit passion.

hardcover | ISBN: 9780399153174 | Publication Date: April 2006

"The Priest's Madonna is an ambitious, absorbing novel, both impressively researched and deftly written. In Marie, Amy Hassinger has created an endearingly contradictory protagonist -- naive and intelligent, submissive and rebellious -- who tells a suspenseful story of love and religion." 
--Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling author of Prep

"Rendered with uncommon insight and compassion, The Priest's Madonna is at once a story of suspense and a meditation on the mysteries of faith and love, of flesh and spirit. Some will call this novel historical; I call it timeless, and I envy those readers hearing Marie's divine voice for the first time, those receiving her captivating story like a prayer." 
--Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi: Stories

"Delicious! Weaving between two timeless tales of passion, Amy Hassinger takes the reader on an absorbing journey of romance and redemption. The Priest's Madonna will challenge your beliefs and deepen your spirituality." 
--Lisa Earle McLeod, author of Forget Perfect and commentator for Lifetime Entertainment