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Playing by Heart

By Carmela A. Martino


Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Ironically, Emilia’s pious older sister, Maria, would gladly become a nun. But Father won’t allow it—her brilliant language skills are too important to his quest for noble status.

Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents are as indispensable as her sister’s skills. First, though, Emilia must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Before she can carry out her plan, though, Emilia's mother dies in childbirth. In her sorrow, Emilia composes a heartrending sonata that causes the maestro to finally recognize her talent. He begins teaching her music theory alongside handsome violinist Antonio Bellini, the great-nephew of a wealthy marquis. The two begin as rivals, but Emilia gradually falls in love with him.

She is now more determined than ever to help Father acquire a title so that she can be betrothed to Antonio. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life.

The novel is inspired by the lives of two extraordinary sisters who were far ahead of their time, composer Maria Teresa Agnesi and mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi.

Book Takeaway:

We are meant to use God's gifts in service to God and to bring joy to the world.


Year Title Description
2013 Windy City Romance Writers Association Four Seasons Romance Writing Contest First place in the young-adult category

Why the author wrote this book:

After learning about the little-known Agnesi sisters, I wanted others, especially young people, to know their story. The sisters were not only ahead of their time but they longed to use their talents to serve God. And in the case of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, she put aside her celebrity status to follow her calling.


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