1782. The 13-year old daughter of a Venetian merchant family is lured naked from her bath by a stray cat and finds herself in the arms of Casanova - the legendary seducer of women.
Twenty-five years later Cecilia is in Albania, now a portrait painter of some renown, her fame in this area eclipsed only by her reputation as the last woman in Venice to have been loved by Casanova. Enter a young man from England, a troubled poet, looking for adventure at any price - a man who begins his affair with Cecilia with the announcement 'I rather look on love as a hostile transaction.' For Cecilia, who had blossomed under the tender, unselfish love of another man, Byron proves a rude awakening.
While Casanova hid nothing from her, Byron hides everything, but she paints rich portraits of both men. This unique and extraordinary novel combines sensuous descriptions of painting with rich portraits of real people, all set against the decaying grandeur of Venice.