by Jeanne Kalogridis
"Vivacious Sancha of Aragon arrives in Rome newly wed to a member of the notorious Borgia dynasty. Surrounded by the city's opulence and political corruption, she befriends her glamorous and deceitful sister-in-law, Lucrezia, whose jealousy is as legendary as her beauty. Some say Lucrezia has poisoned her rivals, particularly those to whom her handsome brother, Cesare, has given his heart. So when Sancha falls under Cesare's irresistible spell, she must hide her secret or lose her life. Caught in the Borgias' sinister web, she summons her courage and uses her cunning to outwit them at their own game." (From the back cover of the St. Martin's Griffin edition)
My only knowledge of the Borgia family prior to reading The Borgia Bride was a lot of malicious historical gossip that I always wondered about. Well, it turns out, according to Jeanne Kalogridis' author comments at the end of this novel, that the majority of it appears to be true. Excellent! Nothing like papal corruption, poisoning of rivals, fratricide, incest and dreams of military domination to pique a reader's interest!
And they're all here, folks. Stories of the Borgia family are not for the easily nauseated, and Kalogridis has never been one to sugarcoat the darker side of humanity. It's part of what I love about her writing, the grit. She isn't unnecessarily graphic, but you get enough to shock the unprepared reader. And you're never sure who is going to come out all right. Or if anyone will for that matter.
I thought it most interesting that Lucrezia was portrayed very sympathetically, sometimes much more a victim than the calculating, immoral murderess my limited understanding of her had led me to believe she was. There was nothing in the author note explaining why she chose to characterize her the way she did, so I can see I have some research to do if I want to discover if my past beliefs about Lucrezia were way off the mark.
I've been meaning to get to The Borgia Bride ever since I read Kalogridis' I, Mona Lisa a couple of years ago. With The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici coming in July (a book I cannot wait to get my hands on!!), this seemed like the perfect time to finally pull it off the shelf. It's a perfect summer read -- easy to lose yourself in and quick to get through despite its 500 page length. Between the two, I'd say I preferred I, Mona Lisa, but The Borgia Bride did not disappoint one bit.
Other reviews of this book:
Passages To The Past
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!