The Borgia Bride – by Jeanne Kalogridis

Just finished reading the Borgia Bride and my first impression would be what an incredibly interesting historial period this is to read about.  I read quite a number of historical novels but have never read much about the Italian Renaissance.  Obviously, the Borgias are notorious and Lucrezia probably the most well known so I was very intrigued to learn more and have in fact been so drawn into the period that I have read up further about the family since finishing this novel.

The story is told in the voice of Sancha de Aragon, daughter of King Alfonso II of Naples.  Sancha is married to Jofre Borgia, the youngest son of Pope Alexander.  Of course the marriage is all part of the usual jostling for power between families and the alliance provides a certain measure of protection to Naples from the attentions of the French whilst gaining Spanish support for Rome.  Once Sancha gains the attention of Pope Alexander VI they are summoned to Rome where Sancha is immediately thrown into the inner circle of the Borgias with all their political macchinations and she becomes a witness to their strange, indulgent and incestuous relationships.

The story really revolves around two female leads: Sancha and Lucrezia.  I liked Sancha – I thought from the beginning she was a strong personality, unafraid to face a challenge and also very protective of those she loved.  That being said she is by no means innocent, she is a typical princess of the era who knows what is expected of her.  So, whilst I liked her I wasn’t unaware of her own shortcomings.  She certainly had no hesitation or guilt about rushing into an affair with her own brother in law.  An affair that didn’t seem to be particularly discrete and as it turned out was not particulary wise either.  Lucrezia, on the other hand actually surprised me, particularly given her reputation, as she seemed far more a tool of two very unscrupulous and frankly base men – those being her own father and brother.  Lucrezia and Sancha eventually formed a friendship of sorts, increased by Lucrezia’s marriage to Sancha’s beloved brother Alfonso and also I think increased by their own similar desires to have acceptance and love from their fathers.  It was a strange friendship and not one that I ever totally trusted.

The story is well told and sweeping covering the war between Naples and the French and the House of Aragons exile in Sicily.  It then moves on and shows the wild ambitions of Cesare as he brings war on many of the old and strong families throughout Italy.

In terms of criticisms I guess these would relate to two areas.  I didn’t really get a feel for the Italian court itself.  Perhaps this is because the story was told by Sancha and she was excluded from a lot of the political intrigues, much more so than Lucrezia who definitely had her father’s ear and trust politically speaking.  And, the romance between Sancha and Cesare was not particularly stirring – I’m guessing this was probably intentional on the part of the author because it wouldn’t be particuarly helpful for the readers to develop sympathetic feelings towards Cesare who at the end of the day was basically a brutal and vile man.

The above aside I found this a very interesting novel to read and would definitely recommend – although given the nature of some of the story I don’t think this is an appropriate book for a YA audience.  I can’t help thinking that a story told by Lucrezia would make a very compelling story to read!  I will most certainly look out for JK’s vampire stories.

Rating B+

The Borgia Bride

The Borgia Bride


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