Friday, March 11, 2011
Title: Sins of the House of Borgia
Author: Sarah Bower
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I Read It: Trade Paperback ARC
Rating: 5 Crowns
A Notorious Duke
An Infamous Duchess
An Innocent Girl
Violante isn’t supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn’t supposed to be a lady-in-waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive politics that pushed Lucrezia’s father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.
Violante discovers a Lucrezia unknown to those who see only a scheming harlot, and all the whispers about her brother, Cesare Borgia, never revealed the soul of the man who dances close with Violante.
But those who enter the House of Borgia are never quite the same when they leave—if they leave at all. Violante’s place in history will test her heart and leave her the guardian of dangerous secrets she must carry to the grave.
(from the publishers)
My thoughts: This was one book that I could not put down. I have heard some say that beginning of the novel was a bit slow and it deviated from the story of the Borgias, I one the other hand found that I enjoyed the beginning, I felt as though it added a nice back-story to the book. I found that while reading this my fascination with this so call First Family of Crime, grew because they way that they author presented the Borgias. It was a very fresh take on his this fascinating family and cannot speak highly enough of THE SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA. I find that I am telling everyone I know and even random strangers who are in the bookstore about this book. If you are looking for court intrigue then this is the book for you.
This is the one book that you will want to read.
I would like to thank Sarah Bower for this interesting look at the Borgias and her fascination with this fascinating family.
BLOG POST FOR ROYAL REVIEWS 11TH MARCH
Thanks for inviting me to guest in your blog. You ask what interested me in the Borgias and I can tell you my fascination with this Renaissance family goes way back to reading Jena Plaidy’s Madonna of the Seven Hills and Light on Lucrezia under the bedclothes at my boarding school. I had never heard of the Borgias before the, and my subsequent research into them has made me admire Plaidy more and more for ability to transform their history into romance. I have tried and -I hope- succeeded in doing something similar in my own novel, SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA.
Firstly, every writer-of fact or fiction- who decides to tackle the Borgias has to excavate them from hundreds of layers of dark mythology which have accreted to them over the five hundred years or so since they were at the peak of their power. This, for me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of their history. Why, in an age when many of those who had power, even ecclesiastical power, had gained it by murdering their way to the top, did the Borgias acquire such a reputation for wickedness? Why, in what has been called ’the golden age of bastards’, were the circumstances of their birth held particularly against the four children of Pope Alexander VI and Vannozza de’ Catanei-- Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia, and Jofre? Most of all. How do you reconcile the facts of Lucrezia Borgia’s ultimately successful domestic life and contented marriage which produced five children, with the fiction that she became in the hands of Victor Hugo- the poisoner, the incestuous adulteress, an archetypal femme fatale?
In my view, there are two main reasons for this, both of which also contribute to the abiding fascination of the Borgias. Firstly, they were foreigners. The family came originally from Catalonia, from a small town called Jativa, near Valencia in modern Spain. The branch which emigrated to Italy became very successful; as well as Alexander, his uncle, Alonso, was elected Pope Calixtus III. As we know in our time, there’s a tendency to grow resentful of foreigners who do too well for themselves. Secondly, unlike the Medici, for example, who flourished and faded away over a long period, the Borgias rose and fell in less than fifty years, from the election of Calixtus III in 1455 to the death of Alexander in 1503. As we know, from short lives and premature deaths as various as those of Anne Boleyn and Kurt Cobain, the glitter of shooting stars attaches to those who do not live long enough to become tarnished. Ceasare and Lucrezia Borgia, who are at the heart of my own novel, were 31 and 39 years old respectively when they died, and Cesare’s career in particular has all the attributes of a Greek tragedy.
Another aspect of their allure for the fiction writer is that, despite their high public profile, many aspects of their lives remain a mystery to historians. We do not know, for example who murdered Juan Borgia, nor if Lucrezia was, in fact pregnant, when in 1497, she appeared in front of a gathering of cardinals to assure that her marriage to Giovanni Sforza had not been consummated and to prepare the way for a new and advantageous match with Alfonso of Biscegile. Cesare’s own marriage is an emotional mystery; though his French wife steadfastly refused to live with him in Italy, she seems to have loved him enough to mourn him for the rest of his life after his death in 1507, when she was only 25. Cesare himself, though he ‘took no account of women’, regularly sent his wife and daughter presents of items such as sweetmeats and beeswax candles. If only we still had any letters which may have accompanied them!
Cesare’s relationship with his sister, Lucrezia, is one of the most tantalizing mysteries for anyone interested in digging behind the public lives to the private individuals behind the masks, fine clothes and titles. While I don’t propose to divulge my own view-you’ll have to read SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA for that!- what I will say is that it intrigues because it gives us just about the only glimpse we have of a passionate heart beneath the carapace of political hard headedness and ruthless military efficiency which Cesare took care to build around himself and which Machiavelli handed down to posterity in his characterization in The Prince. One of the most remarkable achievements of a remarkable lady- the patron of Ariosto and Pietro Bembo, the mother of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, who built the Villa d’Este in Tivoli-was to open up a chink, albeit a tiny and ambiguous one- in the armour of her brother.
I hope you enjoy my tribute to the abiding fascination of the Borgias, and my personal solutions to some of the many unsolved riddles of their histories.
I HAVE TWO COPIES TO GIVEAWAY
Giveaway ends March 31
PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE ONE COPY FOR RESIDENTS OF THE US & CANADA and ONE COPY FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERNATIONAL. Please specify either US & CANADA or INTERNATIONAL so that I will know which giveaway to place your name in.
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Royal Reviewer Angela Renee at 2:15 PM