When you’re a Borgia, nothing comes before la famiglia!
Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of the man who became Pope Alexander VI, came from an infamous family and by all accounts, lived a turbulent life in a family that would do anything – including rape, incest, deceit, and murder – to get what they wanted. Lucrezia was one of several (including Juan, Cesare, Gioffre) children of Rodrigo Borgia by Vennotta, one of his many mistresses. Lucrezia is raised largely outside her mother’s house, as her mother vastly prefers her first born son over all others, especially her only daughter, to whom she can be harsh. Lucrezia adores her indulgent father and has a close bond with her brother Cesare. But it is Juan, the cruel, selfish brother that Lucrezia despises, who receives the lion’s share of accolades and treasure from their father. Lucrezia obeys her father and enters her first marriage at the age of 14 with Giovanni Sforza, kin to a cardinal who helped elect her father to the papacy. Weak, cruel, and impotent, Lucrezia’s husband is largely absent – blocked from consummating the political marriage due to contractual agreements – but still anxious to manipulate and control his young wife when it suits him. When the Sforzas are no longer of use to the Borgias, the pope and Cesare petition to have her marriage annulled for non-consummation, but by this point, Lucrezia falls pregnant, a victim of rape by a man who is not her husband. She hides in a convent, gives birth to a son she can never acknowledge or raise, and returns to Rome to play the obedient daughter and sister. Despite her troubles, her doting father doesn’t hesitate to ruthlessly use her to suit his own purposes and her brothers Cesare and Juan will do anything to destroy each other, even if Lucrezia is caught in the cross-fire. And those are only the enemies within. Many inside and outside the Vatican have come to loathe the Borgias for their wealth, presumption, and power, and so the family faces adversaries on all fronts and must continually scramble to stay on top.
When Lucrezia takes a man she loves, Alfonso of Aragon, as her second husband, her family ensures the marriage is less than smooth. Rodrigo stands by as his son Cesare tries to grab all of Italy for himself, using his father’s papal throne to create a kind of hereditary monarchy. Alfonso, whose loyalty lies with the Neapolitans, has good reason to distrust the Borgias, but it takes Lucrezia much longer to confront the reality of her family’s evil. It is only once the very poison of the Borgias’ ambitions consumes what she holds most dear that Lucrezia remembers that she too, after all, is a Borgia. She will never be so naive when it comes to her family again.
If you think Borgias had it out for anyone outside the family, you should see the particularly vicious tricks they reserved only for one another. This is scandal, intrigue, manipulation, cunning, abuse, and deceit on a scale that seems unfathomable to us by modern standards. The fact that this family is rumored to have done all that and more makes this book all the more absorbing. As horrified as you are by the atrocities they heap on each other, you can’t put the book down, racing through the pages to see if Lucrezia can overcome it all and finally have her say. Rich in detail and authentic in voice, this one you won’t be able to put down.
Amazon link is here.