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Sins of the House of Borgia Paperback – March 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A young Jewish woman is drawn into the splendor and corruption surrounding the court of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, in Bower's debut, a slick historical soap opera. After Esther Sarfati is baptized and becomes a lady-in-waiting to the widowed Lucrezia Borgia, the pope's illegitimate daughter, she is attracted to Lucrezia's seductive and cruel brother, Cesare. Esther becomes ensnared in a web of deceit and betrayal as Lucrezia is sent in a political marriage to the powerful Alfonso d'Este, heir to the dukedom of Ferrara. Determined to pursue a romance with the elusive Cesare, Esther is increasingly drawn into the schemes and passions of the Ferrara and Borgia families. While Esther's blind love for the careless and usually absent Cesare strains belief, the sheer grandeur of the papal and Ferrara courts, and the spectacle of the Borgia and Ferrara siblings' rivalries and revenges form a glittering take on one of the most notorious families of the Italian Renaissance. (Mar.)
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"The sheer grandeur of the papal and Ferrara courts, and the spectacle of the Borgia and Ferrara siblings' rivalries and revenges form a glittering take on one of the most notorious families of the Italian Renaissance. " - Publishers Weekly

"Bower brilliantly merges history with politics and convincing characters to draw readers into a lush and colorful tapestry of Renaissance life... This powerful piece of fiction ranks with some of the finest of the genre. 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick of the Month " - RT Book Reviews

"Very Philippa Gregory, but with better writing and less on-screen incest.

" - books i done read

"Whether a poor Jewish fishing town or the intricate palace of Italy's most notorious family, Sarah Bower commands the scenes with her explicit details and beautifully vivid descriptions.The characters have a vibrancy that brings them to life before our eyes, a sense of realness that makes them relatable and emotionally investing. " - Romance Fiction Suite 101

"This is a very well researched story of the Borgia family, who are more corrupt than the Tudor court could ever have been. " - CelticLady's Reviews

"This is a well crafted book that gives the true flavor of this hedonistic family. The politics, rivalries, sadism, and excesses of the Italian Renaissance are well described and the plot lines moves very smoothly. There a multitude of well fleshed out characters and, for this reason, it's a good book to savor more slowly than same. Ms. Bower has a real talent and I will be looking out for her next work." - Books by the Willow Tree

" 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.

" - Royal Reviews

"This is a great character driven historical novel giving readers a very entertaining portrayal of very interesting family. The Soprano's of the Renaissance! I would recommend to historical fiction lovers as well as those who want to read a book that has everything from debauchery to betrayal and back again.

" - Deb's Book Bag

"Sins of the House of Borgia is beautifully written and so effectively exemplifies the glamour of the Borgia court that you can easily sympathize with Esther's loss of self within it. This novel is not meant to be rushed through and I am not able to come close to describing all the people, intrigues and alliances in this review. The author does a wonderful job of combining the facts known about the Borgias with rumors and elaborations of those known to be around them but for which the history books say very little. I will be waiting to see what Ms. Bower has to offer next" - Luxury Reading

"A sizzling new novel about a young Jewish woman ensnared with love and lust by Cesare Borgia, the pope's illegitimate son.

" - USA Today
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402259638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402259630
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah began writing as a child, but only started doing it professionally after completing a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her first published novel, THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD, was Susan Hill's Novel of the Year in 2007. THE BOOK OF LOVE was re-published in March 2011 as SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA. Although known as a writer of historical fiction, Sarah has recently completed EROSION, a contemporary psychological mystery set in East Anglia, where she lives. She also works as a creative writing teacher and mentor. You can follow Sarah on Facebook or Twitter at @SarahBower.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Penny L. Bloodhart on April 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The writing is excellent, the period detail colorful and shows great attention to detail. The Borgias come across as an enigmatic and fascinating family. The major flaw is the heroine. Her attachment to Cesare Borgia is sad, and in the end just makes her rather silly. She's a beauty in a privileged position, yet more or less ruins her own life due to one rather unsatisfying encounter with this man, and no matter how shabbily he treats her, she continues to be his pawn. This may be realistic, but I kept wishing that Esther/Violante would find a way to "get over it." The complexity and cruelty of most of the characters probably catches the themes of this time, but somehow most of them become almost impossible to care about. Definitely worth a read for those who want their history without cheerful romance!
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Colleen T. on March 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
I orginally reviewed this book for the blog Luxury Reading and am now so happy I did so!

"All my life I had been obedient to the men who exercised authority over me. Staying behind in Toledo at my father's insistence, until it was too late to travel safely and I was forced to witness my mother's lonely, unnecessary death on the beach at Nettuno. Renouncing my own faith and family in favour of these Borgias with their dangerous charm, their plausible lies and their inhumane religion. Even taking my vicious nickname because it was bestowed on me by a man. My name. My real name."

Her real name is Esther Sarfati and she emerges as our competent and enigmatic narrator. She has the unique ability to be an active part of the drama and intrigue surrounding the heyday of the Borgias but to be obscure and unimportant enough in the analogues of history to also be our proverbial "fly on the wall". The story is bookended with an older, wiser Esther recounting her story of the years leading up to and encompassing her role as a lady-in-waiting to Lucrezia Borgia: 1492-1507. It is within this small grouping of years that Esther lived boldly and lost everything and everyone she ever loved.

In 1492 Esther and her mother are left behind in Toledo, Spain by her father and brothers while they travel to Rome, Italy to find their fortune and security working to assist an up and coming Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia to buy his way into the Vatican and in hopes of escaping the Jewish persecution building in Spain under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Esther is a fair haired young Jewess and her father claims she and her mother can pass as Christians until he can send for them safely.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bookreader "Melanie" on October 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed every bit of this book. I was not familiar with this part of history and the family of the Borgias. It was fascinating to read about the lives of the powerful families of the Italian Renaissance.
This book is told from the point of view of Ester, a lady in waiting to Lucrezia Borgia. She grew up Jewish, but converts to the Catholic faith and is renamed Donata. She falls in love with Cesaer Borgia and what follows is the story of the rise and fall of the Borgia clan. But mostly it is about Ester, eventually nicknamed Violante. She tragically falls in love with Cesaer who is unable to love her in return.
I was a bit confused in the beginning of the story because of all the different names of the characters. Occasionally, some of the same characters are referred to by more than one name. So that took some getting used to.
If you enjoy historical fiction, then this would be a book to add to your to read list. It can meander a bit, but I enjoyed the writing and the plot throughout!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By BeckyBWVU on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading several other reviews I was very interested in this book. While I don't regret buying it and spending the time to read it, I have to agree with another review in saying that it could be very frustrating. The historical information and the interactions between some of the characters was good but the way Violante keeps pining for Cesare gets old and you get to the point of saying, "Enough already! Let something happen or move on!" Lucrezia Borgia is always interesting. Her relationship with Cesare is a fascinating because there are so many questions surrounding it. Overall, not a bad read but it could have been better.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the year 5252 which the Christians call 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella give the Jews three months to leave. Many like the Sarfati family in Toledo decide to relocate to the city-states of Italy where the despotic rulers are tolerant towards Jews and wary of Ferdinand. The Sarfati father and his three sons move ahead to Rome where the patriarch helps finance Rodrigo Borgia efforts to become the next Pope. The females followed but the matriarch died before finishing the journey leaving her six years old daughter Esther travelling to Rome to join her father.

Almost a decade later Borgia as Pope Alexander VI returns the support he received from Sarfati by allowing Esther a chance to join his daughter Lucrezia's retinue if she converts. Although Esther has doubts, her father convinces her to accept the terms. As Lucrezia marries Alfonso d'Este, Esther converts to Christianity and becomes a lady-in-waiting known as La Violante. Lucrezia thinks highly of La Violante and her cousin Angela Borgia becomes her friend; while Lucrezia's brother Cesare stirs her heart.

This is an engaging look at the Borgia family through the rosy colored eyes of an innocent individual who must adapt to a world of backstabbing deadly passion or die. Cesare owns the story line as he never allows his heart or soul get in the way of his machinations. Lucrezia pales next to her sibling; as she does not seem to measure up to her brother on the viciousness scale. Filled with betrayal, readers will enjoy the Book of Esther as La Violante tells how paradise was lost and regained when she learned to trust no one not even those she thought loved her.

Harriet Klausner
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