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The Borgia Bride: A Novel Paperback – April 21, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Against the backdrop of 15th-century Italian internecine feuds, debauchery and Vatican corruption, Kalogridis's latest historical novel (after The Burning Times) chronicles with compelling sweep the story of the ravishing and iron-willed Sancha de Aragon, princess of Naples. Illegitimate daughter to the coldhearted duke of Calabria (briefly king of Naples), she is used to establish ties to the feared and influential House of Borgia when her father betroths her to the younger scion, Jofre. Much to the dismay of her beloved younger brother Alfonso, Sancha is sent from Naples to rule with Prince Jofre in remote Squillace. War with the French will later briefly return her to Naples, but rumors of her beauty reach her lecherous father-in-law, Pope Alexander VI, who recalls her and Jofre to opulent Rome. There, she avoids the pope's advances—and her jealous sister-in-law Lucrezia's animosity—but falls into a steamy affair with her brother-in-law, the dashing Cesare, cardinal of Valencia. Cesare becomes furious when she refuses to leave Jofre, and he sets out on a warpath that includes her brother Alfonso, who has also married into the Borgia clan—to Lucrezia. Kalogridis spins a dramatic tale from a heady mix of royal power plays and passion.
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“From sexual passion to mortal danger, the dramatic shift of real historical events will keep the reader turning the pages.” ―Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl
Top customer reviews
This is a must read for any reader of rennaissance historical fiction. While I, Mona Lisa does a great job of discussing Savonarola and the criticisms of Pope Alexander VI and the Borgia family, the Borgia Bride puts these criticisms into context. After reading about the Borgia's exploits - based on fact as well as sixteenth century gossip - it is no wonder that the Reformation occurred shortly after Pope Alexander VI's papacy!
The book focuses on Sancha of Aragon, a princess of the royal house of Naples. I knew little about her family or Naples, so it was refreshing to read a peice of historical fiction about a person and family about whom I know little. The advantage for Kalogridis, compared to authors of historical fiction about better known historical figures, is that for Sancha of Aragon, Kalogridis had virtually a clean slate. Little is known about her. I tried some internet searches and beyond the fact that she married Jofre Borgia, was Cesare Borgia's lover, and the facts of her parentage, Kalogridis had room to develop her character. She was not constrained by a vast historical record. In the Borgia Bride, Kalogridis creates a strong, intelligent woman and meshes her character into one of the most shocking families of the Rennaissance.
The basic plot summary is as follows. Sancha married Jofre Brogia, a boy several years her junior, largely because her family wanted to secure the pope's support in the event of the rumored invasion by the French king. In return, the Napolese make Jofre and Sancha the Prince and Princess of Squillace. The rumored invasion occurs without the Pope's sending troops to support Naples, however, because the French kidnapped the Pope's teenaged lover. Disappointed, the Napolese are forced to confront the invasion on their own. As this time, Sancha exhibits her bravery and earns the respect of her countrymen. Eventually, Sancha and her husband are summoned to Rome where Sancha is confronted with the licentious and shocking behavior of the Borgias. At first, she is witness to the Pope's open sexual behavior with his mistress and prostitutes. She also meets Cesare Borgia and embarks on a passionate affair. Eventually, Sancha realizes that she has gotten herself in over her head, learning of the Pope's illicit relationship with his daughter Lucrezia. I don't want to spoil the rest of the plot, but the story that ensues is fascinating as Sancha uses her wiles to protect herself from the Borgia family.
Headed by Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia family is a bit unusual. The pope had love affairs and openly acknowledged his children (unlike other popes who embraced their offspring as "nieces and nephews"). The Borgias were cunning, ruthless and power-hungry. All this is fact.
Author Jeanne Kalogridis tells this story in the first person from Sancha's point of view, beginning with her childhood in Naples, her move to Rome as a bride and her life there. She has a torrid love affair with one of the pope's son, is party to murder, witnesses extreme incest and lives on the edge of treachery. The fast-paced ending is an exciting read.
The book follows the story of Sancha of Aragon, who is married into the Borgia family when she marries Jofre Borgia, the weak and disappointing son of Pope Alexander. When called to Rome by the Pope Sancha is inducted into the Borgia family and meets Lucrezia and Cesare, both who will have profound impacts on her life. There's love affairs, lies, murder and intrigue, which seems to go hand in hand with being involved with the Borgia family.
The story is extremely fast paced, and was one I absolutely couldn't put down, finishing it in 3 days. If you're new to the intrigue of the Borgia's this will have you wanting more.