All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Borgia Bride – Jeanne Kalogridis

on August 2, 2010

The Borgia Bride got me out of my slump of not being able to complete a novel. It tells the tale of Sancha of Aragon, illegitimate but acknowledged daughter of Alfonso II of Naples. At 15, Sancha is betrothed for the first time but that engagement is broken in favour of another one, with Jofre Borgia, illegitimate but acknowledged son of Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI. Jofre is barely 12, which I found a bit disturbing. I know it was the done thing back in those days, but given their wedding night is witnessed by both Sancha’s cruel and cold father and another, it was a bit uncomfortable!

{{This review will contain some SPOILERS}}

Sancha and her new husband are given the principality of Squillace and head off there to live, devastating Sancha as she must leave behind her beloved brother Alfonso. There her and Jofre live in a sort of civilized harmony for a while before having to deal with an issue that arises in Naples. Sancha’s father, now King, has not been able to handle the invasion of the French and has absconded with the contents of the royal coffers, to Sicily. Sancha aids her family in that issue, then after it is resolved, chooses to stay in her home of Naples, and not return to Squillace. But before she can get too comfortable, word of Sancha’s legendary beauty reaches Pope Alexander VI and he calls his son and his new wife back to Rome. A notorious lech, Pope Alexander VI is the first Pope to have acknowledged children and has a reputation for ‘destroying marriages’ by famously seducing married woman. Sancha is apprehensive, certain that her husbands father plans to make her his next conquest. They cannot deny the request to go to Rome however, and take up residence with the Pope.

It is there that things get rather complicated. Pope Alexander VI wastes no time attempting to lure Sancha to his bed but Sancha has laid eyes on the Pope’s eldest son, Cesare. The Cardinal of Valencia, Cesare has been ‘given to the Church’ by Pope Alexander VI, who sees him as the next Pope. Cesare and Sancha fall into love (or maybe more accurately, lust) at first sight are are soon embarking on a clandestine affair. Cesare rebuffs the Pope’s attentions towards Sancha with an ease that readers should take note of. He talks of leaving the church, getting Sancha’s marriage to Jofre annulled and marrying her himself, providing her with a hoarde of children.  Matters for Sancha are further complicated by her new sister in law, Lucrezia Borgia, who is at first, very jealous of Sancha and sees her as a rival for Pope Alexander VI’s affection. And make of  that what you will!

There’s a lot more going on in this book, with plenty of politics and people backstabbing each other, plotting against others, murdering, raping, stealing from and sleeping around abounds. It seems that everyone in this book comes served with a massive side of evil and it’s hard to like anybody. They’re either ambitious, ruthless and perhaps slightly insane (Cesare, King Ferrante (Sancha’s grandfather) or pathetic and weak (Lucrezia, King Alfonso II of Naples, Jofre). In glaring contrast, Sancha’s beloved brother Alfonso, who becomes Lucrezia’s second husband, is portrayed as perfection itself.

Cesare at some stage, revokes his Cardinal-ness and becomes the Pope’s Captain-General, or head of his army, presumably after murdering the previous one Juan, the middle brother. He begs Sancha once again to leave Jofre and marry him, but Sancha, sickened now by things she knows Cesare has done, refuses to hurt and humiliate Jofre. I think this is supposed to be noble of her, but really it just comes across as stupid, because Jofre spends most of his time drinking wine and hanging with courtesans and although he repeatedly swears to do better by Sancha, never does. She may’ve not approved of Cesare’s actions but she should’ve realised he’d be a very dangerous man to cross and she’d probably have secured her position, and that of her brother, if she left Jofre and married Cesare, whether she wanted to or not. But she remained stubborn, angering Cesare and had him swearing revenge on her by hurting the thing dearest to her – her brother Alfonso.

I -think- I enjoyed this book, even if all the characters weren’t to my liking. It certainly kept me turning pages, and I have to admit, I was floored when Cesare turned out to be a psychopath. I know nothing about the Borgia’s, so I went in blind, and the way he was portrayed (although I am well aware that this is through Sancha’s eyes) made him very likeable and I hoped they would end up together. Then when his first act of betrayal is revealed, I was actually gobsmacked. I did enjoy being so sucked in and then spat out by one character, I thought that was well done.


(Book #44 of my 50 Book Challenge of 2010)

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