Monday, April 27, 2009
Review: The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis
I picked The Borgia Bride up on a whim on my way out of the library based solely on the back cover synopsis. When I started reading, I found that the synopsis was very misleading but since the story was so interesting, I got over it. This is the story of the the Borgia family, known for their treacherous rule and incestuous ways. The story follows Sancha of Aragon, new wife to Jofre Borgia, as she discovers the horrible truths about her new family. I knew little about the history of the Borgia's before reading this book and out of constant curiosity, I stopped reading many times to look up facts about the family. They were indeed a twisted bunch, which made reading about them all the more entertaining.
Sancha, daughter of the short reigned King of Naples, Alfonso II, has lived a privileged life. She has little want for anything other than her father's affection and recognition - something that he seems incapable of giving her. Without the love of her father, Sancha clings to her younger brother Alfonso, whose kind heart keeps her from feeling so alone. When Sancha comes of marital age, she falls to the same fate of many noble women and is married off for her family's political gain. Her father gives her hand to one of the Pope's recognized sons, Jofre Borgia, as a way to gain alliance with the Roman Church.
This move takes Sancha away from her beloved brother and into a world where evil reigns supreme. Sancha ends up in Rome at the request of her lecherous father-in-law, Pope Alexander VI, who has heard tales of Sancha's beauty and wishes to see her for himself. Once in Rome, Sancha must fend off the Pope's unwanted advances, try to convince his jealous daughter, Lucrezia, that she does not have designs on the Pope, and attempt to remain faithful to her husband as she is losing her heart to his handsome brother, Cesare.
Sancha soon finds out that the family she has married into is capable of the worst sins and that even Cesare, who she has fallen in love with, has not been saved from the twisted Borgia curse. When Sancha's brother Alfonso arrives in Rome to marry Lucrezia, Sancha does what she can to protect him from his new family, but all of her precautions can not save either herself or Alfonso from the curse of the sinister Borgia's. Knowing too much, they both become prisoners in the Borgia household. In order to survive, Sancha must use her cunning to outwit the Borgia's before she loses her life at their hands.
The Borgia Bride was a quick read for me despite it 500 plus pages. The story starts out a little slow, as the backdrop and foundation of the story are set, but then quickly picks up pace some 20 pages in. It is told from Sancha's first person perspective and works well because it still leaves an air of mystery around the Borgia's since the motivation and mind frame of the Borgia's is not ever truly known and they remain cloaked in question. Though The Borgia Bride is historical fiction, it is based heavily on factual truth's and occurrences. Ms. Kalogridis does a really good job of filling in the historical blanks with fascinating fiction that help round out the better known historical events.
The book does not paint the Roman Catholic Church in a favorable light as depicted through Pope Alexander VI and his promiscuous nature, the incest that appears common place, rape, and the cold blooded murder committed for political gain. There are some scenes that are very dark, and one in particular that made me uncomfortable and I'm not easily disturbed. Still, these events are factual and served to make the story more realistic. Overall, The Borgia Bride was an entertaining, angst filled, drama ridden, and seductive read - and I say seductive because with each page I was further enticed to read on and go deeper into the dysfunctional life of the Borgia's - even when I wanted to look away. For historical fiction lovers, like myself, I would definitely recommend reading this one. Grade A-
Visit Jeanne Kalogridis' site here. Read the first chapter of The Borgia Bride here.