Review: The Vatican Princess by CW Gortner

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The story of Lucrezia Borgia is one that has been told many times over the last 500 years and in most tales, she is made out to be quite evil and scheming.  But after research, most historians have changed their views of Lucrezia and her role during the reign of her father, Pope Alexander VI.  This book takes a fresher look at her life and is probably closer to the truth than many of the historical texts and stories that many of us grew up with.  This is still a work of fiction and there are many areas that are very sensationalized, but you can easily see the research that went into this book and how the author strives to show this enigmatic historical figure in a new light.

Lucrezia was the pampered daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, an extremely ambitious man who sought after and ultimately acquired the title of Pope.  She becomes a pawn at an early age to further advance the Borgia name and bring even more power to her father and her family.  Family always comes first and this is something that she is raised to believe, even to the detriment of herself and others around her.  She learns too late in life that sometimes family doesn’t always know best.

Set in 15th and early 16th century Italy, this book follows Lucrezia through almost a decade of her life.  Soon after her father is elected Pope Alexander VI, she is married off to repay a debt to the Sforza family who helped bring her father to power.  It is not a happy match and she is made to suffer for several years until her father decides that there is a better match to be made and works on annulling their marriage to make a better match, once again to further his cause.

The author admittedly does sensationalize a few unproven stories about Lucrezia and her brothers Juan and Cesare.  Many stories have mentioned an incestuous relationship between the siblings and some have even been so bold as to say that Lucrezia gave birth to a child that was sired by one of her brothers.  A Papal Bull decreed that the child was sired by Pope Alexander VI and an unnamed woman, but a second document states that it was a child sired by Cesare and an unnamed woman.  But what was the truth?  500 years later we will probably never know, but the author puts forward just one option.

The book does read like a soap opera in some ways but it is always entertaining, always interesting and incredibly descriptive and well researched.  You can’t help but feel for Lucrezia and what she had to endure during her life.  She had more heart break, more upheaval and more betrayal in less than a decade than most of us ever see in an entire lifetime.  This is an incredible story about a very interesting historical figure, one that was demonized for centuries but is now finding a new voice.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting a great read about a historical figure.

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