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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias

(Borgias #1)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  10,574 ratings  ·  1,353 reviews
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published May 2nd 2013)
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Olive Sparrow It's called In The Name of the Family and it'll be out March 2017.…moreIt's called In The Name of the Family and it'll be out March 2017.(less)

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Heidi The Reader
Oh, the Borgias. What an extraordinary family and what a story.

Just when you think that things couldn't become more scandalous, they do.

A Pope with a family? Check. Forbidden attraction between siblings? Check. Poisonings and intrigue and, dare I say, murder?

The attraction of this story is not just the crazy Borgias, it's also Rome itself.

All roads lead to it, the center of power in Europe for centuries. One never really "rules" Rome, you just ride your wave of popularity until it crashes.

This c
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I actually received a copy of this as an ARC seven years ago, but I didn't finish it at the time. Clearly, this is proof of how much 30-year-old Nenia's taste has evolved from 23-year-old Nenia's, because 30-year-old Nenia thought this book was quite fine indeed. In fact, I'd totally recommend this book to those of you who have just finished Game of Thrones and are asking yourself, "What next?" because of all the sex, scheming, intrigue,

Dunant's clearly done her research, and I appreciate an accurate and sympathetic fictional account of the family. But I feel like this book fails as a work of fiction. That same historical research gets in the way of story, and large swathes of the book read as the straight listing of historical events. (Which isn't to say historical accuracy and good storytelling are mutually exclusive, just that they fail to combine here.) None of the characters come off the page with any real vibrancy, eve
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Dunant has written three acclaimed novels of Renaissance Italy in which she consciously narrowed her focus to the long-concealed stories of ordinary women on the margins rather than following what she termed the “historical celebrity version of life.” Now, in a noteworthy switch, we’re presented with Blood & Beauty, which centers on perhaps the most grasping and notorious celebrities of the era. The Borgia name instantly evokes images of glorious wealth and even more glorious power, corrup ...more
B the BookAddict
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-fiction

This is a book I should have read on it's own, not while I was also reading something else. I kept losing my concentration, especially in the first part which I found quite dry. After the death of Juan Borgia, you really begin to know Rodrigo (Pope Alexander VI). The whole feeling of the novel changed for me then and the characters in the Borgia family came alive. What passionate and violent times they lived in and it's worthwhile knowing that all the major cities behaved in similar warring fash
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dead-tree
2.5 stars

I’m sure it’s not the publishers’ hope that when they send out these ARCs to readers like myself for honest reviews, the response from certain ungrateful quarters is going to be snarky GIFspam. I’m sure I’m supposed to be more professional and serious about the whole process, but unfortunately (or fortunately, YMMV) it’s how I cope.

Believe me, I was optimistic about this book when I entered the Giveaway. My exposure to the Borgias has been limited to a two-book bodice ripper series by G
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, I didn't realize I never wrote a review for this book. I think it's very well written and the story is interesting for most parts, though I'll also recommend you to also read The Family by Mario Puzo, it's another intriguing historical novel about the Borgias with the family members being treated as human beings with both flaws and strength instead of cartoonish evil villains.

My review for The Family:

My review for Borgia (comic):
Sarah u
Think of Renaissance Italy and one name tends spring to mind: Borgia. The Borgias. A family with humble Spanish roots that raced their way to the height of power in the late fifteenth century. The head of the family was Rodrigo, known now to history as Pope Alexander VI; he and his sons Juan, Cesare and Jofre, his daughter Lucrezia and long term mistress Vanozza are familiar to many.

With their rise in power came rumour, scandal, violence and corruption. Rodrigo himself is thought to have bribed
I won this book from that other site I sometimes frequent.
It’s a long book--502 pages in the ARC--so it took me awhile to get through it. And this rendering of Pope Alexander VI and his 6 illegitimate children still isn’t even all told, as Dunant is writing a sequel. All I knew about the Borgias was something about the daughter Lucrezia, something not very nice, maybe something about affairs ending with bastard children. I was glad, then, that she and her brother Cesare are the main characters
Roman Clodia
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderfully engaging re-telling of the Borgia family story from Roderigo's election as Pope Alexander VI in 1492 to Lucrezia's third marriage into the d'Este family in 1502. Dunant resists just churning out the usual scurrilous stories of incest, poisoning, murder and decadence, and instead offers a more complex tale of complicated politics and characters.

The narrative is marked by a sly wit: `the Pope sits in darkness in his bedchamber. Recently his legs have been causing him trouble.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I work for the publisher of this book, which is why I have read it before it's out. But it's not a marketing gimmick to say I completely loved it. I'm not by any means a historical fiction reader, really, though I do enjoy Hilary Mantel, and I think I enjoyed this for the same reason. The setting is incredibly strong - you can almost smell the hot Roman streets in the height of summer, and feel the cloying air. More than this, though, the characters are unbelievably realistic. L ...more
Rio (Lynne)
3.85 stars. It's funny how our moods are. I tried this book back in August and I couldn't get into it. The author loves lots of details. I picked it up again in November and I really enjoyed it. When I say details (I wish I had the book in front of me to choose a sentence) but her writing style was full of adjectives. I could skim those. What I did like was the story. I've read many NF books on this family and have been waiting for some HF books to come out. The ones that have are full of incest ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how such intrigue, sex and extreme machinations from the Borgias could be made static and boring, but that is how I found this historical fiction novel. I think writing it in the 3rd person present had a lot to do with my discomfort reading it.I felt so removed from the characters. Perhaps a first person narrative would have drawn me into the times and feeling for the period a little more. I watched a season of The Borgias on Showtime and didn't care for that, either, but for differ ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where is the craft? This book has simply taken a series of events surrounding the Borgias and stated them - with a little manufactured dialogue thrown in. But where is the craft of storytelling? Where is the actual character development so the reader actually becomes invested in the character and their journey? Absent. This is lazy writing. Take an interesting family/historical period + just narrate the series of events = paint-by-numbers historical novel. Ugh.

Two stars because the author obvio
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not having read any other novels on the Borgia family and knowing only their black reputation, I was pleased that this novel treated them evenhandedly and as well-rounded characters. I don't know how good other novels about them are, but I'll take this one as the gold standard. The story begins with Rodrigo's election to the papacy in 1492--he takes the name Alexander VI-- and treats of his four children. It progresses until a year or so before his death; we know he is dying, by the end of the n ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Acclaimed novelist of the Italian Renaissance Sarah Dunant takes on the era's most infamous family - the Borgias.

The story of the Borgia Pope is not long - Roderigo Borgia, Alexander VI, was the Head of the Church for barely a decade - but an enormous amount of activity, social, political and sexual was crammed into that period.

Our abridgement begins in August 1492 when Roderigo Borgia wins his campaign to become Pope, and describes the repercussions for his ch
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a book about the Borgias that reads like an episode of Showtime's The Borgias, steer clear of this book. You might try Sins of the House of Borgia, but be warned, it's pretty awful. If you are looking for a fictional novel that strips away all of the rumors and provides a reader with an in-depth look at the various, complex relationships of the Borgia household, drop everything and start reading.

Dunant does a brilliant job diminishing some of the more scandalous rumors su
Lisa - (Aussie Girl)
After being glued to the soap opera that was Showtime's The Borgias I thought I better read up on the real story. Author Sarah Dunant had commented that after researching this book for two years she didn't contradict any known facts and where information was not clear took her best guess with the available historical material.

As she has commented in her epilogue, "The Borgias were victims of bad press" and history is written by the victors and overall The Borgias came up short in their ambitions
April Cote
This book, and In The Name of the Family, also by Sarah Dunant, are the first I've read anything about the Borgias. After watching both of the popular TV shows, I knew I wanted to know more of this family without the soap opera drama. Sarah Dunant is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction, and I was happy to see that she had written about this family and piece of history. Both books are well written, full of historical facts and just enough imagination to keep the story interesting and ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher and, Borgia junkie that I am, I'm NEVER going to turn down something Borgia-related. Also it's got a very pretty cover and I am a very shallow person. "Borgia book, let me love you!" I said, opening the first page.

Further disclaimer: I have not actually read much historical fiction centered around the Borgia family. Mostly, this is because I've heard through the grapevine that most of it is uniformly terrible. I have however read severa
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am attempting audiobooks and my whole interaction with this work is framed by the fact that I don't think the audiobook form is working for me. I find it generally more difficult to follow what is happening (especially in the beginning) and they very clearly expose flaws in writing (though, this book was well written so that is not a particular concern here). It took me a long time to get into this, perhaps because of the general remove at which I felt from the characters throughout. I thought ...more
lacy white
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-stars, own, d, 2018
tw: racism, incest (implied), gruesome animal death, sexism, rape, sexual assault

Well. This was one hell of a book. 500 pages of one family and what they did, laid bare for all to see. The Borgias. What. A. Family. My word! And here I thought the Pope was supposed to be a virtuous man. Guess not during the 15th century.

This book was intense. I knew nothing about the Borgias. I didn’t even know the patriarch was a Pope. All I knew was that there was a TV show about the family and I think this boo
It is the summer of 1492 and the death of Pope Innocent VIII has left the papal throne empty, ready for the new incumbent. In Conclave, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia is busy doing what he does best - plotting. Never one to embark on anything half heartedly, his gleeful shouts of, "I am Pope!" lack dignity, but show us what lies ahead. For Rodrigo Borgia is a new kind of pontiff; unashamedly using nepotism to advance the careers of his children, making political alliances, waging war and always plottin ...more
David W. W.
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One could argue it's hard to write a bad book about The Borgias, given the plot lines History has given us: a Spanish cardinal who bribes his way to the top of the Church of Rome. A bastard son who is made a cardinal, but would rather lead an army. Another bastard son who leads the army, but would rather be in bed with a prostitute. A lovely daughter who loves her eldest brother, possibly to the point of incest. Add battles between Rome and Naples, Rome and Milan, Rome and Florence, and Rome and ...more
Lori Elliott (semi-hiatus)
I thought this was an appropriate novel to read since I just returned from a trip to Rome and I have been eager to learn more about the Borgias!!! This did provide me with a good overview of their story but lacked much intimacy with the characters!!! There are a lot of players in this family and I wish that Dunant had allowed the reader to get closer to them emotionally maybe by telling their story from one characters perspective!!! Still would love to read more about this notorious family... st ...more
Viviane Crystal
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rodrigo Borgia, a noble of Spanish descent, in 1492 wins a majority of votes carefully cultivated among the College of Cardinals, the vote that would mandate the rest of his life be spent as Pope Alexander VI. Totally besotted with his own children, Juan, Cesare, and Lucrezia, and endeared to his former and present lover, Alexander will spend the remainder of his life manipulating, severing and unifying the bonds of these faithless and troubled children. One can imagine what it was like to techn ...more
Alice Poon

This was the first historical novel about the Italian Renaissance period that I’ve read and, for me, it was undoubtedly one of the most thrillingly dramatic of such genre. Like icing on the cake, I also thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Dunant’s imagery-rich but non-cumbersome style of writing. I’m giving it 4 full stars.

For most European historical fiction lovers, the name “Borgia” is probably quite familiar. For me though, it is a historical name that I first came across while watching a few episodes o
Sharon Robards
Sarah Dunant is one my favourite writers, and I found myself comparing it with her other three books set in the Italian Renaissance. I’m not sure if I was spoiled by the mini-series released about the Borgia’s, but I almost gave up on this book because half of it felt like a history lesson, which I had not noticed in the other three books I’ve read. Half way through, I felt like she had the mojo back, and I was totally hooked.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully detailed and rich account of the life of the Borgias, however this is not the full story and a sequel is to follow. I look forward to reading it.
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
This is the story of the Borgia family from the election of Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI in 1492 through to the announcement of Lucrezia Borgia's third marriage in 1502. This was a tumultuous time in Italian history and the Borgias were strong and fascinating characters, with ruthless ambitions and enormous sexual appetites. The main three characters in the novel are Rodrigo, his extremely ambitious son Cesare and his daughter Lucrezia.

I have been fascinated by the Borgias since reading J
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Play Book Tag: Blood & Beauty / Sarah Dunant. 2.5 stars 3 13 Jul 31, 2018 11:47AM  
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 5 Aug 28, 2015 03:45PM  

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Sarah Dunant is a cultural commentator, award-winning thriller writer and author of five novels set in Renaissance Italy exploring women’s lives through art, sex and religion. She has two daughters, and lives in London and Florence.

Sarah’s monthly history program and podcast on history can be found via the BBC website.

Other books in the series

Borgias (2 books)
  • In the Name of the Family

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