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The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia

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For fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, a gripping novel that follows the extraordinary life of young Lucrezia Borgia, the legendary Renaissance Pope Alexander’s beautiful daughter. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or merely an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.

To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison.

International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare.

This is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess who came of age in an era of savage intrigue and unparalleled splendor, and whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.

382 pages, Hardcover

First published February 9, 2016

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About the author

C.W. Gortner

16 books2,329 followers
Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 525 reviews
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
747 reviews1,794 followers
January 2, 2017
History has not been kind to the Borgias, much of which is well deserved. It is very sad, however, that Lucrezia got sucked into the mix. It is difficult remembering that she was only 13-20 yrs old when the events of this novel occured. This poor girl endured more tragedy in her adolescence than most people experience in a lifetime. Gortner, again, does a brilliant job in personalizing his characters and bringing them to life. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 26 books24.7k followers
March 10, 2016
"Infamy is merely an accident of fate . . . [but] infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia."

First and last lines of the shiver-inducing prologue in Christopher W. Gortner's sumptuous THE VATICAN PRINCESS, a dark, troubling, sumptuous character dive into one of Gortner's most unique heroines. What struck me about Lucrezia Borgia as opposed to any of his other ladies (Juana la Loca, Catherine de'Medici, Isabella of Castile) is that for the most part, they viewed themselves as moral women doing their best with the circumstances they are given, surprised or despairing or grimly accepting of the evil rumors that end up clinging to their hems. They might do morally questionable things, but they are pushed into it by circumstance and still want to do right. They are for the most part unfairly painted black by rumor, and they know it.

Lucrezia, by contrast, does not view herself as unstained or slandered. She sees the capacity for violence rooted in her family and in her own nature; a concrete thing, not a product of the scandal machine. Her struggle isn't against revisionist history unfairly painting her as wicked and corrupt; her struggle is not to BECOME wicked and corrupt. This isn't a book about the politics of the day; who the French fought and what the papal rulings were--and it's not a book about a pretty girl wearing pretty dresses to pretty palace parties and looking for love, either. Inside the shell of papal politics and gorgeous Renaissance settings, it's an extremely personal story about a girl fighting to save her own soul. And yet it's done without painting Pope Alexander or Cesare Borgia as one-dimensional baddies, either - both are sympathetic in turn, as they struggle with the same dilemma as Lucrezia. They're just further along the same path. And it's a riveting path, watching to see where they all fetch up.

Incest and poison, murder and rape are all touched on here, though I'll leave the how, who, and why a mystery. They're dealt with unflinchingly, introduced for deep character reasons and not merely thrown in for titillation and shock value. These are violent times and violent people, and the story of one girl's struggle to transcend the violence. Marvelous.
Profile Image for Sarah (Presto agitato).
123 reviews161 followers
November 29, 2015
The Borgias are one of history’s most notorious families. Rodrigo Borgia, eventually the corrupt Pope Alexander VI, was the patriarch, father of several illegitimate children including sons Giovanni (Juan) and Cesare, whose sibling rivalry may have turned murderous. His daughter Lucrezia was known for her seductive but toxic beauty. The Borgias inspired their contemporary Niccolò Machiavelli's book, The Prince, and have provided ample material to creative artists ever since, to everyone from Victor Hugo to Donizetti to Showtime. They even star in a video game.

Many of the stories told about the Borgias were invented later as their reputations grew, but certainly not all of them. The challenge for a historical novelist is to avoid going over-the-top with wild tales that seem too fantastic to be believed while still preserving the colorful and often outrageous nature of this family. Choosing what to leave out can be as important as deciding what to keep.

Gortner wisely avoids giving an exhaustive catalogue of Borgia offenses. He sticks to what reveals his subjects’ temperaments, doing an admirable job of bringing humanity to these larger-than-life characters. (There is a central plot point that is not supported by the historic record, but it is at least plausible and compatible with what we do know.)

The story is told from Lucrezia’s perspective, making her a sympathetic and believable character in the midst of all the mayhem. This depiction probably gets fairly close to the truth. Lucrezia was no innocent, but she was also a victim of her circumstances, used as a pawn in political marriages starting at the age of 13. Surviving in that environment would have taken a fair amount of scrappiness and adaptability.


This portrait of St. Catherine of Alexandrea in a fresco by Pinturicchio may be Lucrezia Borgia (Photo from paradoxplace.com).

Late 15th century Italy was a vibrant (and violent) place. This book captures the interactions of Italy’s power centers without getting bogged down in minutiae at the expense of the story. In Renaissance Italy, several powerful families held sway over different regions and cities. In this novel, we see how the Orsini, della Rovere, Sforza, Medici, d’Este, and other families constantly jockeyed for power, with the upstart Borgias jumping right into the fray.


View from the Castel Sant'Angelo looking towards St. Peter's Basilica. The brick structure running between them is the passetto through which Rodrigo Borgia escaped when the city was invaded by Charles VIII of France in 1494.

The papacy was as much a political and military power as a religious one. Rodrigo Borgia deployed his children strategically to secure his dynasty (a strange concept when acting as a non-hereditary ruler). It was an era of change in art and science, political friends and foes could be swapped as borders were re-drawn, and the Reformation waited just around the corner. The Borgias bent the rules to suit them in uncertain times, but their unscrupulous volatility had devastating consequences to everyone around them.

“Era desso il figlio mio” from the opera Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti

A copy of this book for review was provided by Random House/NetGalley.
Profile Image for Stacey.
216 reviews19 followers
August 31, 2022
"Grief is selfish. It enclouds us, clutching us to it's breasts like an anxious mother. It does not want us to leave, although we must if we want to survive. Only madness lies ahead for those who can't escape it. For grief will consume those who have nothing else to live for.....I had my child."

This novel tells the story of Lucrezia Borgia, the only daughter of Pope Alexander VI. Many people believed that Lucrezia was conniving, luring men to her bed to poison them. Gortner, however, tells a different coming-of-age story in which sweet Lucrezia was born into a very ruthless family and had to make difficult choices in order to survive. The Borgia family was basically the mafia before they existed. There were rumors of incest and murder, and an insatiable quest for power. Lucrezia's father used his children for his own gain, marrying them off to form alliances and covering up misdeads with unexplained deaths.

I found this story so incredibly engaging. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Julia Whelan. The ending has an extra two chapters explaining what became of Lucrezia and her various children and family members. It's a fantastic book! 👍
Profile Image for Carmo.
667 reviews472 followers
August 5, 2023
"Lucrécia, é vista como a personificação do mal, devido à sua imagem há muito estabelecida e errónea como sedutora maléfica.
A investigação revela que em nada se assemelha à lenda que dela foi criada. À semelhança da maioria das mulheres do seu estatuto, foi um peão usado para atingir as ambições da família, para garantir alianças e sem qualquer voz no seu destino. Apesar de tudo, revelou-se uma sobrevivente, traçando um percurso tenaz e muitas vezes dilacerante por entre o caos que foi a sua vida, sendo a única dos quatro irmãos que exibiu algum sentimento mais profundo para além dos seus próprios interesses. Não encontrei qualquer prova de que tenha envenenado ou prejudicado quem quer que fosse.

A verdade frustrante é que não temos documentação fidedigna acerca do que se passava com os Bórgia atrás de portas fechadas. Por mais que a família tenha sido retratada e dramatizada sob os mais variados ângulos, nunca iremos conhecer a resposta às perguntas mais controversas acerca dos seus elementos."

C. W. Gortner

Ainda que as dúvidas permaneçam e o autor tenha tomado liberdades criativas para compor a vida dos Bórgia, foi um livro que gostei muito de ler e Lucrécia Bórgia é, sem dúvida, uma personagem histórica fascinante.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
145 reviews17 followers
December 10, 2015
Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, later known as Pope Alexander VI. The Borgias are a much talked about historical family, mostly due to the political intrigue and corruption surrounding Rodrigo's Papal court. Yet this novel shows the family through Lucrezia's eyes, not Rodrigo's. Therefore we are granted the blunt perspective of a young girl growing to womanhood during turbulent times. I appreciated the honesty that Lucrezia's voice brought to the tale.
I have read novels about the Borgia family before, most recently "Blood and Beauty" by Sarah Dunnant and "The Lion and the Rose" by Kate Quinn. The later of these is one of my favourite novels and was partially told from the viewpoint of Giulia Farnese., Rodrigo's mistress. Consequently it was interesting to see Giulia through Lucrezia's eyes instead of the other way around. I was given a fresh perspective on historical figures that I had previously cataloged and shelved in my mind and it was enjoyable to take them out and dust them off again. I found myself liking Lucrezia more than had previously, mostly due to her honest nature that rebelled against the deceitful ways of her family. Within these pages I found a girl that I both admired and pitied and truly felt a connection to, thanks to the author's talented character development. Lucrezia was a vivid character that jumped to life from the page and I greatly enjoyed reading her story.
We begin with Lucrezia at twelve years old, just as her father gains the Papal throne. Many times it struck me how very apt the title of this novel is, "The Vatican Princess", as that is truly how Lucrezia was treated. Albeit born out of wedlock she was still the Holy Father's daughter and therefore a hot commodity on the marriage market. Just as any Princess from a royal dynasty would be Lucrezia was married for her father's political purposes, not for love. Unfortunately this led to a disastrous first marriage for Lucrezia and although it was eventually annulled it continued to haunt her for many years.
There is much speculation in the historical world about the time that Lucrezia spent at the Convent of San Sisto during her annulment proceedings. It is thought by many that she was pregnant and awaiting the birth at the time, although this has never actually been proven. I wasn't surprised therefore to see this in the novel, however I was surprised by who the author chose to make the father of this child. It did fit into the story and it does (rather shockingly) tie into other things that we know about the family, but nonetheless I was surprised.
The most impressive thing about this novel in my opinion is the character development that the author has been able to achieve. Not just Lucrezia but also her brothers Cesare and Juan were very well-written complex characters that truly felt like living, breathing people and not just two-dimensional figures from long ago. The author gave them real fears, real passions and a whole bunch of flaws, which enabled me to have a good grasp of who they were as people. I did not necessarily like either one of Lucrezia's brothers, but I found them fascinating to read about all the same. Such character development is what was missing from Sarah Dunnant's novel "Blood and Beauty" and therefore this novel was an even better read than that one was.
I would absolutely recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in the Borgia family. I do not think it matters whether you have read a lot about them before or whether your interest is new, I still believe this novel would be an enjoyable read. The author has done a wonderful job of crafting Lucrezia's story, using historical fact where possible and filling in the blanks with skill that shows a keen understanding of the era. Overall, a very entertaining read!
Profile Image for Alice Poon.
Author 5 books279 followers
May 23, 2016

This was an intensely enthralling read that transported me into the psyche of the protagonist. The novel is written from the perspective of Lucrezia Borgia in the first person. I’m usually not a fan of first-person narration, but it works surprisingly well in this novel, not to mention that the narrator is a male speaking in a female voice. There are a few graphic violent scenes that might not appeal to some readers.

The author successfully spins a possible theory and gripping plot about the much-maligned Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, or Rodrigo Borgia, focusing on her first two political marriages and the enigmatic childbirth in between. In the narration, she morphs from an innocent adolescent who adores her family, especially her father and her older brother Cesare, to a victimized mature young woman who realizes that all her sufferings emanate from her family’s cruel and shadowy machinations. The transformation is fraught with unspeakable shame and pain, both physical and emotional. Her personal vicissitudes are set against a backdrop of political power strife between the Borgias’ papal monarchy and other Italian city-states and two European superpowers: Spain and France.

While the novel gives imaginary answers to the two burning questions that have been the subject of debate for centuries (did Lucrezia commit incest re: the enigmatic childbirth, and who murdered Juan Borgia?), in the end, there is no way of knowing what the “truth” really is.

The author says this in the Afterword, “This novel presents one possible theory (about Lucrezia’s incest), but I must emphasize that it is fictional, as is my theory about Juan Borgia’s murder. The frustrating truth is that we have no reliable documentation about what went on behind the Borgias’ closed doors.”

I find that many of the historical background details are similar to those found in Sarah Dunant’s Blood & Beauty: The Borgias, which suggests that the novel is well-researched. While Dunant employs a subtle and even keel approach in her writing, Gortner’s style in The Vatican Princess is more pungent and action-oriented. In Blood & Beauty, the characterization of Rodrigo, Cesare and Lucrezia are given more or less equal weighting, and the battle scenes and political intrigues are given a relatively detailed rendering. In The Vatican Princess, the spotlight rivets on the person of Lucrezia and her emotional trajectory.

Gortner��s vivid writing style and the tight plot structure appeal to me and I’m giving the novel 4 stars.

Profile Image for Lauralee.
Author 2 books19 followers
May 12, 2017
Actually 2.5 stars

C.W. Gortner is one of my favorite authors of all time. Ever since he wowed me in The Last Queen, on every release day of his novels, I always go to my local Barnes and Nobles right on opening time and purchase his newest selection, often before they even have time to put the book on the shelves. His books have always been a NEED rather than a WANT for me. After I bought The Queen’s Vow in 2012, I went on his website on the news section, which I check regularly, and saw that he had a novel based on Lucrezia Borgia that will be coming out in 2016. I was elated but at the same time disappointed. Four years was a long wait for me. I wished that the book would have come out immediately. To pacify that time waiting for the novel about Lucrezia Borgia, I read many biographies on the subject. Then, in 2015, when C.W. Gortner released his latest novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, I was ecstatic. I devoured the novel on its release day and was satisfied. His latest novel definitely pacified me waiting one more year for his Lucrezia Borgia novel. So when I happened to come across his novel about Lucrezia Borgia, now titled The Vatican Princess, on Netgalley, I was super excited! Hooray! The wait was finally almost over! I was happy that I was granted early access to the novel that I had waited four years for, and if I loved it, I would purchase it on release day and add it to my C.W. Gortner collection. I knew that I would instantly fall in love with the book because I loved everything he had written so far. Immediately, when I had the ARC novel on my kindle, I made a cup of coffee, sat down, and began to devour the book, excited to be transported to the Borgia era. After I finished the book, the result was . . . a huge letdown.

The Vatican Princess is about Lucrezia Borgia’s early life. She is the bastard daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. When the pope Innocent VIII dies, and her father is in the conclave as the cardinals choose the new pope, Lucrezia feels that her life is about to change. For right now, she is the daughter of a nobody, but if her father becomes pope, she knows that she will be important. Her father does become pope Alexander VI. Yet, to be pope, Alexander made a bargain. He would marry his daughter Lucrezia to Giovanni Sforza. Soon, Lucrezia is thrust into an unhappy marriage. Lucrezia then realizes that there is an animosity between her father and her husband. Lucrezia must choose one over the other. As she makes her decision. Lucrezia fights for her happiness.

I did like how C.W Gortner portrayed Lucrezia Borgia in the book. Lucrezia is a strong female protagonist. She is at first naive and obedient. She can also be judgmental. Over the course of the novel, she grows into a mature woman. She is clever and observant. She can see through other people’s deceits. She is very strong-willed. She is obstinate and is determined to fight for her own happiness.

Now that I have told you what I like about this book here are the things that disappointed me. One of the things I like best about C.W. Gortner’s novels is that they are all meticulously researched. I do not think this was the case here. Maybe if I had not read the Lucrezia Borgia’s biographies, especially my personal favorites by Sarah Bradford and Maria Bellonci, then I might have enjoyed this novel a bit more. I could not find anything remotely accurate in the novel about Lucrezia. It was like C.W. Gortner only read the basic details about her life and did not explore any deeper. There was no depth to her story.

Over three-quarters of the novel is about Lucrezia’s marriage to her first husband, Giovanni. Giovanni is portrayed as a villain in this story. In history, Giovanni was not a villain. While Giovanni and pope Alexander VI were hostile towards each other, he was not a bad husband. With this book being a historical fiction book, I can see why the author would make him a villain if it drove the plot. However, by making Giovanni the villain, it did nothing to enhance the plot. Instead it became boring and repetitive.The second thing I did not like was that the author portrayed the rumors surrounding Lucrezia to be true. One of the things I like about C.W. Gortner’s novels is that he take a much-maligned character, and give us a spin on the rumors surrounding her. This novel was not the case. Yes, Lucrezia is a sympathetic character. However, C.W. Gortner took no effort to dissuade the rumors. Instead, he enhanced it to try to make his novel interesting. This did not make his novel enticing. Instead, it made for very uncomfortable reading and did nothing to further the plot.

Overall, this book is a coming-of-age tale. It is about a woman who is searching for happiness. The story was a very unsatisfying read. I could not connect with the story and the characters, for most of them were one-dimensional with little depth. This was not C.W. Gortner’s best. Lucrezia Borgia is a hard subject to write about, but C.W. Gortner just could not pull it off. I hate to say this, but I will not purchase The Vatican Princess to add it to my C.W. Gortner collection. He is still my favorite author of all time, and I am still going to keep reading every book he writes. I am excited to read his next novel, Marlene. For those of you who are not familiar with Lucrezia Borgia’s storyline, you might enjoy it. However, for longtime fans of C.W. Gortner and who know what to expect from him, I advise you to skip it and read his other novels instead. The Vatican Princess is forgettable and a disappointment.
(Note: I read an ARC copy of this book in courtesy of Netgalley.)
Profile Image for Erin.
3,095 reviews484 followers
March 20, 2020
If you enjoy historical fiction and have never read a C.W. Gortner novel, than you need to fix that now. He's hands down a brilliant writer! In The Vatican Princess the author examines the life of Lucretia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI during the period of 1492-1501. Written in first person, Lucretia tries to set the record straight from the beginning of her father's ascension to the papal seat, her marriages and her relationships with her three brothers. But is Lucretia Borgia an innocent pawn in her father's political game or does she really deserve the reputation that history has bestowed upon her?

As I stated in my recent review of The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo, I am a huge fan of finding out more about this fascinating family and the lengths which they went to in securing their presence in the political world. History has certainly marked them with a specific brush and I enjoy that authors are tackling their history with a new pair of eyes. Although Kate Quinn's duology which centres around Guilia Farnese (Pope Alexander's mistress) is still my all-time favorite, this novel is definitely a close second. I do believe that other historical fiction fans will definitely love the feisty yet vulnerable Lucretia Borgia that is presented here.

Goodreads review published 20/03/20
354 reviews135 followers
January 6, 2018
This was a very good book. I shall give a full review at a later date.
Be Blessed.
Profile Image for Jenny Q.
1,008 reviews54 followers
February 20, 2016
3.5 Stars. I'm not a big fan of the Borgias, but I love Gortner's books, so I had faith that he would find a way to make Lucrezia's story fresh and vibrant for me. However, it took me a while to get into this one, and I was worried I would not be able to recommend The Vatican Princess. I found it to follow the plotline of the first season of Showtime's The Borgias pretty closely, and I felt like I was just going over the same old ground. But about halfway through, Lucrezia starts becoming more of an active participant in her life and her story starts to pick up steam, and by the end of the book, I couldn't put it down, and I didn't want it to end.

I think many historical fiction readers know a little bit of Lucrezia's life, so I will not rehash the plot here, rather I'll just sum up what I liked and didn't like about this book. I really had hoped Gortner's portrayal would transcend above the incest speculation and lurid rumors that are always associated with Lucrezia, but I understand that it is a huge part of the Borgias' mystique, and given that these rumors have persisted to the present day, I suppose no novel could get by without making them part of her story. However, I found the portrayal here to be rather disturbing, which I suppose it ought to be, and more on the sensationalistic side. And Lucrezia is really the only likable character, so in a sea of depraved, corrupt, murderous people, the reader is sort of forced to root for her. She is quite young when the novel begins, so I understand why she wasn't as proactive as I like my heroines to be, but by the time she chooses her second husband, she's learning to stand her ground and see her family for what it really is. Though I do wonder if she is perhaps depicted as a little too good to be true here.

There seems to be a bit of a trend developing in historical fiction of just portraying a portion of a historical figure's life in a novel, and I understand why some authors are choosing to focus on years of greater importance or those that lead up to a defining moment in one's life, but Lucrezia has a lot of life to live at the end of this novel, and the ending, while undeniably powerful, left me wanting more.

However, as usual, Gortner's talents shine in bringing the time period to life and in exploring the complicated political alliances of an Italy still divided into so many dukedoms. And the latter half of the book, when the Borgias' enemies are closing in all around them and Lucrezia's brothers descend into paranoid madness, is fraught with tension, suspense, danger, and heartbreak, and I was on the edge of my seat as the story raced to its conclusion. So while this will not be my favorite of Gortner's books--that honor is still held by Mademoiselle Chanel--I think The Vatican Princess is well worth a read for anyone who wants to escape into the world of fifteenth-century Italy and the drama of one of history's most infamous families.
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,253 reviews393 followers
February 25, 2016
C.W. Gortner is one of my favorite historical fiction writers! He always picks really unique women in history to write about and he always captures the essence of their story in a unique way.

Being a male author writing about women in history isn’t an easy deal especially……I know when I pick up the first book I read by him, I was skeptical because how can a man understand what a women is going through? But I was completely blown away with how well Gortner connected to the historic figures and created a beautiful fictional story mixed with historic facts about that person.

In this latest book, I was again comforted by Gortner’s signature style of interesting, strong women characters and a very engaging story! I am not as up on my Borgia history as I should be so this novel was more or less all new to me. I know a little about the family and Lucrezia, and their basic history but haven’t really studied them in depth so this book was a treat for me…..something fresh and new!

This book started a little on the slow side for me I think mostly because of all the politics. A lot of the political happenings were relayed to Lucrezia from messengers because she was in her room for safety….so I felt like the audience had to wait and wait and wait for things to happen/develop or to get the next piece of info. Then when we did get something, I felt like I got a little lost in all the political things that were happening….I wanted to get more into Lucrezia’s story rather than focus on what was happening in the ‘larger’ picture. However, I understood that the political piece was important to the overall story so I tried to process it the best I could but I will admit I was relieved when we started getting more into Lucrezia’s story and things started picking up.

I think Gortner did a great job at depicting Lucrezia as a women stuck in a difficult time, I liked that he didn’t portray her as helpless or as a victim of her circumstance. I felt like she evolved throughout the story and grew into her character, ultimately ending up a strong woman. I almost felt like the ending was ill timed as I felt like there was still more to tell about her life but in the end I was satisfied with the way the book ended.

I would gladly read any book by Gortner! He has a real gift for storytelling and I always walk away from one of his books feeling like I learned something about history or a historic figure that I didn’t know before. Even if it’s historical fiction, there is a wonderful amount of research in his novels and I feel a connection to the characters as well as the historic elements! Another hit for Gortner!

See my full review here
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
924 reviews602 followers
March 5, 2016
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I didn’t set out to read C.W. Gortner’s The Vatican Princess because I love the Borgias. I appreciate their role in politics, but I’ve never been particularly enamored with their legendary drama. Truth be told, my interest in the novel was inspired by the author who penned it. Gortner’s books hold a treasured place in my personal library and I couldn’t resist adding another of his volumes to my collection.

Historically speaking, I’m accustomed to seeing Lucretia painted as a cold and calculating temptress, but the vulnerable and vibrant woman Gortner created within these pages bears little resemblance to traditional interpretation. She is introduced as a naïve innocent and I found the development of her personal and political awareness refreshingly thought-provoking. To the outside world she is an integral part of a frighteningly powerful family, but behind the scenes she is considered little more than a pawn to be bought, sold, traded, and used in her family’s ambitious and deadly machinations. As a reader, I sympathized with her character, fell in love with her tenacity, and adored the juxtaposition in how she ultimately wielded her own brand Borgia determination and strength against her oppressors.

Speaking of antagonists, I was thoroughly impressed with Gortner’s range. Too often authors paint good and evil in simple opposition, but Lucretia’s adversaries are a diverse collection of serpents that challenge her both emotionally and physically. Gortner doesn’t hold back in his descriptions of Borgia brutality and I felt the approach, while graphic, created a necessary intensity in the fabric of the narrative. The material is shocking and uncomfortable, but the author’s handling of the subject matter produces a tangible tension and unsettling sense of menace in the minds of his audience.

Gortner utilizes the lurid myths surrounding the family to his advantage, but historically speaking, he takes relatively few liberties. There are embellishments here and there, but I’ve no complaint regarding his deviations. He blend of fact and fiction is seamless and the changes he incorporated into the narrative only enhance the telling.

A sympathetic portrait steeped in passionate political intrigue, The Vatican Princess stands as testament to both Gortner’s talent and vision. In redefining Lucretia his novel challenges long-standing perceptions and brings new dimension to the life she lived.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,048 followers
March 7, 2016
Delivered, as expected, a tale of the Borgias, focusing on Lucrezia, following her character from an innocent girl of around age 12 to a mature woman. Lucrezia here is in line with the current idea of the historical character, (rather than the conniving poisoner I grew up with). She'll be somewhat familiar to watchers of TV's 'The Borgias.' Perhaps the book also seemed quite familiar to me as I read this one, which covers much of the same territory, not too long ago: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... But a bit of familiarity is bound to come with historical fiction.

It's true that history indicates that the worst crimes ascribed to Lucrezia Borgia were most likely scurrilous rumors spread by her family's enemies, but the character here is a bit TOO good-hearted and innocent. The author really draws a line, making Lucrezia and her second husband Alfonso the 'good guys' and pretty much everyone else the 'bad guys.' At many points in the book, I really wanted Lucrezia to at least hold her own in Renaissance politics, rather than just being an unwitting pawn who never seems to know what's going on around her. There's also one rather-shocking scene which feels a little out-of-tune with the rest of the book. It made me wish that either the whole book was racier (I like racier), or that it had been toned down.

Still, if this is a time period you're interested in, the book's not bad at all.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
77 reviews13 followers
January 21, 2016
Lucrezia and her family have always been a favorite subject of mine to read; I will never pass up a historical novel about the Borgias. So when I discovered that one of my favorite authors (C. W. Gortner) wrote a Borgia novel, you can imagine my hysterical excitement! Needless to say, I was not at all disappointed. I really and truly loved this novel.

As you know from the synopsis, the story revolves around Lucrezia Borgia. This novel brought to us a poignant look at her life. She was not a villain, as portrayed by most pre-modern historians and perpetuated by the rumors that have survived through the passage of time. She was indeed a puppet used by her father and brother for their familial ambitions.

Gortner has created a strong Lucrezia who was able to stand up to her family and survive the hardships thrown at her: the loss of her beloved Alfonso, the son she had to give up, and being used by her father and brother for political gains. It could not have been easy for a young woman growing up in a family as powerful (and power hungry) and scheming as the Borgias and yet she did it. We will never know what their lives were really like, with there being so many rumors and so few facts, but this story takes a captivating stab at it (pun intended!). But we do know – judging by the rumors about them – that they were nevertheless a close family; while her father and Cesare loved her dearly, her relationship with her brother Juan was deadly.

While most novelists of the Borgia sub-genre tend to overindulge and fantasize with rumors, Gortner has strived for accuracy, setting him apart from the others. His Lucrezia was kind and good, albeit naive. Her trust and faith in her father and brother were always first and foremost. The innocence she displayed when it came to her brother, Juan, and her first husband was also apparent. But having grown up sheltered and pampered, could we expect anything different? All she knew was love; she couldn’t know how cruel the world would be. She believed in her family and that was her undoing.

When Lucrezia’s eyes are finally opened to the scheming of her father (and Cesare), she ultimately finds the strength to stand up to him and put an end to it all. She starts a new life of her choosing – albeit with a new husband in a new city – and becomes the woman she was meant to be. It wasn’t easy in those times when men dominated and women were supposed to idly do their bidding, but Lucrezia came from a family that was powerful, and in the end, that gave her the strength to choose.

Gortner has a wonderful way with words and his thoughts on family were nothing short of beautiful. For a man who doesn’t have (human) children he has captured the true feelings of a parent:

“As I pressed my lips to his still-soft and misshapen head, I realized what I felt was not only the joy of unquenchable love but also the awakening of inescapable fear.”

“Papa withdrew his hand, his gaze clouding over. “I am sorry for it. I’d hoped to see you settled as a wife and mother. You cannot know true joy until you hold a child of your own in your arms, seeing it through its first years and watching it grow, planning for its future. Such dreams-“ His voice snagged. “Such dreams we have for those who will follow us.””

These two quotes really moved me, capturing perfectly how I have always felt for my children. I did get a few chuckles in too:

“I had never seen a man erect before. It resembled an overgrown mushroom.”.

I also love the animals Gortner has written into the novel. He is clearly a true animal lover and it is transparent in his writing. It is so very human and down-to-earth of him, and it endears me to his writing even more.

As for the way it was written, the story is in first person. I found this enabled Lucrezia to have a voice and power to convey her thoughts and feelings. The novel could not have thrived in any other format; we needed to know what she was thinking, what made her tick, and what hurt her the most. The pace was perfect, too (though Gortner's novels always are). I loved both the story and the writing style; I was never bored, nor did I find any of the writing stagnant.

The entire work was a beautiful love affair of words and feelings. I do not think anyone else could have written it as well as Gortner has.

The Vatican Princess is set for release on February 19. I absolutely [ABSOLUTELY] recommend that you read it the second it is available, and please, please tell all your friends about it if you love it as much as I do.

[Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of The Vatican Princess from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Profile Image for Sarah Mac.
1,099 reviews
August 26, 2019
My favorite kind of historical novel: plenty of OTT WTFery masquerading as Serious Fiction. :D

This feels like a cross between RAIN MAIDEN & the [Showtime] Borgias. The story is narrated entirely by Lucrezia, so there's a good bit of characters discussing the backdrop when she isn't present to witness -- a trope that annoys me unless, like RAIN MAIDEN, there's plenty of intense personal story to enjoy front & center. And there is. The author touches on those pesky incestuous rumors in a fairly believable way; while Lucrezia is disgusted by rumors of Rodrigo's 'illicit passion' & Juan's rapey excess, she isn't entirely immune to the attraction between Cesare & herself. She's neither totally gamine nor a poison-wielding harpy -- Gortner's sympathies are pretty obvious, but he doesn't overdo the whitewash (though his Lucrezia is less sexually assured than the Showtime version).

Speaking of which, this book is definitely NOT Showtime fanfic. While Lucrezia, Rodrigo, Juan, & Cesare are fairly close to their tv counterparts (Cesare's viciousness emerging more as things progress), other characters/personages like Vannozza, Giuila, & the Sforzas are very different takes. The primary backdrop proceeds on a mostly common timeline, though the nuances & more personal involvement vary greatly. But once I got used to differences in character, the story flowed along quite well & kept me hooked. Despite the rather episodic nature of Borgia incidents, it doesn't feel strung together; there are a few instances where I'd have liked less time skipping, but overall Gortner didn't try to cram too much into too few pages.

...And there was plenty of good stuff, like murder, sex, lusty innuendo, incest, poison, fighting, rape, conspicuous consumption, angst, & politicking. Nom nom. As I've said before, I love when lit-fic embraces its trashier, soapier side. ;) One scene in particular, when Lucrezia's 2nd husband is killed...that was exceptionally done, very dramatic & tense. The final scene between Lucrezia & Cesare also stands out.

4.5 rounded up, because I can. And I will definitely be trying other Gortner books in future. :)
Profile Image for Myrna.
716 reviews
March 9, 2016
A captivating novel that weaves a coming-of-age story, politics, history, and drama of the puzzling Lucrezia Borgia. The book covers a snapshot of Lucrezia’s life. During these 7 years, the author concentrates on the brutal relationships with the men in her life. I think all of the Borgia’s scandalous rumors are in the novel: jealousy, revenge, blackmailing, lies, nepotism, drunkenness, murders, rape, incest, spying and more. I've heard this isn't Gortner best but I liked it. Hope to read his other books.
Profile Image for L'aura.
196 reviews7 followers
February 19, 2016
1,5 out of 5.

I was going to rate this book one star only because half a star isn't a legit rating, but then something happened: its portrayal of Lucrezia and Alfonso d'Aragona, while not too cleverly built nor particularly original, redeemed it. It felt real and actually moved me to tears at one point (guess which one?), despite the fact that I'd read and watched about 50 versions of it. So no, I can no longer say I "did not like it" and I can safely declare I read worse.
But the book still presents several problems:

-Gortner can present me with a bibliography if he likes, but I'm not going to believe he actually read what he claimed he read. If he had, he wouldn't have talked of 1563-instituted seminary for Cesare in 1492, nor would he have claimed Alessandro Farnese was there with him because Farnese was older than Cesare and studied elsewhere. He probably would have also known that the Borgia pope died of a fever and not poison (which he wrote in a final note that wasn't meant to be fictional) and that to have a cat in the Renaissance was pretty damn hard. If you talk of a cat named Arancino, then, it was practically impossible. Someone must have watched too many Montalbano episodes. There were other inaccuracies, but I'll pretend I'm the one who's wrong because I'm too much of a Renaissance nerd.
-The first half of the book, and then some, is awful. Cringeworthy. I wish this novel would have started with Lucrezia's second marriage, it would have given it more dignity because, like I said, Gortner finally gave some life to the most boringly told love story ever. Instead, Gortner chose (or was told) to begin with Rodrigo's election and presented a series of characters that were hardly fleshed out and poorly characterised. They're not many, but what matters here is that they're all entangled in relationships that feel unlikely and over-the-top, clearly made up for shock value to perpetuate some die-hard Borgia stereotypes. Vannozza could have been a cold mother to Lucrezia - I wasn't there to say she wasn't - but that she'd be so because she felt her newborn daughter 'stole Rodrigo from her' is honestly ludicrous. And Juan turns into a heartless incestous rapist because Cesare 'took Djem from him'. And Rodrigo becomes a horrible father because Lucrezia 'took Juan from him'. And Cesare becomes a killer because Juan and Alfonso 'took Lucrezia from him' and embarks into a huge military campaign because of the unresolved daddy issues he's been nurturing since he was born, apparently. It's like politics is hardly a thing in this fictional rendering of Renaissance Italy: all these characters are only motivated by their unhealthy obsession with someone else, in the name of which they'll forever begrudge and ultimately kill someone. Forget Machiavelli, the only person who should write about them is a damn good therapist.
-Lucrezia casually stopping by a door behind which Juan, Giovanni and Giulia are having a threesome is the kind of trashy trope I'd rather not stumble upon anymore ever, for as long as I live. It's an abused trope in Borgia novels in particular: surely everyone who read "The Borgia Bride" still remembers how Sancia happened to watch Rodrigo and Lucrezia in bed together. Gortner, basta!
-Speaking of basta: I understand Italian can sound exotic and fascinating to some, and Gortner is only following a trend when he inserts random Italian words in his book. As an Italian reader I don't know the effect it produces on foreign ones, so I won't necessarily complain about it. I can say, however, that it doesn't make these characters any more believabe, especially when they translate their Italian phrases into English right after they pronounced them. And for God's sake, the spelling of proper nouns: it's not Tomasso nor Tomassino, it's Tommaso and Tommasino.

Still, because I'm feeling good and Gortner apparently saves puppy dogs (one of which died: I'm sorry!), I'm going to underline some things he got right:
-Again, Lucrezia and Alfonso. I read and saw endless series of depictions of them and this is the first one the miraculously got me interested. At first I wasn't: the library trip was boring. But what came later, with the marriage and particularly the tragic end, genuinely captured me.
-Sancia! Finally she and Lucrezia aren't pitted against each other and become friends and allies. Sancia is all too often the voice of reason in this story, she's sharp and fascinating, she holds her own and she's layered. And she broke my heart.
-Lucrezia's growth: while I disapprove of the 85% of what happens in this book, at least I recognize the character believably went from a naive 12-year-old to a hardened young woman of 20. It's something.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
69 reviews9 followers
March 12, 2020
5/5 stars!

Gortner adds his twist to the "traditionally understood" Borgia story.

I've always felt that Lucrezia Borgia was a victim and a sacrificial lamb to her families cruel ambitions. It's nice to see an author writing about her in a more sympathetic light. Gortner makes you feel as if you were Lucrezia going through all her heartaches and life experiences. I felt like she was very relatable and Gortner made sure not to paint her with the same brush as the rest of her vile family.

I loved that in this book by C.W. Gortner, Lucrezia stood up for herself and took charge of her fate and refused to let her papal father order her about at the end. She took charge of her destiny. She also had the courage to say no to her brothers.

The paternity of Lucrezia's first child was an interesting albeit sad and heart wrenching twist (not giving anything away). Also, Lucrezia's mother is typically painted as a nurturer and doting mother in all the other novels I've read about the Borgias. I never did believe it, and felt she was indifferent or cold to her children or at the very least to Lucrezia. Gortner takes the new view that she was cold and indifferent, which was refreshing to me.

I loved this book and the writing was outstanding. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history.

Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,300 reviews395 followers
July 6, 2023
Ah, the Borgias. Such drama. Such intrigue. And I never did watch the show on Netflix, although I imagine Jeremy Irons made the most perfect Rodrigo Borgia.

This got better as it went along. I'm such a sucker for love matches in historical fiction, and Lucrezia/Alfonso gave me heart eyes like no other. By the sounds of the afterword, a full sequel could have been written based around Cesare's downfall.
Profile Image for Justina Urbo.
130 reviews13 followers
July 23, 2023
Su istorija mano santykis nekoks. Pavardės, pavadinimai dar dar, bet jau datos susimaišusios į vientisą skaičių seką. 🤭 Todėl romanai apie istorines asmenybes mane labai traukia, matyt po jų jaučiuosi čiut biški labiau išprususi.😄 Apie Bordžijas lyg ir buvau girdėjusi, bet kai perskaičiau šią knygą supratau, kad realiai nieko nežinojau.

Lukrecija Bordžija - popiežiaus Aleksandro VI duktė. Palikuonis giminės garsėjančios savo prabanga, klastingumu, intrigomis, kuriai moteris tėra tik įrankis patenkinti vyrų geidulius arba pėstininkas politiniuose žaidimuose. Ir nesvarbu tu popiežiaus, karaliaus ar dar kokio velnio dukra, iš pradžių būsi saugoma ir tavo rankos bus labai norima, o paskui jau kiekvienas elgsis pagal savo išprusimą arba sugedimo laipsnį.

Ir tikrai Lukrecijai gyvenimas nepagailėjo išbandymų. Nuo viskuo aprūpintos vaikystės tiesiai į skandalingą santuoką, o kur dar painūs santykiai su taip garbinamu tėvu ir broliais. Mane stebino tų laikų tamsumas, žmonių žiaurumas, intrigos, klasta, politiniai žaidimai, apsimetinėjimai, manipuliacijos ir viskas dėl apnuodijančio valdžios troškimo. Bet nerealiai žavėjo Lukrecijos drąsa ir meilė, kuri jai leido laikytis savo principų ir suteikė jėgų kovoti su jai primestu likimu.

Romanas parašytas taip meistriškai, kad nejučia pats nusikeli į tuos laikus, iš kurių kuo greičiau norisi gryžti į realybę. Žinau, kad ne viskas tiesa, nes tai grožinės literatūros kūrinys, bet ir to, kas buvo atskleista užteko suprasti, kad tikrai nesinorėtų turėti "sugedusio" Bordžijų kraujo. Romaną tikrai rekomenduoju perskaityti.
Profile Image for Coco.
280 reviews2 followers
June 18, 2017
Tolle spannende Geschichte.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,117 reviews76 followers
February 4, 2016
The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by CW Gortner is a roller coaster ride through the often scandalous and always bawdy days of fifteenth century Italian history!

The Borgia name is infamous for many reasons; some real, others embellished. Here Lucrezia is the star as we see things through her eyes, starting when she's 12 years old. She is a true pawn in the political intrigues of her father & brothers and is expected to be happy with their decisions regarding her life. Throughout the book I underwent a variety of emotions about Lucrezia, starting with annoyed and ending with sympathy (many others in the spectrum between those two). You may know the story, but it's told here vividly and in a way you won't soon forget. At times it was violent, graphic and explicit, specifically regarding intimacy a few times. But, I know it's representative of what the times were like that she lived in. The Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, is Lucrezia's father. That itself speaks for the depravity of the religious leaders at the time. All these things make for an interesting story that at times is hard to believe is based on truth! Is Lucrezia the heartless harlot history tells us she is? Experience life in her shoes while reading this book and decide for yourself!

I've read a few other books about the Borgia's, including 2 by Kate Quinn which are through the eyes of Guilia Farnese, the Pope's mistress. They paint a different picture as they should, coming from different people's perspectives. Both those and this one are great reads.
I would definitely recommend to historical fiction and Borgia fans.

A word of caution, as said by Jean Plaidy to readers of her Borgia fiction, "Only by judging the Borgias against their own times can they arouse our sympathy, and only if they arouse our sympathy can they be understood."

**Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing-Ballantine for an advance readers copy**
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews203 followers
February 24, 2016
4.5 stars. "The Vatican Princess" is the story of Lucrezia Borgia, a member of one of the most infamous families in history. The book captures the politics and salaciousness of the rule of the Borgias with great detail that pulled me in quickly. While this book covers a lot of the things that many history lovers know or have heard about the Borgias, Gortner breathes life into the story telling it from Lucrezia's perspective. She is quite young when the book opens so we get to see a lot of her life throughout the book. Gortner makes it easy to see why so many of us (myself included) can't get enough of the Borgias.

C.W. Gortner is one of my favorite authors and I will read anything he puts out. I was interested to see his take on the Borgias. As I mentioned before, he covers a lot of the truths and rumors that history lovers may already be familiar with. For instance, the rumored incest between Lucrezia and her brothers is present. The description is sometimes brutal but not overly so for the story that Gortner is trying to tell. The panache of his delivery is what makes this book special. By having Lucrezia as our narrator, we are pulled right into the thick of the saga of the Borgias. We see her go from a young, naive girl to someone who learns how to play the game. I loved following her in this book.

I think the author does a great job of capturing the politics that drove the Borgias. This is a power hungry family and each member of the family becomes quite adept at getting what they want in many different ways. Gortner does a great job of showing all of the in's and out's and alliances that drive each character. I loved all of the detail. Gortner's book will transport you back to a time where power was everything and you either lead, followed, or stepped aside.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,239 reviews51 followers
March 7, 2016
4.5/5 - rounded up here.

C. W. Gortner is a favorite of mine. He creates stories that breathe life into history, writing with emotion and feeling making the reader (me) connect with his characters. Some of his previous novels evolve around famous and unique women, Catherine Medici, Queen Isabella and her daughter Juana. It wasn't hard to get lost in these stories and some stayed with me long after I turned the final page. I will admit after The Last Queen to developing a distinct dislike for King Ferdinand, that's how powerful his writing is. His books are must reads for me, whether I know the subject matter or not.

The Vatican Princess is about Lucrezia, daughter of the Pope. Knowing very little about this family, other than the reputation of depravity and violence I was anxious to read this one. Beginning with Lucrezia is young the reader gets to watch as she matures and grows up. Told from her point of view it wasn't hard to really get to know her and the lifestyle of that time period. It was interesting to watch the progression of this powerful family and feel the struggles when the tides turn.

Thought it took me a little bit of time to get sucked into this once, but when it did happen I couldn't put it down. I cared about Lucrezia and felt the injustice, confusion and helplessness that she faced, especially when it came from family, I don't think the Borgia's got the memo about family watching each others back or if they did it was grossly misinterpreted. The descriptive writing had me visualizing so much and made me appreciate the amount of research the author did to writing this captivating story.

Definitely one I highly recommend, thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to review this one
Profile Image for jules.
31 reviews24 followers
April 16, 2016
I am incredibly picky about fictional stories revolving the Borgia family. The Borgia family is one of my favorite history subjects (history nerd alert), and after being disappointed time and time again from Borgia fiction books, I had all but given up on the search. But I saw this new book being released, surrounding around the life of the elusive Lucrezia Borgia, and I decided to take a chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, this book has substance. I've found that historical fiction Borgia books almost always revolve around sex, sex, and sex. While the "real" myth of the Borgias that still exists today does include a lot of sex and sexual situations, there is soooo much more to their story. And this book, FINALLY, gives me what I want. A historical retelling about the infamous greedy family that actually fleshes out the characters and makes them way more than one dimensional.

This book also finally gives me a book that doesn't sexualize or make the character of Cesare Borgia a god, or a misunderstood man. Cesare Borgia, the real human being (or the one the myths keep alive), was incredibly cruel and power hungry, while also being incredibly charasmatic and handsome. There is no "misunderstood bad boy who just needs some love" Cesare Borgia here. Here we have a Cesare Borgia that is so complex and interesting, someone you can love and someone you can absolutely hate with all your might. Cesare isn't the ultimate evil being here, though, either. He wasn't born the spawn of Satan -- his experiences, his life, his emotions brought him to commit certain acts and become who he was. And the last confrontation in the book between Lucrezia and Cesare absolutely tore me up.

Juan Borgia wasn't a particularly nice person as a character in this book or in real life. A lot of people hated him. He was a total asshole. But his father, Rodrigo Borgia aka Pope Alexander VI, absolutely adored him. The fact that Gortner kept this till the very end, when I thought Juan was out of the main storyline, was a pleasant surprise. Because if there's one family that will forgive everything out of love, it's the Borgias. And Alexander VI loved Juan most of all, according to historical sources.

And finally, Lucrezia. Lucrezia was portrayed so beautifully. The myth is that she was the mother of poisons, had sexual relations with her brother Cesare and her father, and was a deceptive seductress at the bid of her family. Here, we have a Lucrezia that is used and abused, time and time again, by her family even as they devote their love to her. Gortner said it perfectly at the end of the book: during this time in Italy, and around the world, women and daughters were used as pawns to fulfill their familial obligations. Many times, they were just married off to whoever would be the most helpful to the family's reputation or political alliance. And Italy during this time was all about political alliances. Lucrezia was married for the first time by the time she was 13, and she died when she was 39. Gortner gave Lucrezia such great depth and dimension. The happiness I had at reading this book came from how Gortner portrayed Lucrezia.

Gortner also cleverly kept some historical myths in the book, playing them out in interesting ways that haven't been done before. The mysterious Infans Romanus had a new twist, and the death of two servants that worked for the Borgias during the time of the child's birth was a new adaption that I don't think has been done before. The incest and devoted family obligation was depicted in a very, almost graceful way. Gortner managed to humanize this infamous family, even in acts so despicable or crazy. But people tend to forget that this family was human, after all.

Long review short: this book was awesome. I love the myths surrounding the Borgias, and I will always wish I knew the real, true story of their lives. Until then, I surround myself with Borgia garbage that doesn't even have a hint of historical accuracy. But every now and then, I come upon a book like this, that manages to weave fiction with antidotes of the real Borgia truth/myth.
Profile Image for Donna.
432 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2015
Wow!.. We hear from Lucrezia herself. I love novels of strong, independent women. Lucrezia fits that category. One of the infamous Borgia's. Illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Borgia. She was used by her family as a pawn. Various marriages to enhance the Borgia's power. She begins as an innocent young woman, unaware of her father's machinations. She believes him to be just 'papa' who loves her and would never hurt her.

Well, she quickly learns things are not as they seem. She is married off. Her husband murdered when he no longer is of value to the Borgia's. She is (in this fictional account) violated and abused. She grows up quickly. She becomes stronger and fierce.

Lucrezia is an amazing character. Sometimes, I wanted to whack her over the head and scream at her, but most of the time I liked her. The book features all the Borgia's but centers on Lucrezia. We meet Juan, Cesare, Gioffre and Rodrigo himself.

The Borgia's are an incredible family. I love the renaissance period. Can't get enough of the Borgia's, the Medici's, the Sforza's and all the other power families of renaissance Italy. This book will keep you on your toes. I couldn't put it down.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gaile.
1,260 reviews
March 3, 2016
C.W. Gortner does it again! After reading his novel of Coco Chanel, I really didn't think he could write a better one but this one is great! The daughter of the pope, Lucrezia is subject, not only to him but her two brothers who both seem to have low esteem which unfortunately they take out on their sister. Known in history as another Jezebel, this novel shows Lucrezia had little say over her life.
Although she struggles for control over her life, her efforts are largely unsuccessful which doesn't mean the novel isn't good. I was mesmerized by it and thought to myself, we have come a long way but there are still women in the world who have no more say in their lives than Lucrezia.
Profile Image for Gretos knygos.
603 reviews157 followers
June 17, 2022
Tikrai ne visi rašytojai sugeba parašyti gerą ir įtraukiantį istorinį romaną. Galima juk gana lengvai slystelti ir vietoj įtraukiančios, pagaulios ir smalsumą žadinančios istorijos pateikti faktų rinkinį, padabintą metaforomis ir kitokiais literatūriniais aksesuarais. Šiuo atveju taip tikrai neįvyko – skaičiau ir kiekvienas puslapis skatino versti knygą ir skaityti toliau. Ir ne tik, kad įtraukė, bet man parūpo ir veikėjai, o tai yra geras ženklas.

Romane pasakojama apie moterį, augančią labai ambicingoje šeimoje, kur vienu ar kitu metu galiausiai ir net ir geriausių norų vedamai moteriai tenka parodyti nagučius. Ir gali tekti žaisti pagal kitų nustatytas taisykles, o gal net pasireguliuoti savo moralinį kompasą taip, kad derėtų prie situacijos labiau, nei norėtųsi. Popiežiaus dukra Lukrecija Bordžija – moteris šio romano centre. Jo ašis. Ir ko gero, pagrindinis įrankis tėvo valdomame pasaulyje.

Tiek ir man, tiek ir daugumai skaitytojų turėtų kilti mintis – popiežiaus dukra? Tai ne tik dukra, bet ir dar daug vaikų, nes popiežius mėgo moteris, mėgo ir mokėjo joms rodyti dėmesį, tad ir vaikų į kraitį pribyrėjo ne vienas ir ne du. Ir dar nujaučiu, kad šiame romane ne viskas paminėta, kas būtų pakraupinę dažną skaitytoją. Bent jau kelias smulkmenas aptikau ieškodama daugiau informacijos apie šią ypatingą giminę.

Bordžijų giminė – iš Ispanijos kilę, valdžios siekiantys ir bandantys ją išlaikyti bet kokia kaina sutvėrimai. Tai, kokiais būdais jie tą darė, šiurpino, tačiau tai buvo kraupūs laikai, ir tada mažai ką stebino tiesiogine ta žodžio prasme tarsi šachmatų figūrėlės iškertami varžovai ar galimai tokiais tapsiantys asmenys.

Šis romanas – vienos giminės iškilimo ir nuosmukio istorija viename, tačiau kartu, tai istorija apie įdomią, stiprią ir truputį kitokių, nei jos šeimos, poreikių vediną moterį. Moterį, kuria daug kas naudojosi, moterį, kuri dažnai tapdavo aplinkybių auka. O kiek daug mes dar nežinome! Romanas pagaulus, įtraukė tarsi geras, veiksmo kupinas serialas ir jau skaitant ėmiau domėtis kitomis šio autoriaus knygomis. Esu tikra, skaitysiu ir jas, nes jaučiuosi daug sužinojusi apie Italiją, apie rūmų paslaptis, palandžiojau po jų užkaborius ir susipažinau su tų laikų politikų žaidimų taisyklėmis.

Profile Image for Anna.
615 reviews36 followers
February 10, 2017
Es war keine Überraschung für mich, dass mir das Buch gut gefallen hat. Dass es mein Interesse an den Borgias und auch den Medici wecken würde, hatte ich dann aber doch nicht erwartet. Ich werde aufjedenfall noch weitere Bücher zu diesen Familien lesen!
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