Tuesday, 23 February 2010

THE BORGIA BRIDE by Jeanne Kalogridis

This is another book that I chose to read for the Historical Fiction Challenge (ROYAL REVIEWS), and was not disappointed.

Starts in the Autumn of 1488.
Sancha of Aragon, natural daughter of the man who become Alfonso II, King of Naples.
Like the Borgias, Sancha's people came to the Italian Peninsula by way of SPAIN. (Wonder whether this can be where the cruelty came into the bloodlines).

Sancha's grandfather, King Ferrante - a ruthless man with a streak of cruelty, who arranges for Sancha's bethrothal to Onorato. She is quite happy with this arrangement, but due to political alliances, is told that the marriage will not happen as she is to marry Jofre Borgia, who is only 11 years old at the time.
Their marriage takes place when Sancha is 16 and Jofre "nearly 13".

Naples is plunged into war with the French and the family flees to Messina in Sicily.
Eventually they all return to Naples and it takes sometime for the city to be rebuilt.
Then the Pope, Alexander VI, requests his son Jofre, return to Rome with his wife Sancha as he wants all his family to be with him. The Pope is known for his womanising and Sancha is reluctant to move there.
So it is that in 1496, they arrive in Rome and are welcomed by the Pope's second eldest child and only daughter, Lucrezia Borgia.
At first there is jealousy between Lucrezia and Sancha, as Lucrezia fears that her father will turn to Sancha instead of her. We realise why when later in the story it is evident that Lucrezia and her father are lovers.
Sancha thought is attracted to one of the Cardinals and learns later that he is Jofre's brother, Cesare. They eventually become lovers, and it is not until later that Sancha realises that Cesare is also the lover of Lucrezia and bears him a child.

There are so many twists and turns and at times you shudder at the cruelty that seems to go hand in hand with the power of the Borgia family at that time.
Sancha sees the only way of stopping the family is to poison both the Pope and Cesare to stop the bloodshed, and this she does with the poison called Cantarella.

This is a wonderful tale of intrigue, history, love and betrayal and well worth reading.

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