The Vatican Princess: A novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner

borgia   The Vatican Princess: A novel of Lucrezia Borgia

Thank-you to Amazon Vine for my advanced copy of this novel. Please click here for the synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads.

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 latter 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 I 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!

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