9780425268766_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Colleen Turner

“When did you turn so cynical and wise, Alessandro Farnese?” I managed to ask. “When I accepted a cardinalate from the Borgia Pope, Giulia. It’s deep water I’ve learned to swim in, and there are serpents under every ripple.” – from The Lion and the Rose

When Giulia Farnese, concubine of Rodrigo Borgia, now Pope Alexander VI, returns home to her luscious palazzo in Rome after being captured then released by the French army, she hopes to return to the love and security she has felt these past two years with her lover. But much has changed during that time and Giulia is now more aware then ever of the dangers that can befall those close to the papal throne. As the glittering veil Giulia has been seeing through begins to slip and she slowly moves back from the center of this viper’s nest, she starts to see that the danger comes not only from the Borgia’s enemies but from within the Borgia brood itself.

Giulia, along with her whip-smart and deadly dwarf bodyguard Leonello and her iron-willed cook Carmelina, will have to use every ounce of charm, skill and intelligence to figure out how to survive this vicious, clawing pit surrounding them. If they decide to leave this deadly world they have each found themselves entrapped in will the Borgias let them go? Do they even have a choice?

The Lion and the Rose picks up right where its prequel, The Serpent and the Pearl, leaves off and, just as its predecessor, never slows its thrilling pace. While I wouldn’t say it is necessary to read The Serpent and the Pearl first I highly recommend it as both books are marvelous, action-packed and witty novels and the Serpent and the Pearl really gives the reader a good understanding of the feelings and foibles of the various characters they will encounter in The Lion and the Rose.

Kate Quinn does an excellent job of creating characters that you can easily love or can’t help but hate. Giulia, by far, was my favorite character and displayed more grace and kindness as the “Bride of Christ” then any of the more “proper” characters. Leonello and Carmelina are both such determined, sharp characters that hide soft hearts and they, along with Giulia, are characters impossible to forget. On the flip side, the Borgia children – cruel, murderous Juan, cunning and deadly Cesare, selfish and whiny Lucrezia and the ever sniveling Joffre – are horrid people and their Pope father is the worst of all as he refuses to see any of their faults. It isn’t hard when reading these characters to sympathize with anyone who had to face that bullish, grasping family.

My favorite aspect of The Lion and the Rose would have to be the breathtaking pace and the sudden, jarring actions that would stop me cold and had me going back time and time again to reread passages just to make sure I had read them correctly. Without giving anything away there are a number of murders that came out of nowhere and some very surprising twists of fate for our characters (especially for Leonello whom I love!) that made for a completely entertaining and exciting reading experience.

The Lion and the Rose is the third book by Kate Quinn I have read and I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. She has a seamless way of combining intriguing real history with compelling dramatic and often comical additions that make her books must reads. If you are a lover of historical fiction and haven’t read Kate Quinn’s books yet you are really missing out.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.