Reviewed by Bethany Kelly
Before reading this novel, I already knew some background information on Lucrezia Borgia. She has been said to be a temptress who lured men into her bedchambers, as well as accused of incest. However, the novel, The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner, gives us an alternative to these ‘legends.’
After Rodrigo Borgia ascends to the throne as Pope Alexander VI, his illegitimate children all rise to fame as well. Cesare and Juan, rival brothers, cause a lot of trouble for their sister, Lucrezia as she tries to navigate through her new life of royalty. Alliances that she once thought made her safe, shift from moment to moment until no one can be trusted.
With a troublesome first marriage and subsequent divorce, unwanted advances by men that she once thought she was safe from, a marriage of love that gets destroyed, and ultimately a life wrecked with unhappiness and rumors of incest and illegitimate children, will Lucrezia ever be able to rid herself of the curse of having Borgia blood?
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and when I heard C.W. Gortner compared to one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Philipa Gregory, I didn’t believe it. I thought that there was no way this author could capture me with his words in the same way that Gregory does. However, I was wrong. I was entranced by the entirety of this novel, not only because of its historical aspects, but also because of the research and time that had to have gone into the creation of this alternative tale of Lucrezia Borgia.
Another thing that I really like about this novel, is that the historically accurate facts of Lucrezia’s life are in a section all of its own after the novel concludes. The entirety of this book is just one of many ways that Lucrezia’s childhood could’ve played out. I love that Gortner took a completely different standpoint on Lucrezia’s upbringing, and made her a victim instead of the heartless seductress that history has made her out to be. This novel is written in Lucrezia’s own voice, and portrays her as a child trying to please her family, not a woman who lures men to their doom.
I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who loves historical fiction! Gortner does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of his novels.
Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at www.bckwritingcorner.com.
Review copy was provided by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.