I am a former stay-at-home mom who has given up her hopes and dreams of becoming a professional reader. I now spend my days showing small children how to play games on computers. Right now I'm living vicariously through my 9 year-old who is reading everything she can get her hands on.
It's rather interesting that I read a book about the Borgia family while reading a book about the Ptolemy dynasty. This wasn't something that was planned. This was just how my TBR list worked out. To be honest it made for some interesting juxtapositions.
One of the things I appreciate about Dunant's Borgias since Blood and Beauty is their lack of scandal. Considering we are talking about the Borgias that's quite the task. Of course there is the scandal we can prove. Juan Borgia does meet a murderous end. Rodrigo Borgia does keep a mistress. Lucrezia Borgia has a husband who meets an unfortunate end. All of those things happen. Dunant doesn't shy away from any of them. What she does manage to stay away from is the incest and the fratricide one normally associates with the Borgia family. Dunant allows stays away from the more sensational rumors and makes the Borgias shine all on their own.
There are points where Lucrezia's rumored lovers (brothers, fathers, and other) are mentioned. They are mentioned in passing or mentioned as a joke. Usually Lucrezia is the one making the joke. The same is true of the murder of Juan Borgia's murder. It is brought up but the reader is left to draw their own conclusions. Did Cesare dump his brother in the Tiber? Did the jealous Orsini family take revenge? The author tends to lean more on the Orsini hypothesis. However, I think this is only to further other aspects of the story. I never really got the impression the author believed one or the other. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of the younger Borgia, Jofre, who has also been rumored to have reason to murder his brother. There is actually little mentioned of Jofre or his scandalous wife, Sancha.
There is no doubt Lucrezia is the star of this story. Dunant creates a Lucrezia the reader can sympathize with. Here is a woman who had little control over her own destiny. However, once the die was cast, she did everything in her power to take advantage of and make the most of her situation. Robbed of the one husband she may have actually loved, she enters into a new marriage with a man she is not the least bit attracted to. Yet, she does everything she can to be a trophy wife. After all, everything for the family.
The addition of Machiavelli was a welcome addition. If Cesare Borgia was a teen pop star, Machiavelli would have been the leader of his fan club. Seriously, who could blame him? If it weren't for the syphilis, I'd time machine back for that. Unlike the whiny, brat prince from my beloved Assassin's Creed games, this Cesare is a cunning, devious, calculated......Sorry. My fan girl is showing. I'll stop. But seriously, this Cesare, is a man to be reckoned with.
Not related to the book at all- I would just like to pat myself on the back for getting two reviews for two books done on the same day. One of my goals for 2018 is to read and review more. So far, so good!