Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: The Sins of the House of Borgia

The Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN-13: 9781402259630

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

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Synopsis (Book Blurb):


Violante isn't supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn't supposed to be a lady in waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive politics that pushed Lucrezia's father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.

Violante discovers a Lucrezia unknown to those who see only a scheming harlot, and all the whispers about her brother , Cesare Borgia, never revealed the soul of the man who dances close with Violante.

But those who enter the House of Borgia are never quite the same when they leave - they leave at all. Violante's place in history will test her heart and leave her the guardian of dangerous secrets she must carry to the grave.


Sarah Bower's debut novel, The Sins of the House of Borgia reveals the complicated lives of the Borgia's, one of Italy's most notorious crime families. Readers who are eagerly anticipating Showtime's new series about the Borgia's Premiering in April, will love this historical fiction novel that shows the Borgia's through the eyes of an innocent young girl who has been thrown into the lion's den as a lady in waiting to Lucrezia Borgia.

Esther Sarfati is a young Jewish girl, who along with her family, is forced to flee from the wrath of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Hoping to find a place that was more tolerant of their faith, Esther's father relocates his family to the city-states of Italy. After moving to Rome he helps to finance Rodrigo Borgia's bid to become the next pope. As pope Alexancer VI, Borgia hopes to repay Sarfati by allowing his daughter Esther to join the retinue of his illegitimate daughter Lucrezia, but only on the insistence that she convert to Christianity. Esther becomes La Violante, a young woman who saw a very different side of Lucrezia Borgia than what the public was obliged to. When Violante falls in love with Lucrezia's brother, Cesare she begins a life filled with the debauchery of court, bloodthirsty politics, and a journey full of secrets.

Sarah Bower's portrayal of Lucrezia Borgia is nothing short of genius. Showing Lucrezia through the eyes of an innocent girl was a very interesting premise and I found the book to be everything I expected. Having been a former history major, the historical aspects of the story were of special interest to me and I thought the author did an excellent job of giving the necessary detail, while not bogging the reader down with too much information. She created a nice balance between the historical and the fictional parts of the book. It was easy to see the amount of research that went into a book of this nature and how the author was able to show a very and detailed account of the Borgia family.

The Borgia's are an interesting family, very corrupt and full of fascinating characters. Lucrezia is normally characterized as a very ruthless young woman, who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted, whether by using money or her own body as a means to an end. But through the eyes of Violante we see a very different Lucrezia. One that is more vulnerable and even somewhat self-conscious. Violante, as a lady in waiting, sees more to Lucrezia than just what she displays to the public. The author did such a wonderful job of making Lucrezia seem more human, if you will.

Cesare is as ruthless as he is handsome. He is crafty and deceiving, yet Violante is attracted to him in a way she has never felt before. He opens up a world to her than she has never experienced before and she sees him in an almost rose-colored hue. She doesn't see his corrupt nature or his dangerous side. Or perhaps she does and is attracted to that bad boy attitude. Bower shows Cesare's passion as well as his debauched life. I found it very interesting seeing him through the eyes of a young girl. He must have seemed like a god in some ways.

Violante's character is very well written. Bower gets into the head of this young girl and shows us the Borgia's in a very different way than we've come to know them in history. She is an innocent girl when she goes to the House of Borgia but she has a very different view of life in the end. She sees things that she probably would have never encountered in her normal life. She is exposed to backstabbing and corrupt politics as well as the pleasures that the lavish court provided. But she also saw a different side to the Borgia siblings. I loved her character, her determination and her strength. That was a very hard climate to live in for Jewish girl.

This is a great character driven historical novel giving readers a very entertaining portrayal of very interesting family. The Soprano's of the Renaissance! I would recommend to historical fiction lovers as well as those who want to read a book that has everything from debauchery to betrayal and back again.

The Sins of the House of Borgia is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sarah Bower is literature development officers for the Creative Arts East and teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was the UK editor of Historical Novels Review for two years, until the beginning of 2006, when she stepped down to make more time for her own writing. She is the author of Needle in the Blood.