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The Borgia Bride - Jeanne Kalogridis

The Borgia Bride

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ROME 1492 and the Borgia reign of terror has just begun, when into this climate of fear comes Sancha of Aragon, fresh from Naples and newly married to Pope Alexander VI’s youngest son, Jofre Borgia.

This then, is the setting for Jeanne Kalogridis’ riveting historical novel, The Borgia Bride.

Written in a first-person narrative, events unfold through the eyes of Sancha who, it must be said, was a woman of dubious repute, though probably through no fault of her own. That she loved her brother dearly is never in doubt. Jofre, on the other hand, was an altogether different matter.

For no sooner had Sancha set eyes on brother-in-law Cesare and the two had embarked on a passionate affair. Yet can we really blame her when Cesare was everything Jofre was not – mature, experienced and irresistible?

But as Sancha was soon to learn, Cesare was also cruel and duplicitous – unlike Jofre whose extra-marital encounters (and there were many) were his only vice.

Cesare too, took pleasure in the opposite sex as indeed, did the Pope himself. But whereas Jofre sought the company of courtesans, Cesare and Alexander looked closer to home – to Lucrezia, the Pope’s beloved daughter.

All this, Sancha discovered for herself but knowledge, she all-too-quickly realized, was an extremely dangerous commodity…..

With its potent mix of passion, intrigue and suspense played out against actual historical events, The Borgia Bride is a page turner of the very highest quality.

However, in view of the Borgia’s malevolent reputation, I had expected more detailed accounts of their brutality. This simply wasn’t so. Yet scenes of a sexually explicit nature are not uncommon, particularly early on. Which makes me think The Borgia Bride is most definitely, a woman’s story.

Even so, I found it difficult to empathize with Sanchez, let alone feel sorry for her, which probably makes me something of a hard-hearted Hannah. But in truth, it was with her brother Alfonso that my sympathy lay, for his fate, like that of so many, was completely undeserved.

The Sunday Times has described The Borgia Bride as ‘corset-busting escapism’ and who am I to disagree? I will however, add just one thing – this particular piece of escapism contains many recorded facts. We might, therefore, do well to remember that for those involved there was no escape…...