The Borgia Bride by Jeanne
pbk out February 06
This is not a crime novel in the usual sense, though there are murders aplenty in it. It
is a historical tragi-romance – and dare I say it, a 'woman's book'. The Sunday Times
called it 'corset-bursting escapism' and could have added 'a bodice-ripper', but for all
that, it is a gripping saga, as one needs to know how it all turns out.
It sticks fairly closely to the historical record of that awful family, the Borgias in late
15th and early 16th century Italy. Written in the first person, it is narrated by Sancha de
Aragon, a real figure who was an illegitimate daughter of the King of Naples. She
gets married off, after a false start, to Jofre, the youngest son of Pope Alexander VI, a
hateful old man who seems more concerned with enlarging his harem that promoting
Christianity. He was of course, Rodrigo, the top Borgia and the world expert in
nepotism, who advanced his sons at every turn, making the arch-villain Cesare a
cardinal at the age of seventeen.
Sancha's young brother is married off to Lucrezia Borgia, but after killing his elder
brother, Cesare also sees off his sister's husband, all for political advancement, as he
wanted her linked to some other regime. Although the Borgias are inevitably linked
with poison, this does not feature that largely in the story, though Sancha eventually
puts her phial of 'cantarella', a deadly toxin, to good use – which is one event which
history does not confirm.
The story is an orgy of political intrigue, sumptuous living, palace debauchery, cruel
warfare and evil duplicity, but is a racy yarn which gets across some important history
on the way.
ex Home Office Pathologist and author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series)