TW: Attempted Rape, Murder
During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.
Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.
As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare’s lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition (Goodreads, 2020).
Things I Enjoyed: I found this to be a great account of the lives of one of Renaissance Italy’s greatest families. The Borgias were seen at times as precursors to the mafia and after reading this book I can definitely see why.They were intensely loyal to one another but could also be incredibly ruthless.
Seeing members of the Borgia family from the POV of someone of the lower class, but close to the family was a great way to humanize them and a great tool to de-bunk some of the myths surrounding the family.
Lastly this book was a lot more sensual than I anticipated when I first picked it up Maddalena’s thoughts and the encounters between her and Cesare Borgia were quite steamy, which I enjoyed.
Overall Thoughts: This was a 5 out of 5 star read for me. I found Maddalena to be a great narrator and enjoyed learning more about Renaissance Italy and the Borgia family
Quote I Enjoyed:
In my mind, to be a soldier, a conqueror, was the finest occupation for a man
I wanted to know everything. All the thoughts, and sins and scars and joys he carried in that unknown heart of his. I wanted to know HIM.