Guide Blood & Beauty: The Borgias

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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias; A Novel

Yet while the border between Rodrigo the man and Rodrigo the myth might be hard to define, there is no disputing the strange allure of the Borgias, a family seemingly composed of equal parts beauty, glamor, ruthlessness, and overwhelming thirst for power. Immortalised in numerous books, films, and works of art, clan Borgia has left its own indelible mark upon history; an enduring fascination stemming from accounts of blatant nepotism, warmongering, lasciviousness, their feuds with such notable families as the Medici and the Sforza, as well as a rumoured penchant for assassinating or discrediting anyone who happened to stand in the way of their ambitions.

Rendered with all the careful nuance of an invested storyteller, the personalities stand out from the page, possessed of a depth and dimension which make their deeds and decisions all the more heartfelt, devastating, utterly reprehensible.


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The lives are real, the relationships complex, the backdrops presented with a fluent, picturesque grace, making for a sumptuous read which leaves one yearning for more once the final page has been turned. Name required. All of them have been raised with Rodrigo, shaped by his purposeful attention.

This new papacy is fueled by wars, back-door deals and the usual machinations of wealthy men. Rodrigo acts more like a monarch than a pope, interacting with heads of state and kings, juggling the powerful cardinals and their families, infiltrating Spanish and European courts, secure in the knowledge that kings will at some time need the assistance of a pontiff to accomplish their goals. Her second union is more fulfilling, but it brings with it a newfound maturity that casts both Rodrigo and Cesare in a different light. God is the accoutrement of his position, the robe with which he covers his flawed humanity.

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When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family—in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia—in order to succeed. Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest—though increasingly unstable—weapon.

The Borgias s03e10 "The Prince" Cesare and Lucrezia Scene One

Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player. This intellectually satisfying historical saga, which offers blood and beauty certainly, but brains too, is surely the best thing she has done to date.

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

The members of this close-knit family emerge as dynamic characters, flawed but sympathetic, filled with fear and longing. By clicking "Notify Me" you consent to receiving electronic marketing communications from Audiobooks.


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