Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA by Sarah Bower

It took me a little longer than I thought it would to read this novel, because I thought I would be unable to put it down, but with work and it not being quite as wonderful as I thought it would be, it took me a little longer.

The story is told in first person by a young woman named Esther. She is a Jewess who, at the beginning of the novel, is fleeing religious persecution in Spain with her family. They flee to Rome, where her father has some type of banking connection with the Pope. Esther and her mother leave after her brother's and father have left in order to follow them to Rome, and on the way her mother dies, so Esther is left in the care of her father. Through her father's connection with the Pope, Esther is set up with a position as Lucrezia Borgia's (the pope's daughter) lady's in waiting. As one of her lady's she befriends Angela Borgia (Lucrezia's cousin),, and she becomes obsessed with Lucrezia's brother, Cesare. Cesare helps to feed her obsession with him by paying special attention to her, and giving her the nickname, La Violante (Promise Breaker). Before Lucrezia is wed to the Duke of Ferrara Violante (Esther) witnesses several scandalous incidents at the Borgian Court that helped to make the name of Borgia infamous. 
Lucrezia is eventually married and sent to live with her husband in Ferrara, and Violante and Angela follow. Lucrezia becomes very ill, and Cesare (her brother) visits her fearing for her death. As the reader you are able to see at this point that their relationship isn't necessarily a normal brother-sister connection. During Cesare's stay he seduces Violante, although it wasn't hard because her obsession with him has become more than just a   little crush. Violante and Cesare make love, and he leaves her with two gifts; pregnant with his bastard child and the French Pox, nice guy, eh?
Time passes and she continues to hope that Cesare will acknowledge that she is pregnant with his child, and her obsession with him continues to grow. Eventually she has the child, and after Cesare recovers from a near death illness, he has the child taken away from her to be raised by his  mother. Violante continues to serve Lucrezia in hopes of regaining custody of her child, but even after Cesare dies, there is no way that his family will give up one of his heirs. 
Lucrezia eventually tells Violante the whole sordid story of her relationship with Cesare, and her real connection to her younger "brother" Giovanni. 
I won't go into details, because the book just came out and I don't want to ruin the entire book for  the reader.

I don't know how many contests I entered trying to win a copy of this book. I would guess I entered at least nine or ten? I was so excited when I saw that I had finally won a copy! I think that I had this book so built up in my head, that when I actually started reading it, there was no way it could measure up to how good I had pictured it to be. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy the book, because I definitely did. I'm just saying that it wasn't the 'reading until 3 a.m., can't put down, love it, love it' book that I had it in my mind that it would be! I think I became lost several times in all of the political happenings in the book. I have only read one other book on the Borgia Family, so I was a little lost at times when there would be a lot of detail about the wars and politics that were going on at that time (my own fault). Also, the other book I had read about the Borgia's was THE BORGIA BRIDE by Jeanne Kalogridis, and it was packed full of all the scandal I could dream of!
There were so many different characters in SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA, that it was easy to get them confused and forget who they were, especially when they weren't major characters. The only other problem I had with the book was Violante's (Esther) obsession with Cesare. It was just insane. Around 300 pages in I realized that she was only 16, so that made a little more sense to me, but as a reader I became extremely annoyed with the main character! I like to feel endeared to the main character, not annoyed! Violante was so naive when it came to Cesare. Believing everything that he said, constantly thinking of him, and also letting everyone around her see how pathetically in love she was with him, even though he gave her absolutely NO hope, in face he and everyone else told her to GIVE IT UP!  Maybe as a modern woman I have trouble understanding that kind of obsession, because I wanted to scream at her to, "GET OVER IT!"
I was also looking for a little more scandal in a book about the Borgia's. There was a little at the beginning, dealing with an orgy, and there was some scandal hinted at throughout. The biggest scandal came in the last few pages and dealt with Lucrezia and Cesare, but I was hoping for more, on the edge of my seat, scandal throughout the book! Maybe that's my deep down romance novel self coming out?

Overall I would give this novel a three out of five stars. I learned a lot about the Borgia's by reading it, because the author definitely knew her facts, and even though she used her creative license to tell a story, she still stuck with the right timeline, and the major historical facts. So, even though I didn't get the over the top, crazy Borgia story, that I wanted, I still did learn a lot.  There was enough scandal and creative license used that I did enjoy the read, and I would definitely recommend it to those who know a little about the Borgia family. If you know nothing at all, or very  little (like me) than I would suggest doing a little google research before you read, so that you're not completely lost!


  1. I would have expected a lot of scandal in this novel too! I am really excited to watch the miniseries coming out about them!

  2. Thanks for the honest review. I really hate when a novel has too many characters that I can't keep up with them and thus can't connect with them either.