Reviews for Blood and Beauty : The Borgias; a Novel

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
Chapter 1 of Dunant's latest historical feast opens on August 11, 1492, with the people of Rome rejoicing, "We have a pope!" The cardinal, who has just been elevated to the papal throne after five days of voting by the College of Cardinals, is a Spaniard by the name of Rodrigo Borgia, who chooses to reign as Pope Alexander VI. Thus is inaugurated a highly dramatic period in papal, Italian, and even European history as the Borgia family--the pope and his bastard children, two sons and one daughter, unhidden as such--extend their influence well beyond the confines of ecclesiastical matters to exert power within the Italian peninsula exactly as would a powerful royal dynasty heavily involved in the politics of the day. Pope Alexander, who reveled in the physical attractiveness and mental vitality of his three illegitimate, now full-grown children, used them as pawns to strengthen his personal hand within the papacy and further afield, "becoming stronger and more potent in their presence." As the eldest son, the infamous Cesare, says, "There have been none like us before. And there will be none like us afterwards." For those who find Hilary Mantel's brilliant Tudor novels too deep and demanding, Dunant offers less rigorous, more comfortable historical fiction. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The author of The Birth of Venus (2004) is being accorded a vigorous publicity campaign for her latest novel, which will include lots of media focus. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 June #1
The big, bad Borgia dynasty undergoes modern reconsideration in the best-selling British author's epic new biofiction. Eclipsing her earlier period novels in scope, Dunant's (Sacred Hearts, 2009, etc.) latest is an impressively confident, capable sweep through the corrupt politics and serpentine relationships of a legendary family. Marshaling a mass of material, including contemporary research, Dunant delivers a colorful, sensual and characteristically atmospheric account of Rodrigo Borgia's ascent to the papacy as Alexander VI in 1492 and his subsequent tireless efforts to build a power base through the strategic use of his four children. Cesare is the sly, shrewd son, a match for his father in guile but with a colder heart, who moves ruthlessly from cardinal to soldier as politics and advancement dictate. Beloved daughter Lucrezia makes one strategic marriage after another while nursing a powerful attachment to Cesare. Two more sons play similarly useful roles, forging alliances. The politics are complicated, but Dunant's clear account is balanced by oddly affectionate character portraits informed by her interest in the psychology of these larger-than-life figures. Closing at a bittersweet moment that fuses family fortunes and realpolitik, the author promises a second volume. Dunant's biggest and best work to date, this intelligently readable account of formative events and monster players has Hilary Mantel–era quality best-seller stamped all over it. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #2

Dunant is celebrated for absorbing historicals like The Birth of Venus, set mostly in Italy and luxuriating in its arts and culture, but she has also won a silver dagger for her crime fiction. So she seems a natural to tell the story of the bloody Borgias. Here, while limning Cesare, Machiavelli's model prince, she focuses on Lucrezia's journey from innocence to world-weary political savvy. Conveniently available just as fans are coming off the third season of Showtime's The Borgias.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

The time is the late 15th century, and the Borgias are on the rise. Italy is a chaotic tangle of loosely joined city-states, caught between the rule of the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, where power and wealth are the spoils of those ruthless enough to take them. What some would consider criminal behavior, the Borgias consider massaging the situation to their advantage. From church law to social law, no rule is so unbreakable as to stop the family in its quest for power. The fourth novel from the best-selling author of The Birth of Venus casts the spotlight on the ruthless Rodrigo Borgia--also known as Pope Alexander VI--and his children's activities, from eldest son Cesare's ice-cold political machinations to daughter Lucrezia's three marriages of convenience, in the name of familial strategy. VERDICT Hilary Mantel fans and historical fiction readers in general looking for another meaty novel won't want to miss Dunant's latest. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/13.]--Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ

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