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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Italian Renaissance novels—The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts—has an exceptional talent for breathing life into history. Now Sarah Dunant turns her discerning eye to one of the world’s most intriguing and infamous families—the Borgias—in an engrossing work of literary fiction.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. 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. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. 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.
Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.
©2013 Sarah Dunant (P)2013 Random House
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Ilana on 12-04-15

Start with Other Dunant Books

I was disappointed with this novel. I've read and loved several other books by Sarah Dunant, but this one didn't live up to the others. My feeling is that she got so involved with her research and wanting to retell the historical events from the point of view she had adopted, that she somehow forgot to create credible and fully formed characters. In wanting to present a more "balanced" view of the Borgias, who, based on recent historical research, appear not to have been the monsters they've been made out to be—indeed, the current thinking is they behaved in a way congruent with the times they lived in—the story seemed to me to lack the excitement and spice one would have expected from the title. Yes, there is murder and plenty of blood is spilled, but somehow all this seems to be at a remove, as seen from the eyes of a historian rather than a talented fiction writer. While her other books have all carried me away and made me want to follow the flow of her stories and live with the characters for a while, this one felt stiff and formulaic and frankly, rather boring in the end. I'm still giving it a decent rating because I'm a great lover of historical fiction and Dunant certainly did her homework in that sense, but this is not the book I would recommend to someone new to her writing.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 01-28-15

Different, Sympathetic

Sarah Dunant made the right choice to take a step back from a first person POV in this book and use a more distant, almost impartial narration. It does make the story less engaging and a bit harder to follow or immerse oneself in, but it allows the reader to have a bit more sympathy for this infamous family and their intrigues. It seemed that great care was taken to show the Borgias as they might have been and not fall victim as so many other writers have done and dive right into scandal and incest. The scandal and intrigues are there (less so the incest) but the reader is invited to take a step back and look at it from a point of view other than an excitable "Look what they did!"

Overall a good piece of historical fiction.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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