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Review: The Borgia Bride

February 6, 2011

Sancha of Aragon was a Princess of Naples in the 15th century.  In order to advance her family’s standing, she was forced into a loveless marriage with Jofre of the House of Borgia.  Jofre was the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI.  Sancha was devastated when they were forced to move to Squillace because she would miss her beloved brother Alfonse.  Pope Alexander had designs on Sancha, so she and Jofre were called to Rome where they were forced to deal with corruption, jealousies, and lots of scandals.

I read The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis for my book club.  It seems like our group was divided down the middle – some loved this book and others couldn’t finish it.   My feelings fell somewhere in the middle.  I could really appreciate how well researched the book is, but I felt like it was overwritten.  I felt like there were too many details and too many minor characters.  I had trouble keeping track of them, and after a while, I just gave up trying.

I may be wrong, but it seemed to me that the author took a minor character from a point in history and had her look at that period  through the eyes of someone with today’s values and morals.  I think we need to be careful when we judge actions of the past by today’s standards.

Sancha was a great character, though.  She was strong, feisty and brave.  She was loyal and not afraid to challenge authority.  She did cause a few of her problems, but I think we all do that at times.

I think there will be a renewed interest in the Borgias and this book when the Showtime series about them comes out.   I also suspect historical fiction fans will enjoy The Borgia Bride more than I did.

As a side note, half of the members of my book club read this book on their Kindles and everyone complained about the horrible formatting and plethora of typos in the digital edition of the book.  I got the feeling the book was scanned and then never corrected – for example I was represented by 1 as often as not.  One member noted that it was disappointing to pay for such poor quality.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 5:24 am

    It is interesting that you felt the author was looking through the eyes of the person from the past, with today’s views and values. I would imagine that can be a common problem, when writing historical novels. Sorry to hear not everyone loved it at your book club.

  2. February 6, 2011 5:59 am

    Great points – I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile, and that’s mostly due to the fact that I love to read about Italy, and it would fit well with the challenge that I signed up for about Italy in Books. Well-researched historical fiction novels are great, but over-writing it can be tough for the reader. I will definitely bear your thoughts in mind when I read it 🙂

  3. February 6, 2011 8:00 am

    I’m pretty sure I own this book. It’s one of the packed-away ones. Not really sure why I picked it up because I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. Oh, well, I can’t get to it right now anyway.

    I hate it when a digital book is full of errors or weird things. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone even looks at them after they are scanned. Can’t they see how annoying the reader would find it?

  4. February 6, 2011 8:11 am

    I’m so sorry that you didn’t enjoy this book! I have a good friend who devours historical fiction and it’s one of her favorites. I’m not sure that I want to even give this one a try! LOL!

  5. February 6, 2011 9:02 am

    Completely off topic from this book, but I am looking forward to the Showtime show focusing on the Borgias. I hope it’s better than this book!

  6. February 6, 2011 9:04 am

    I read the author’s “I, Mona Lisa” several years ago – pretty good read. I wouldn’t want to read a HF novel through today’s morals and values, though. And how annoying re: the ebook formatting. I hope readers who noticed it reported it to the author, amazon or the publisher! That’s something I’ve never noticed in a purchased ebook (that isn’t an old classic – those are hit or miss).

  7. February 6, 2011 9:34 am

    Sorry you didn’t really like it; I’m not sure I would either. I like historical fiction, but only if it’s a time period I’m interested in, and then it has to be written well. I do agree with you about judging the past based on today…

  8. February 6, 2011 10:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your honest review.

  9. February 6, 2011 11:30 am

    I have yet to discover a book about the Borgia’s that doesn’t strike me as having been written simply for the sexual scandals, i.e. let’s write a book and make a fortune.

  10. Beth Hoffman permalink
    February 6, 2011 11:41 am

    Kathy, you and I are so much alike! If there are too many secondary characters in a book, I feel like I’m stalled in the water so to speak. Yet I have a friend who loves a book swamped with characters. Needless to say my friend and I usually disagree when discussing our books. LOL

  11. February 6, 2011 12:43 pm

    I read quite a bit of HF and this is one author whose novels don’t appeal to me. I’ve yet to finish one I’ve started.

  12. Ladytink_534 permalink
    February 6, 2011 1:07 pm

    I don’t know too much about the Borgia family but I am looking forward to the Showtime series. Too bad you didn’t enjoy this one or else I would have to mention it to my friend who is traveling to Italy next month. Ugh! Don’t you just hate bad digital copies?! Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than wanting to correct mistakes like that.

  13. February 6, 2011 1:28 pm

    I actually love when book clubs are divided. It makes the meetings more fun!

  14. February 6, 2011 1:31 pm

    This book sounds like promising for an epic fantasy, but I would get lost in all those characters too. I think I’ll pass this one up.

  15. February 6, 2011 3:41 pm

    Sounds so and so. I do want characters to have the views of that time. That is one thing that always annoy me in historical romance, virgins hopping into bed with rakes, sighs.

    And here, well that is another story

  16. February 6, 2011 7:02 pm

    I knew that you were reading a historical fiction book for your book club and having a hart time with it, but I didn’t know this was that particular book. I think it can be really hard to appreciate all the minute details of historical fiction if it’s not a genre that you are used to. I liked your review though, and will be looking for this one the next time I am at the bookstore.

  17. February 6, 2011 7:38 pm

    I find it extremely frustrating to have so many characters to try to keep track of..this doesn’t sound like one for me.

  18. February 6, 2011 8:00 pm

    What a surprise to see a historical fiction review on your blog! I have this book on my bookshelf but have yet to read it.

  19. February 6, 2011 8:12 pm

    The Borgia family is one of the most interesting to read about though I agree that today’s morals and values should never be used to view the past. I think that’s a problem in non fiction as well, when the author uses today’s perspectives to put in context certain behaviors and incidents from the past.

  20. February 7, 2011 7:30 am

    I love HF but it would drive me nuts if the characters had modern values and standards. Ugh. I do have an increased interested in the Borgias though because of the Showtime series.

  21. February 7, 2011 11:03 am

    What you pointed out in this book – an historical character looking at the world with our modern point of view – is one of the reason I don’t read that many historical novels, no matter how much I enjoy them when they are well done. Still plan on reading this one at some point though, since it has been many times recommended to me!

  22. February 7, 2011 11:10 am

    Interesting that this book is the basis for an upcoming Showtime series – great news since I miss The Tudors!

  23. February 7, 2011 1:47 pm

    I’m anxiously awaiting the showtime show to start and imagine once it does, my interest in this family will be peaked and I’ll be on the hunt for books. Not sure this one is for me though…I like historical fiction but find lots of characters and too much detail don’t agree with me.

  24. February 8, 2011 1:56 am

    One of the ladies in our book club is nuts about historical fiction, so I’ll bet she would just love it. A few of the others aren’t quite as into it, so I’ll bet our group would be divided as well, but it sounds interesting. 🙂

  25. February 9, 2011 1:21 pm

    I’m always looking for good historical fiction but maybe this one veers too much towards non-fiction? If I know that upfront, I’m probably okay with it since I love non-fiction!

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