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The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia    by C. W. Gortner order for
Vatican Princess
by C. W. Gortner
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

C. W. Gortner is the author of many excellent novels, all about fascinating female historical figures (often maligned in their times) - The Tudor Secret, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, and The Queen's Vow. Now he takes on perhaps the most controversial of the lot in The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia.

Like all the others, as a woman (even one living among the powerful at the very apex of society) she often had little control over own life, never mind being able to affect the lives of her loved ones. Gortner gives his take on Lucrezia's life credibly and with empathy. He lists his sources in the Afterword, where he also summarizes the course of his heroine's life after the end of the novel.

C. W. Gortner tells us that though Lucrezia's legend is that of 'a malignant seductress', she was a survivor, 'a pawn in her family's ambitions, used to secure alliances, with no say in her fate.' He also addresses the rumor of incest, reminding us that there's no documentation of what really went on behind the Borgias' closed doors.

I was particularly interested in this novel as I've watched The Borgias series more than once and enjoyed it each time, amazed that its writers could make this larger-than-life family so appealing, despite their heinous deeds. Gortner's take on the siblings' relationship is different as is his more subtle portrayal of Lucrezia's mother Vannozza and the Pope's mistress, Giulia.

The Vatican Princess tells a fascinating coming of age story, in which Lucrezia slowly changes from a trusting child who blindly adores her father and brother to a young woman who has survived tragedy and rejects her heritage. Highly recommended!

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