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History ReFreshed | Meet The Borgias

July 7, 2011

HISTORY REFRESHED…What’s New in Historical Fiction

the Borgias“Over a decade in the making, the Showtime Original Series The Borgias is the sordid saga of one of the most remarkable and legendary families in history.” So goes the tagline for the latest historical drama dominating the airwaves.

If you’re one of the viewers fascinated by the series, you’ll be happy to learn that the Borgias inspired not just Borgia series creator Neil Jordan, but a host of historical novelists.

Lucrezia, daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, the crafty Spanish cardinal who bullied, bought and butchered his way to become Pope Alexander VI, has inspired the most prose.  Though she was the Rodrigo’s adored only daughter, as a pawn in the political machinations of her family, she was married off three times in their ruthless quest to amass wealth and power.  Borgia enemies tarnished her name with allegations of poisonings, incest and debauchery.


Who is the real Lucrezia?


Veteran historical novelist Jean Plaidy offers two explorations of this intriguing woman.  MADONNA OF THE SEVEN HILLS features Lucrezia’s early life, as she comes of age to find herself, despite her family’s affection, nonetheless being used as a tool in their quest for power.

LIGHT ON LUCREZIA picks us her story during her marriage to her second husband, a man she loves…but who becomes an impediment to her family’s ambitions.

POISON IN THE BLOOD:  THE MEMOIRS OF LUCREZIA BORGIA by M. G. Scarsbrook also chronicles Lucrezia’s struggles to save her second husband from assassination.

Sara Bower’s SINS OF THE HOUSE OF BORGIA continues Lucrezia’s tale with her third marriage to Alfonso d’Este, heir to the dukedom of Ferrera, the story told through the voice of her lady-in-waiting Esther Sarfati (who also happens to fall in love with Lucrezia’s ruthless brother Cesare.)

If you want a free preview of Scarsbrook’s novel, an excerpt is provided in his Kindle e-book detailing the factual background of Lucrezia’s story.  THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF LUCREZIA BORGIA includes a timeline of her life, biographical profile, description of her life in Rome, and a discussion of the Borgia family’s legendary connection to poison.  Bonus feature biographical books about her and brother Cesare include: – Lucretia Borgia: According To Original Documents and Correspondence of Her Day by Ferdinand Gregorovius
– The Borgias by Alexander Dumas (from ‘Celebrated Crimes’)
– The Life of Cesare Borgia by Rafael Sabatini
– Lucrezia Borgia, libretto by Felice Romani for the Opera by Gaetano Donizetti (in Italian)
– Encyclopedia Britannica articles (11th edition) on Lucrezia Borgia and Cesare Borgia
– Love Letter From Pietro Bembo to Lucrezia Borgia

Finally, Louise Loupas continues the story after Lucrezia’s death in THE SECOND DUCHESS.  Inspired by Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess,” the book features Barbara of Austria, who married Alfonso d’Este, duke of Ferrara, amid whispers about the mysterious circumstances of his first wife’s demise.  Barbara doesn’t possess Lucrezia’s famous beauty…but will she share her predecessor’s fate?

Hungry for more Borgia sagas? Read on!


Sancha de Aragon, princess of Naples, became a Borgia lady when she was wed to the younger Borgia son, Jofre.  In Jeanne Kalogridis’s THE BORGIA BRIDE, the beautiful and strong-willed beauty must walk a tightrope of intrigue and desire between her husband and two other powerful Borgia men–her husband’s older brother Cesare and her father-in-law, the Pope Alexander himself.

Jeanne Kalogridis offers another Borgia connection in THE SCARLET CONTESSA.  Caterina Sforza became a Borgia enemy when she married the illegitimate son of Pope Sixtus from the rival Medici clan.  Through the eyes of her confidante, Dea, we watch this clever and ambitious woman as she manipulates the alliances necessary to maintain her family’s power and position.

Sara Poole featured a fictional Borgia retainer in her debut historical mystery, POISON.  Francesca Giordano takes over her father’s job as head poisoner for the Borgia family, working for Cardinal Borgia in his dangerous machinations to seize power.  Did Pope Innocent really die in his sleep?

Just released was Poole’s second Francesca Giordana book, THE BORGIA BETRAYAL.  With her master now Pope Alexander VI, Francesca must work to secure his position and foil assassination threats from rival families determined to seize control over the church, the newly-discovered New World and Christendom itself.

Here’s to history that refreshes!

Julia Justiss is the author of several historical romances including her latest, SOCIETY’S MOST DISREPUTABLE GENTLEMAN

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