The recent success of several novels based on the lives of some of history’s remarkable women has seen a rash of girl power-type novels go to press, bringing us glimpses into the possible lives of a bunch of women we never really thought we needed to know more about. In the way of such things, however, some of these books have been better than others. And a very few are much, much better than most.
The Vatican Princess
(Ballantine) is one of those. A searing look at the life and times of Lucrezia Borgia, the fabled seductress was daughter of a pope and wife to several men chosen for her for reasons of connection. All of htork mostly ended badly.
The Vatican Princess asks if Lucrezia was truly the heartless seductress that history painted her be? Or was she merely a pawn of circumstance? Coping with a difficult situation — and in a violent and powerful family — in the best way she could.
Author C.W. Gortner has written several bestselling novels featuring historically prominent women including Mademoiselle Channel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Last Queen. In all of them, Gortner scratches beyond the historically documented and generally recorded to reconstruct a thoughtful new view of a figure we thought we knew well. Gortner’s Lucrezia is stronger and more heart-led than history would have us believe. And the writing is dense but irresistible. Historical mystery lovers won’t be able to resist.
The Vatican Princess is delicious. This is the kind of history that requires no embellishment. Murder, passion, incest, betrayal: all of the elements that make for good story are here and perfectly applied for maximum impact. ◊