Those who love their historical fiction blended up with the searing accuracy of solid research blended with a storyteller’s flare for the dramatic will love Sarah Dunant’s Blood & Beauty (Random House). Dunant’s fictional encounters with Italian Renaissance families have left sheafs of fans in her wake and Blood & Beauty will add even more: it seems like the best of a very good lot.
Under Dunant’s hand, the Borgia’s emerge with a complexion quite different from the one painted by popular history. Dunant’s Borgias are a more human bunch. The result is a more humane read than might be expected. As the title suggests, this is a family connected indeed by beauty, but more importantly by blood: the connections that matter beyond all others.
Fans of Dunant’s previous novels, including the dazzling Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan will be far from disappointed by Blood & Beauty. In fact, with its infamous cast, careful research and luscious leaps, this may be Dunant’s most thoroughly enjoyable novel yet. And those who adore it need not feel dismayed: only 10 years of Borgia time are covered by Blood & Beauty. It seems that fans will have more Machiavellian power plays to look forward to. ◊
Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.