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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
Hardcover, 400 Pages
Ballantine Books
February 9, 2016
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review with HFVBT blog tours
For fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, a gripping novel that follows the extraordinary life of young Lucrezia Borgia, the legendary Renaissance Pope Alexander’s beautiful daughter. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or merely an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.

To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison.

International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare.

This is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess who came of age in an era of savage intrigue and unparalleled splendor, and whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.
I can never say enough about the novels that C.W. Gortner writes, I have absolutely LOVED each and every one of them I have read so far, and that includes The Vatican Princess. I do not have as much experience with the Borgias as I do with say, the Tudors, but Gortner does such a fabulous job of creating characters that I did not feel like I was missing anything by coming into this book with relatively little knowledge.

Gortner brings the intrigue of the Borgia world to life as seen through the eyes of a young Lucrezia. Throughout the novel she matures through her teen years into her young 20s and grows in her understanding of the intrigue that is Borgia. She starts off naïve, but learns a lot over time. As has become his signature, Gortner presents a more sympathetic Lucrezia; she is certainly not the scheming, poisoning, woman that is frequently portrayed in novels and television. There were times that I was angry with her, sad for her, and loved with her.

I think it was a smart choice to tell the Borgia story through her eyes; you can definitely find sympathy for her and grow with her throughout the story. While some have taken issue with the choice to only showcase less than a decade of Lucrezia’s life, I think it shows the most compelling period of her life. If it had continued through her later life it probably would have suffered from a loss of excitement during the later years. I think that sometimes authors feel compelled to tell the complete story of their focal characters and it was a refreshing choice here.

While Lucrezia is Gortner’s main character, her brother, Cesare, and father, Roderigo (AKA Pope Alexander VI) get their fair share of page time. Cesare is a man that I grew to love and hate – he was passionate and driven and did everything for his family and mission, even when those choices were reprehensible. For Lucrezia, Roderigo is her father regardless that he is the Holy Father and she finds that he is not quite the man she thought he was. Whereas she early on truly sees what Cesare is capable of and chooses how to deal with that, she constantly gives her father benefit of the doubt and is more blind to his faults which creates interesting decision making for her.

The world crafting that Gortner does in this novel is absolutely palpable. There are colors, sounds, textures, and sensations that leap off the page and embed you in Renaissance Rome or wherever else the travels take you.

As always, I highly recommend this novel and would read anything this author releases be it the Renaissance or twentieth century! Give me more!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by CW Gortner:
The Last Queen

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
My Review

The Queen’s Vow
My Review

Mademoiselle Chanel
My Review

The Tudor Secret (Book 1)
My Review

The Tudor Conspiracy (Book 2)
My Review

The Tudor Vendetta (Book 3)
My Review

Find C.W. Gortner: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter |Goodreads | Pinterest | Youtube | Newsletter

Follow the Tour:

The tour might be over, but you can still check out the posts that were hosted during it.

HFVBT Website
On Twitter: #TheVaticanPrincessBlogTour  #HistoricalFiction  #LucreziaBorgia  #Italy

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great review! The Vatican Princess is on my TBR list. Looking forward to reading it!!

  2. Hi Heather, looks like a fab book! It would be great if you added your review to the Books You Loved: April collection over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers


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