Monday, August 1, 2011
From the author of Poison, called “stunning”* and “a fascinating page-turner,” comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.
In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the chair of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of peril, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.
As dangers close in from every direction, Francesca conceives a desperate plan that puts her own life at risk and hurls her into a nightmare confrontation with a madman intent on destroying all she is pledged to protect. From the hidden crypts of fifteenth-century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness. -- St. Martin's Griffin
You might be a little surprised to see that I am reviewing a historical fiction book for Mystery Mondays. One because I haven't been reading a ton of historical fiction lately, and two because the cover and title of THE BORGIA BETRAYAL by Sara Poole don't exactly look like a traditional mystery. However, I do love reading about the Borgias and I'm really into mysteries, so I thought it seemed like a good fit for me.
And THE BORGIA BETRAYAL was definitely a book that I enjoyed. For some reason, I am just fascinated with the Renaissance period and the Borgias; so, needless to say, I found the historical elements of this novel to be extremely interesting. While I am drawn to books that take place during this time in Rome, this book was extra because of what the author brought to the story. I love how she incorporated so many historical information into this story -- it's apparent that she did a tremendous amount of research. But it wasn't just the events themselves that made this novel so interesting. It was how the characters reflected the signs of the time. For example, the characters' actions in THE BORGIA BETRAYAL demonstrated the role of women, the role of the church, and how new perceptions were changing society.
In addition to appreciating all of the historical parts of the novel, I thought the characters were fascinating, namely Francesca. (But I also loved Rocco and Cesare -- Francesca's two love interests.) Many of the major characters were fairly well developed and I loved how they interacted with each other. However, I most enjoyed Francesca. Francesca was a poisoner in the Borgia court, and she was an extremely complex character. I loved how she was haunted by events in her past and even questioned how similar she was to the men that she was trying to bring down.
I also loved that THE BORGIA BETRAYAL was told in Francesca's voice. She was a perfect narrator for this story and I thought the author did a great job of creating a unique voice for her. Francesca was not only incredibly smart, deceptive, and passionate, but she also gave us an inside look into the Borgia family. What I was surprised to find that in addition to all of these traits, Francesca was quite funny. As I was reading THE BORGIA BETRAYAL, I found myself laughing at her assessments of the other characters, and I just loved her sarcasm and insight into her own actions.
THE BORGIA BETRAYAL is actually the second book in the Poisoner Mysteries. I was a little late getting to the game, but I definitely intend on going back and reading the first book in this series POISON. THE BORGIA BETRAYAL definitely worked as a stand-alone, and I think the author did at terrific job of filling in the reader on what occurred in the past; however, I do think this book contained some spoilers. So what I guess I'm saying is that while I want to read POISON, I have a feeling that I already know how things play out!
And since this is a post for Mystery Mondays, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the mystery aspect of this novel. I thought it was a pretty good one and it kept me guessing. At times, I began doubting characters that I thought I liked; and there were a few twists and the end that made the story especially unique. Because this book is part of a series, it shouldn't be a surprise that there were a few issues that didn't get resolved by the end of the novel. Naturally, I am awaiting the third book in the series to see what happens with Francesca life -- both on a professional and personal level.
THE BORGIA BETRAYAL would make an interesting pick for book clubs, especially ones that are drawn to historical fiction and/or mysteries. There is a reading guide available with twelve interesting questions, but there are actually a lot of embedded questions in the formal questions so there is obviously quite a bit to discuss. Some of the issues that you might want to explore include the time period when the story took place, the ethical and moral behavior of the characters, Francesca's state of mind, revenge, the role of woman, sibling rivalry, parent/child relationships, and love affairs. In addition, it might be interesting to discuss the metaphor of poison and what it represented.
Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book.
Mystery Mondays is a "somewhat" regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.
Giveaway alert: Ms. Poole graciously sent me an extra copy of THE BORGIA BETRAYAL to share with one very lucky Booking Mama reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before August 14th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!