Blood and Beauty: The Borgias

Blood and Beauty: The Borgias

by Sarah Dunant
4.0 42


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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant


The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Italian Renaissance novels—The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts—has an exceptional talent for breathing life into history. Now Sarah Dunant turns her discerning eye to one of the world’s most intriguing and infamous families—the Borgias—in an engrossing work of literary fiction.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family—in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia—in order to succeed.
Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest—though increasingly unstable—weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.
Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.

Praise for Blood & Beauty
“The Machiavellian atmosphere—hedonism, lust, political intrigue—is magnetic. . . . Readers won’t want the era of Borgia rule to end.”
People (four stars)
“Dunant transforms the blackhearted Borgias and the conniving courtiers and cardinals of Renaissance Europe into fully rounded characters, brimming with life and lust.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Like Hilary Mantel with her Cromwell trilogy, [Sarah] Dunant has scaled new heights by refashioning mythic figures according to contemporary literary taste. This intellectually satisfying historical saga, which offers blood and beauty certainly, but brains too, is surely the best thing she has done to date.”
—The Miami Herald
“Compelling female players have been a characteristic of Dunant’s earlier novels, and this new offering is no exception. . . . The members of this close-knit family emerge as dynamic characters, flawed but sympathetic, filled with fear and longing.”
—The Seattle Times
“Dazzling . . . a triumph on an epic scale . . . filled with rich detail and page-turning drama.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400069293
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/16/2013
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.76(h) x 1.39(d)

About the Author

Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts, which have received major acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Her earlier novels include three Hannah Wolfe crime thrillers, as well as Snowstorms in a Hot Climate, Transgressions, and Mapping the Edge, all three of which are available as Random House Trade Paperbacks. She has two daughters and lives in London and Florence.


London, England

Date of Birth:

August 8, 1950

Place of Birth:

London, England


B.A., Cambridge University, 1973

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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Sarah Dunant, I have her three other Italian historical fiction novels in hardback (BIG fan of The Birth of Venus, in particular) ... I was really looking forward to this one. It was good, but somehow not as compelling as some of her other work. At times I found myself almost slogging through pages just to get to something interesting. I will say I did appreciate the portrayal of Lucrezia, she definitely comes off more sympathetic than history portrays her (and we all know history is written by the victors...).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For a novel it's a little dry. For all the nastiness that the Borgia's are known for, you expect more juice. Reads more like a biography than a novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was selected by a member of my book club. Due to the various and foreign aspects coupled with a lot of unusual names it makes for a rather hard read. So far most of my book club members don't care for it as much as I do. If you're looking for light easy reading I wouldn't recommend it.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Rodrigo Borgia, a noble of Spanish descent, in 1492 wins a majority of votes carefully cultivated among the College of Cardinals, the vote that would mandate the rest of his life be spent as Pope Alexander VI.  Totally besotted with his own children, Juan, Cesare, and Lucrezia, and endeared to his former and present lover, Alexander will spend the remainder of his life manipulating, severing and unifying the bonds of these faithless and troubled children.  One can imagine what it was like to technically not exist as the children of a Pope and yet to live in the opulent lifestyle of what seemed like limitless power of the Borgia clan.  The Borgias have as many enemies as supporters and it’s Alexander’s job to keep his finger on the pulse of the yet to be enacted secret plots.  While this is happening, Juan and Cesare barely tolerate each other and Juan’s amorous escapades are the talk of Rome.  Cesare has received a church position but yearns for the life of a military strategist and campaigner.  Alexander is trying to secure marriage betrothals for his children, all meant to secure the loyalty of both friends and enemies.  For Italy is divided as city-states war with each other, and France has its eye on exploiting the divisions for its own gain.   A violent death and a serious illness temporarily devastates Alexander and gradually Lucrezia inwardly despises her family for using her as a marital tool and a not very effective one at heading off future conflicts within and outside of Rome.  Revenge must wait while the all-out war Cesare wages for his father occurs.  The outcome is devastating for so many and stifles all doubts of the strength of the Borgia clan, including another female warrior leader formerly respected for her indomitable fierceness and military successes.  Yes, there is blood, beauty, lust, violence, murder, disease and enough verbal altercations to keep the reader rapidly flipping the pages to the very last word.   Blood and Beauty is a classic work of historical fiction written in the style of an embellished, thrilling account.  The novel also includes vivid descriptions of the gorgeous art and architecture of Rome, especially within Vatican City.  The unique quality of this story lies in changes wrought by Pope Alexander VI and his Borgia family in an extremely troubled time in Italian history.  Rome at this time was a dirty, dangerous city that slowly evolved into the magnificent cultural and sacred icon.  The author presents the immorality of the Borgias without commentary which this reader finds leads to some interesting reflection on how the Catholic Church operated in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The writing is handled so deftly that one almost unconsciously dismisses the “right/wrong” issues because one is so caught up with the machinations of Alexander and Cesare Borgia, not knowing how each scenario will unfold!   Sarah Dunant is a superb author of historical fiction.  Blood and Beauty is a memorable, phenomenal account of one of the most notable and infamous families in world history.  Highly, highly recommended – and there is more Borgia impact to come which this reviewer eagerly anticipates!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am reading this book now. I only wish I didn't work so I could stay home and just read. It is fabulous. I have read many of Sarah Dunant's books and liked them very much.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I am a fan of Dunant. But this book is not her best. Dry, dry, dry. I felt no connection to the characters.
MsDollie More than 1 year ago
This was my novel by Sarah Durant and I will read her other historic fiction. "Blood and Beauty" was slightly better than just good ... but not quite great. I wish there had been more character development pointing to an understanding of motives etc. Worth reading none the less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned so much that I had no idea existed in the Vatican history and it was a wonderful journey.
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This was a very interesting take on the story of this infamous family. So much mystery surrounds the truth of the actions of this family, but I found this book intriguing. I think it was well done and drew the reader in.
LN_Adcox More than 1 year ago
ENLIGHTENING I was not surprised by a “bad Pope” or by the “Borgias” being associated with boundless ambition, greed, corruption and political intrigue. However, I was surprised by the innocence and faith of Lucrezia Borgia – a name I had also associated with the previous characteristics. I was also surprised at the degree of hypocrisy and malevolence of the church and particularly of the supreme head of the church and successor of Peter the Apostle, Pope Alexander VI. It is difficult today to understand how the fifteenth mind could reconcile the doctrines of the church and the thousands killed as heretics to maintain the sanctity of doctrine in light of a Pope that touted his illegitimate children and mistresses, replaced Cardinals and Bishops at will (and often with children), and used murder as a tool to consolidate his position or amass greater personal lands and fortune. Characterization of Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia Borgia is good, and characterization of Cesare Borgia is excellent. However, the biggest draw for me was the depiction of the turmoil of the Italian states, the major players, and the mores of the times.
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lotus7 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this historical fiction. It was well-researched and really brought the Borgia Italy to life with flourish while maintaining an almost biographical tone. The prose is gorgeous and the intermixing of present and past tenses is seamless and easy. This was my first novel by Sarah Dunant, and I'm excited to pick up her other novels.
beachmomCP More than 1 year ago
This is probably my least favorite of Sarah Dunant's novels. The subjects (the Borgias) could have been epic, but somehow they fell flat in this book. I was disappointed and probably will not purchase the sequel.
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Otisfield More than 1 year ago
This book was exquisitely written, with historical characters the Borgias, who were brought to life vividly. This is not a light book to read in an afternoon, it  requires that the reader read every word and every sentence. The pictures created by those words were superb. One of the richest historical novels I have read. 
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