The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis – Book Review

The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Daughter of the rakish Duke of Milan and daughter-in-law (yes, you read that right) of the Pope, Catherina Sforza was not your average 15th century woman. She loved where she wished, schemed for what she wanted, and fought to keep what was hers. She even matched wits and swords with the Borgias. That being said, Caterina Sforza is a strong, admirable woman, but is also perhaps not the most sympathetic character in fiction, particularly when she is younger. Which is why Kalogridis was wise to narrate her story through her (entirely fictional) lady-in-waiting Dea. Dea was actually a particularly compelling character in her own right: consumed with a need to understand the mystery behind and take revenge for her husband’s murder.

I was totally sucked into “The Scarlet Contessa.” I am just starting to read more about the Italian Renaissance, and it is absolutely fascinating. From what I learned in history classes in high school, I thought it was all artists and patrons, some scientific discovery, and maybe a little backlash against scientific discovery from the church. But, oh! the power struggles! And not only amongst the Dukes, Princes, and other leaders of the various cities, but between the secular leaders and the church, and within the church itself! Absolutely fascinating.

This is the second book by Kalogridis I read and reviewed. “The Scarlet Contessa” confirmed what I thought after reading “The Devil’s Queen,” that Kalogridis is a very skilled author. Her particular talent is taking characters who should be unsympathetic due to their actions and making the reader care about what happens to them. Not every author can do that, and many books have left me cold because I could not care less about the protagonist. Kalogridis, though, examines the complex motivations behind some very unsympathetic actions. Not to mention she is a great storyteller, one who knows how to captivate her audience.

Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
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This review was done with a book received from Sarah at St. Martins.
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16 comments to The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis – Book Review

  • Fabulous review Jen!!!! I’ve been lusting after this book for months, so a big thanks to you and St. Martin’s for the giveaway!

    Crossing fingers and toes!

  • This sounds like a pretty interesting book… I haven’t really read much of histogrical fiction books, I am currently reading ‘The Twentieth Wife’ and am liking it so far.. :)

  • I’ll keep this one on my radar. I wish I had time to read everything that sounds good to me.

  • Sounds like a really interesting read. I do like some good political intrigue. :)

  • Caterina does sound like a very strong woman! Sounds like a fascinating story.

  • New author to me and her work sounds truly awesome. Will have to check this one out! 😀

  • Maybe I should try this one…I had trouble with Philippa Gregory’s last book, but this sounds a good historical fiction read.

  • This one has been on my wishlist for some time – it sounds good! Thanks for the giveaway.

  • This has a lovely cover! I haven’t read much from this period but I spent a semester in college on Italian Renaissance history – so this should be interesting. Thanks for the great review!

  • This is a good review. All yours are. Looking to hear more from you on the Italian Renaissance. And the cover of “Scarlet Contessa” is simply captivating. Good luck to give-away entrants!

  • I must be on one heck of a historical fiction kick, or else I am slowly but surely moving towards that genre as my niche, but I can’t seem to get enough these days! I love the lush scenery, the dresses, the backdrops. Even when the main characters are poor, there is such a richness that cannot typically be found in our more modern fare. The Scarlet Contessa sounds like it would definitely be something I would enjoy. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  • Very well-written review. This looks like both a book and author worth reading.

  • I’m so glad you read/reviewed this one….I read her previous novel and truly enjoyed it. I thought she was a very promising writer at the time and am so glad to hear she has published another novel!

  • Sounds fascinating! I’m definitely interested in some historical fiction that strays beyond the usual Tudor/Plantagenet/etc sphere.

  • RobynL

    what an awesome cover; this author is new to me but would love to give this book a try. thanks.

  • When I next feel in the mood for really good historical fiction, I’ll have to remember Jeanne Kalogridis. I can’t believe I haven’t read any of her books yet.