Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower – Book Review

Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks

1492 was not a good time to be Jewish in Spain. Esther’s father and brothers left ahead of Esther and her mother in order to set up a life for them in Rome, but eventually King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella formally expelled all Jews from Spain, and Esther and her mother were force to flee to Rome as well. It was a hard journey, and Esther’s mother died along the way, leaving Esther’s voyage in the hands of friends and neighbors. If all of that weren’t bad enough, after Esther’s arrival, her father decides that she will convert to Christianity and become a lady in waiting to Lucrezia Borgia, in order to further ingratiate Esther’s father the moneylender to Pope Alexander VI, nee Rodrigo Borgia. For one or another, Esther becomes very close to Lucrezia – and in some ways even closer to Lecrezia’s infamous brother Cesare, who bestows upon Esther the nickname Violante.

It is a pretty common historical narrative that the Borgia’s brought back the decadence of ancient Rome and added a health dose of poison, that their bed and spouse hopping made the Henry VIII’s marital history look puritanical by comparison. Even so, some of Esther’s early experiences with the Borgias seem to be almost tawdry for tawdry’s sake. Perhaps this is an accurate description of his parties, but it seemed to me that a bit more could have been left to the imagination. Partly because of the graphic nature of some of the early Borgia scenes, Sins of the House of Borgia got off to a slow and rocky start for me. While it eventually engaged me and the pace picked up, I never stopped having an issues with Esther’s intense fascination with and lust for Cesare Borgia. At their very first meeting he embarrassed and degraded her, and never showed any particular preference for her, other than writing her letters seemingly designed to lead her on. Esther was generally a very smart young woman, I found it difficult to believe that she was so incredibly stupid about a man so famously inconstant and syphilitic.

I’m still very interested in books about the Borgias, particularly some set in the years before Rodrigo’s ascension or in the early years of his Papacy, instead of nearing the end of their power as Sins of the House of Borgia was. Someone please write or recommend me a book with a good scene about the battle between Cesare and Catherina Sforza! Sins of the House of Boriga may interest those who like historical fiction that adheres to the tropes of the romance genre better than I do.

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9 comments to Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower – Book Review

  • Pam

    I never understood their connection. She loved him so very much but why?

  • I thought this one was well written, but I didn’t care for a lot of the storyline and I didn’t get the whole Esther/Cesare thing either.

    I don’t know of a good fictional account of the conflict between Cesare and Caterina Sforza, but there is a non-fiction book about her coming out in October called The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev.

  • I read one book about the Borgias and didn’t love it and really haven’t been interested in reading another. I’ll pass on this one.

  • I’m pretty sure I’d hate a romance where the hero degrades and embarrasses the heroine, so I think I’ll skip this one!

  • It’s too bad this is more romance-y. I find the Borgias really interesting. They’re all kinds of crazy. I can’t wait for the series to start.

  • This one had caught my attention because of the Borgias but it sounds like I’m going to have the same problems with it that you did. I think I’ll hold out for something else on the subject.

  • Koftroy

    I did not understand why Esther could not get over Cesare; it was like he became some kind of obsession that she clung to as a way of finding herself. But we also can’t forget that she was also having a casual sexual relationship with Angela as well; which I have to say was an interesting twist, because it seemed the only times they had some peace.

    But when she basically tells him she will be his slave while in Rome, I still did not get it. But I think that I do now, but that is for another space.

    What I found the saddest part was they took everything from her: her son (if you know when you are Jewish it is passed down through the mother), and any hope of having an intimate relationship ever again. I felt she was falling in love w/Gideon, with whom she could have had a happy life, but she could not ever think of that as she had syphillis. Gideon did not care, but she did.

    I will recommend this book to those who love beautiful love letters and poetry. Cesare’s letters are quoted throughout the book, as well as a few poems, and I found they were the most romantic and honest part of the book.