Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant gives us a new perspective on the infamous Borgia family. Pope Alexander VI, formally Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, is a loving and caring father who wants his family to succeed in Italy despite their Spanish blood and illegitimacy. History paints him as a corrupt and brutal man, but Dunant shows a different side of this powerful pope. She creates a man who is compassionate and forgiving, but he also knows the cost of staying the most powerful man in Italy and Europe. Playing political games is one of the many tasks that a pope must juggle. To be successful you must know how to use your children as pawns while still keeping their happiness in mind.
I really enjoyed this book. Dunant’s Rome is filled with conspiracies and intrigue, keeping the reader glued to the book. It wasn’t just the Borgia’s who are corrupt, but everyone in Europe is plotting something against someone. The story is told through the pope, his eldest son Cesare and his daughter Lucrezia, which really helped with the pace and overall plot of the story. You are given such a complete view of the family and what motivates each of the characters. Dunant did a great job of fully developing her characters and showing not only their lust for power but also their loyalty to their family. It was such a refreshing look and Dunant did it so well that I found myself really empathizing with the characters. If you are need of a good historical novel filled with devious and ambitious characters, this would be a great choice.