A visceral, epic novel that challenges what we know about history’s most dynamic and maligned Renaissance family, the Borgias
Rooted in the energetic, brutal and corrupt world of 15th-century Italy, Blood and Beauty opens with Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, clever and charismatic, buying his way to the Papal crown. In this he is not unusual. Neither is the fact that he has illegitimate children. What does mark him is his blood; he is a Spaniard in a country run by established Italian families. To thrive, even to survive, he must create his own dynasty using the papacy and his family as the building blocks of power. His son Cesare is his most brilliant pupil. Fearless and calculating (later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince), he provides the driving energy and the muscle. The Pope’s daughter, Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is their marriage tool. Just twelve when the novel opens, she is to have one dynastic union annulled and a second—beloved—husband murdered by her own brother to make way for a third strategic marriage—all before the age of twenty. Hers is a journey from pawn to political player.
Using the high-wire tension of a political thriller, this portrait of power and its personal costs is the most thrilling family saga to come out of Italy since The Godfather. The Borgias emerge not as the poisoning sexual monsters of popular myth, but in all their ruthless determination and complex humanity.