Prince of Foxes: Samuel Shellabarger

★★★★½

Shortly after I finished the excellent Blood & Beauty, this historical novel about Renaissance Italy popped up in my automatic recommendations. The author and title were both unfamiliar and, when I realised that it was again about the Borgias, I was tempted to pass: I had no plans to read another novel on the subject so soon. However, as the reviews were glowing, I persuaded myself to give it a chance; and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.

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Blood & Beauty: Sarah Dunant

★★★★½

In 1492 the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia is elevated to the papacy as Pope Alexander VI. It’s an appointment based less on piety than political shrewdness. Generous to his friends and flexible in his scruples, Alexander may not be the pope that Rome wants, but he is the one that it deserves. After all, Renaissance Rome is a seething, ambitious, dangerous city where life is merely a poor shadow of its ancient vanished grandeur. There are as many courtesans as clerics; anything can be had at the right price; and a man can be made to disappear between dusk of one day and dawn of the next. If the Tiber keeps its secrets, he might never be seen again.

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