In the Name of the Family (2017): Sarah Dunant

★★★★

A Novel of Machiavelli and the Borgias

This is the long-awaited sequel to Sarah Dunant’s wonderful Blood and Beauty, which takes up the story of the Borgias once again in the final years of their dominance in Italy. At the beginning of 1502, it seems that nothing can stand in the way of the family’s influence, which creeps its way across Italy, subduing its rivals with a blend of charm and violence. Charm comes courtesy of Pope Alexander VI’s lovely daughter Lucrezia, who is making her way cross-country to be married to her third husband, Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara, and using her journey as a way to captivate the Papal States with her elegance, grace and sweetness. Violence, predictably, sits in the hands of her dangerous brother Cesare who prowls around the borders of their state, ears pricked for dissent or weakness. And, while this remarkable family strengthens their grip on Italy, a young diplomat in the Florentine Second Chancery follows their progress with quiet admiration.

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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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