The Borgia Bride - Jeanne Kalogridis This review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum

Taking a break from my usual SFF to check out another one of my beloved genres, historical fiction -- and I can never resist a Borgia book.

I would recommend The Borgia Bride to: fans of Philippa Gregory. This book reminded me of her work in many ways, from the first person narrative of its female protagonist to the rich and detailed descriptions of the setting and environment. And of course, those like me with an interest in fiction about the Borgias should check it out.

I would not recommend this book to: people easily frustrated or offended by any historical inaccuracies or any creative liberties taken by the author. When it comes to historical fiction, it really boils down to your tolerance for such things, but it also comes with the territory. It just makes sense; like if you want to learn actual facts about the reign of King Henry VIII, for example, watch a documentary, not The Tudors. Same kind of deal here. Anyway, once I accept a book as fiction, so long as the author does not write with a complete disregard for historical fact, then I'm more interested in the story and how they manage to spin a tale around the real historical figures and events.

In any case, I have a feeling this book was meant to be a little shocking and a little scandalous, playing to all the rumors surrounding the Borgias, as most works of fiction about the notorious family tend to be. On some level, I was prepared for and even expected it, so in this the book delivered exactly the drama, intrigues, and conspiracies it promised. Jeanne Kalogridis includes a lot of true events, but also fills in the gaps with her interesting interpretations of them.

The main protagonist and narrator of The Borgia Bride is Sancha (or Sancia) of Aragon. The book begins with her childhood growing up in the court of her grandfather Don Ferrante (or Ferdinand I of Naples) which leads up to her marriage to Jofre (or Gioffre) Borgia and her subsequent move to Rome. There, she meets the rest of the family: Cesare Borgia, with whom she has a torrid affair; Lucrezia Borgia, whom she eventually befriends; Juan (or Giovanni) Borgia, for whom she develops an immediate dislike; and of course, the patriarch Rodrigo Borgia or Pope Alexander VI himself.

I notice there almost appears to be three sides to Sancha in this book, distinguished by her actions and behaviors, with each side accompanying or making an appearance only after certain events of significance in her life. The first third of the book, which builds up some of the history, features young Sancha who happens to be my favorite because she's headstrong and goes through life knowing exactly what she wants. But then when she moves to Rome and meets Cesare, she suddenly becomes wishy-washy Sancha, going back and forth on her stances and her feelings. I found it a little amusing and ironic how she repeatedly accuses Pope Alexander for being "inconstant", when she's being kind of a flake herself. Anyway, it got really frustrating, almost like Cesare cast a spell on her, one she never manages to shake off for the rest of the book, which was kind of a shame.

The third Sancha is "Mopey Sancha", who doesn't reveal herself until about the last quarter of the book, but at this point I've already accepted that her character was not who I thought she was. That isn't to say her reaction and change isn't justified, given what happens around that part in the book, but that was probably my one disappointment while reading this.

Apart from the inconsistencies in Sancha's personality, however, I have to say this was an enjoyable read. I had hoped the Borgias would be characterized and developed a little more, but considering the story was told from Sancha's point of view, I thought what the author presented was pretty good. Pleasant to read and entertaining overall.