The Borgia dynasty of Renaissance Rome continues to fascinate 500 years later. Much has been written about them – fiction and non-fiction alike – but The Borgia Confessions offers a rare perspective – that of a servant to the famous papal family.
Maddalena Moretti is a young widow from the rural Romagna region who arrives in Rome in hopes of escaping an overbearing mother and another arranged marriage. She first works in the Vatican, but after an unfortunate encounter with Juan Borgia, Pope Alexander’s eldest son and a notorious libertine, she moves to the household of Lucrezia, the only Borgia daughter, at the neighboring Palazzo Santa Maria in Portico.
An intelligent and keen observer of the family’s turbulent affairs, Maddalena has fallen in love with Cesare Borgia, the charismatic second son who, at just nineteen years of age, was made cardinal by his ever-ambitious father. Over time, she become privy to lots of dangerous secrets and even undertakes a clandestine mission to Florence that changes the course of Italian history. But as her attraction to Cesare and her work for the Borgia’s draws her deeper into a world of passion and power, Maddalena begins to fear for her soul and her life.
Fittingly, The Confessions are written in the first-person point of view, alternating between Maddalena and Cesare’s memoir-style chapters. The cardinal struggles with the constrains imposed by his state, for which he has no vocation, and the hatred for his brother Juan, who is favored by the pope despite his lack of military talents and moral principles. Yet despite the rivalry and rancor, Cesare will stop at nothing to advance the family fortune.
The Borgia Confessions is a well-written and well-researched novel that succeeds in recreating the world of palpable glamour in Renaissance Rome where luxury, comfort, and entertainment cannot quite hide the betrayal and heartbreak that lurk around every corner.
A few months ago, I reviewed another excellent novel from Alyssa Polombo, The Spellbook of Katrina von Tassel. You can read the review here.
If you enjoy strong female characters in historical fiction, check out my novel The Greenest Branch, based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. It is out now in ebook and paperback on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and several other Amazon marketplaces. It’s also FREE on Kindle Unlimited.