The Lion and the Rose: A Novel of the Borgias. Kate Quinn. Penguin Group (USA). January 2014. 464 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780425268766.
The second novel of the Borgia series crafted by Kate Quinn opens in 1494 in Rome, Italy with Giulia Farnese’s dwarf guard, Leonello, being bandaged after defending his lady from French, un-gallant officers and soldiers. Giulia promises she will stop thanking Leonello but will never forget. Giulia is the courtesan of Pope Alexander VI, Roderigo Borgia, and she is only person in the whole Borgia family who still has compassion, who still can acknowledge wrong where it is committed, who has the humility to care for and treat the servants around her with a fierce protective stance, and who has the temerity to challenge the most powerful man in the world when she deems it necessary. A formidable, sexy and wise Lady, indeed!
This is the story of Juan, the Pope’s favorite brat son; Cesare, the Pope’s other son who counts power to be the ultimate satisfaction: Lucrezia, the Pope’s (could be questionable) daughter who used to be a lovely, entertaining little girl but who has developed into a vain, selfish tool of the Pope for his political wheeling and dealing in Europe; Joffre and his seductress wife Sancha; and some servants. But it is really the tale of Giuliana, Leonello, the cook Carmelina, the cook’s apprentice Bartolomeo, and the children of the Pope. It all begins with the presence of the Pope’s children who create nothing but turmoil and spilled blood when they are together; “la familia” is a disaster waiting to happen to all characters and readers, to all except the Pope. He sees no wrong in them even when they commit the most horrendous of crimes as evidenced when he issues a command at a party with horrific immediate results as a result of someone insulting his favorite son.
Carmelina and Bartolomeo are two wonderful, talented cooks. Carmelina was a former nun who escaped from the convent with an important relic and so is guilty of major crimes. The fact she has found successful work is a miracle indeed. At work Bartolomeo is so very talented a cook as well that as an apprentice he is hers to boss around but also her fierce competition. Their evolution in this action-packed drama is a lusty, amorous delight for the reader to experience!
Justice will be served, it is said and there is a murderer who has killed at least five young women in Rome and more elsewhere perhaps. The murderer leaves the victim in a most unholy presentation and the first woman to die in this horrific fashion was someone dear to Leonello, who is determined to find the killer. He does and oh what revenge follows!
Marriages are made and undone at the whim of the Holy Father and oh what scandals and surprises come out of these manipulations. Whatever happens, one should never cross a Borgia, for reasons of one’s own life and death!
The Lion and The Rose… is a terrific historical novel – far, far better plotted and crafted than the first in this Borgia novel series. Unlike other novels where the plot from the first novel would be repeated, this one takes the past action much farther to make each one seem like it is totally new and riveting as well. This reader highly recommends this novel as a stand-alone, walloping success! A MUST read!!!