Sarah Dunant continues on from Blood & Beauty, following the Borgias as they extend their power over the city states that made up Renaissance Italy.
As Catalan Pope Alexander VI Rodrigo Borgia consolidates his control over the Catholic church, his offspring extend the dynasty’s authority in the secular world – Cesare Borgia by battle, siege and subterfuge, Lucrezia Borgia by marriage and courtly influence in Ferrara.
Blood & Beauty = Borgias, Part 1, which takes us from Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia’s elevation to the papacy as Alexander VI to his beloved Lucrezia‘s departure to the Duchy of Ferrara to embark on her third marriage in less than 10 years. All of which left me looking forward to Part 2.
A very readable Renaissance romp and the start of the cottage Christmas (and New Year) reading….
Set in 1570 as Renaissance and Reformation converge in the northern Italian city of Ferrara, Sacred Hearts focuses on the nuns at the convent of Santa Caterina.
Serafina is sent to the convent to put an end to her nascent love affair with her music master and to free up funds for the dowry of her younger, more worldly wise sister. Sister Zuana, the convent herbalist and physician, had been forced to enter the convent following the death of her physician father almost two decades earlier.
Whilst on the surface Sacred Hearts is a love story, the setting allows Sarah Dunant to demonstrate the unexpected opportunities and freedoms women could find within convent walls, opportunities threatened, paradoxically, by both Renaissance and Reformation.
A great read for the flight home from Tashkent, on Uzbekistan Airways….. I needed something to distract me, and In the Company of the Courtesan did just that.
Initially set in the decadent days of Renessaince Rome during the early 16th century, the action moves to Venice when courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf protector-cum-friend Bucino flee from the sack of the Eternal City by the army of the Holy Roman Empire.
Once safely in Venice, the plot turns to tell how Fiammetta rebuilds her business and her wealth by taking a number of lovers ranging from a Saracen to a senator, and taking in Titian and Aretino en route.
(Sadly In the Company of the Courtesan didn’t quite keep me going for the whole flight, and although I tried to get similarly stuck into James Bradley’s The Resurrectionist, both during and after the flight, it turned out to be one of those few novels that I give up on and leave unfinished….)