Robin M. (Corpus Christi, TX)
As a fan of historical fiction, I was disappointed. Based upon the title, The Borgia Betrayal, I expected far more detail about this infamous family than was delivered. This novel is essentially about the main character, Francesca, and her motivation to avenge her father's death through her position as the Court Poisoner for the Borgia family. There were interesting details about the duties and responsibilities of the Court Poisoner but I did not find Francesca to be a very believable or authentic 15th century character. Also, I am not certain this second novel in the Poisoner series really can be read as a stand alone book. I went back and read the first book and found myself wishing I had read it first. I am still on the fence about whether I will spend my time or money on the next book to come in this series.
Charla W. (biloxi, mS)
The Borgia Betrayal
This is the 2nd book in the series. The first book was "Poison". But, you need not have read it to enjoy this one. It is a stand alone story. I have not read Poison, and never felt I was missing anything while reading this one.
I loved that the main character was a woman, not just any woman, but a woman doing a mans job in the year 1493. Francesca Giordano was the Poisoner for Pope Alexander VI, aka Pope Roderigo Borgia. Francesca's father had been his poisoner until he was murdered. Then Francesca killed the man that was supposed to take her father's position. She became the poisoner because she knew more about her father's job than anyone.
Francesca's life is overflowing with potential danger to her life. She is part of a group called Lux. The members of the group are interested in Science, and if they are discovered reading and learning, it may be deemed as heresy which is punishable by death. Not just any death, but by being burned at the stake. Her affiliation with this group is very dangerous since she is so close to the Pope and her job is to protect the Pope at all costs.
Francesca is also sleeping with Cesare Borgia, the pope's oldest son. It is rumoured that Pope Alexander VI will make Cesare a Cardinal, which would put him in line to putting down a foundation for a dynasty of Borgia's to rule all of Christendom. The fear of this possibility increases the opposition to Pope Alexander's rule. The main threat is from Morozzi, the mad priest. Morozzi is a threat to the Pope and Francesca is hell bent on killing him with her own hands.
Not only is Francesca's life filled with danger, but it is also filled with romance. There is one steamy love scene in the Papal office that is unforgettable. There is man that lives near Francesca who is a glass blower. He has a son, but his wife has died. Francesca realizes that she has feelings for this man. His name is Rocco and his son's name is Nando. Rocco and Francesca have feelings for each other, but Francesca will not admit to her feelings for him. Rocco wants a mother for Nando. He gives Francesca the opportunity to voice her feelings, but she will not. He tells her that he is going to marry Carlotta d'Agnelli. Inside, Francesca is very sad and longs to be the kind of woman that could be a mother and wife.
This story is full of intrigue, romance, and adventure. Most historical fiction novels are centered on the Kings and Queens of the era. The view in this book is from the opposite side-the Church. It is an interesting view that I have explored very little. The people of the church were as corrupt as anyone could ever be. The Popes had mistresses and dozens of illegitimate children. They were not beyond murder or anything else in order to keep their positions.
Mary G. (River Forest, IL)
Good Read, Poor Company
It's OK historical fiction, but I had a problem with Francesca's first person narrative. While the story moved along and there was enough history to rate it a long way above a bodice-ripper, I had a problem "listening" to a woman I simply didn't like. Not only did I not like her, after almost 400 pages I still didn't know her. Poole has written a prequel called "Poison", though the author says each book can be read independently. I'm intrigued enough that I've had "Poison" Kindled my way just to see if I Francesca comes through better when she's first introduced. Strange case of not liking something and going back for more, right? Just can't fight my curiosity.
Elizabeth L. (Salem, Oregon)
Enjoyable WIth Vivid Characters
This is the second in a series, and while I read the first book, Poison, in anticipation of this one, it was not necessary to do so. In fact, this book was blessedly free of the clunky exposition so common in sequels!
Minor quibbles with the book are: on more than one occasion, the same idea was repeated in nearly the same language (e.g. Francesca doesn't like to ride) and the sex was a tad more explicit than I expected for historical fiction (although it has nothing on bodice rippers).
Richard S. (Toledo, Ohio)
The Borgia Betrayal
The Borgia Betrayal is a novel about Francesca, the court poisoner (there really was such a position ) in the court of Pope Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI. Despite the rich detail of life in Rome in 1493, the novel never bores; it reads like a thriller, not a text book. The characters are interesting and believable and most readers will gain a new perspective on the famous Borgias and the papacy. There are many loose ends, probably because the author intends to address them in her next book.
Norman G. (Diamond Bar, CA)
Satisfactory but not compelling
A well-written historical novel that gives a feel for the times and contains many sidelights into the papacy of the Borgia family and the inner workings of the Catholic Church of the time period. However, I could not bring myself to feel part of the book or to care about the characters. The book had too many low areas for it to be a recommended book.
Joyce S. (Tyrone, GA)
Being an invaluable member of the household of Pope Alexander VI who is the head of the influential House of Borgia is a tricky job for a young woman. To our modern minds the Pope does not act like a Pope, has three children, many enemies and is besieged on numerous sides. Europe in the 1400’s is unstable politically and all the major powers are vying for more land, more influence and a piece of the new continent just discovered by Columbus. Francesca’s position in the household as poisoner insures she is busy not only doing in the Pope’s enemies but checking everything that comes into contact with members of the household to prevent them being poisoned. She is privy to all of the controversies and also to the attentions of the Pope’s oldest son.