Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, but I found it bloody hard to like, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Blood & Beauty (Kindle Edition)
I am almost ashamed to award this book just 3 stars. I feel that the relatively low rating reflects worse on me than on the author or her book. Particularly, as having read other reviews I find that I share none of the criticisms expressed by other negative reviewers and I appear to be isolated in my somewhat discreditable reasons for not liking what is in many respects a wonderful novel.

Any book about the Borgias runs a risk of drifting into soft porn and Dunant does not seem to have made any particular effort to avoid this risk. I did not mark Blood and Beauty down because of this. Far from offending my sensibilities I actually admit to quite enjoying that aspect of the book and it is very well written porn, if it can be described in these terms. The only problem from my perspective is that the author seems far more interested in clothes and hair styles than in flesh and passion.

I also did not dislike the writing style. Granted, it does take a bit of getting used to; most of the book is written from the point of view of individual character’s but in a detached 3rd person. This can seem a little dry, but you get used to it and any criticism of this is more than offset by some quite wonderful descriptive writing. The description of 15th century Rome for example is beautifully done, conjuring up a desolate and hollow place with a fairly sinister aspect.

I disagree with other reviewers who have described this book as dwelling too much on the historical side of the Historical Romance; I think this may reflect the 3rd person description of characters described above, certainly this is not a history text book or anything approaching that. I also largely disagree with other reviewers who criticize the novel as having too many historical errors. Try as I might I could not find any glaring errors to complain about. The nearest I got was the description of Alexander VI planning to divide the new world between Portugal and Spain shortly after his inauguration, to be hypercritical this would have required God like prescience that I am sure Dunant did not intend. Alexander’s publication of the 1493 bull ‘Inter caetera’ was much more about clarification of dominion in the known world and was blind to the full extent of the new world that was discovered later: this is a very geeky criticism and frankly I was greatly impressed by the research that must have gone into this book. I’m sure there are other errors if you have the time to sit down with a computer and a pedant’s eye, but even I am not so much in want of a life that I would do that.

OK. So why didn't I like this book? Before answering I would like to give a few background statements by way of an attempted excuse. I like to think of myself as a liberal with great sympathy for feminism. I object strongly when others glibly describe books as ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. I am firm in my conviction that there is no reason why my sport loving daughter should not love adventure stories or my sentimental son should not love Catcher in the Rye. I hate caricature and pigeon holing. Imagine my discomfort therefore when I realized that the reason I wasn't enjoying this book was that its target audience was a demographic that likes fashion, emotional intricacies and family relationships and which is less interested in politics, theology and military tactics. I suspect that I am less in touch with my feminine side than I had once hoped.
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