Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons Paperback – 30 Aug 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
I should start by saying that I know almost nothing about this historical period, so I am not sure how accurate it is from a historical point of view.
That said, I really enjoyed this book. It was a good mixture of historical detail, Court politics, murder and intrigue. Once you get past the convoluted names, the main characters are quite well drawn and the interplay between Lucrezia and her husband Alfonso was really enjoyable to read.
The masked Ball was also really enjoyable and I did feel as if I was there.
I've deducted one star, because I felt at times the novel was a little claustrphobic and I was longing for the action to take place somewhere other than Lucrezia's private rooms, but I think this is purely a personal preference.
A good read. Recommended.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, my major problem is that there is too much telling, and not enough showing. Several of the main figures surrounding the murder are only described; we never meet them. For example, this one fellow, Pelagio, is described as an insufferably bad poet, but we never get to see first hand what he is like. The same holds true for the murder victim herself, Bianca, who is constantly referred to as silly and flighty. Although the announcement of her murder makes for a gripping opening, it really would have been nice to meet her as well, even if it had just been in a flashback. By the time the denoument arrives, the reader is not sufficiently invested in the outcome to really care what happens. But, at least Lucrezia is an intriguing and well-drawn protagonist, and I for one will be interested in seeing where Gellis takes this series. Hopefully the next installment of the series will feature less exposition, and Lucrezia Borgia will be able to figure out more quickly why people have the disturbing habit of dropping dead around her.
However Roberta Gellis has very neatly got around both of these problems. High born women were watched closely if there was no legitimate heir yet and Gellis does a great job of showing how she could have coped with a life I would describe as claustrophobic. She places the murder in the Duke's court but also within Lucrezia's sphere. She further keeps the cast to a manageable size by concentrating on a few trusted companions and servants and keeps the time period where the story occurs into a few days. Meanwhile there is a sense of urgency because there is always the fear that if she does not act fast her father or her brother might step in to solve her problem (and incidentally make it worse.)
This is a very pleasant read, although I do have to say that Lucrezia's relationship with her husband is a little-- well, peculiar, although it's not outside the bounds of possiblity.
While it has a satisfying ending there are some loose ends that hopefully will be tied in later books in this seris.
writing mysteries, romances or fantasy. She is also not an
author to be lightly taken up at will, for a pleasant few minutes. Her writing requires concentration and time.
Here she is starting on a new series featuring Lucrezia
Borgia and it is an engrossing opener. We are launched
directly into both the poisoning murder of one of her
ladies in waiting and her confusing, tentative relationship
with her husband Alfonso.
She realizes immediately that she must solve this murder,to
clear her name and be able to continue this new life that
she has found so much more pleasant than her former fraught
life in Rome.
There is a good deal of period detail that convincingly establishes the background, without becoming a history lecture.
The tortuous life of the Ferrara court is revealed through
the relationships between the characters. They all obviously have a life of their own, independant of the main plot.
Occasionally the dialogue is too wordy, the conversations sag to a too-distant point, but this does not distract permanently
from the story.
The relationship between the politically married couple, however, is far more fascinating and often I wanted the mystery to disappear, so that more would be revealed about Alfonso.
He is far more of an engrossing mystery to both the reader
and Lucrezia. The final paragraph scene between husband and wife is a dreadful teaser.
I shall definitely be reading the next installment - for just this reason.
"Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons" proved to be a fascinating read. With vivid descriptions and well chosen phrases, Roberta Gellis brings to life the vivid colour and pageantry of the d'Este court at Ferrara. Ms Gellis's grasp of what was going on (both historically and politically) was very evident as well. And these were the bits of the book that I really enjoyed and what made reading this book such a pleasure. However, while the pacing was fairly tight and the suspense level rather high, mystery-wise, things only really picked up about three-quarter way through the book. But this is definitely something that will not trouble too many people, unless, that is, you're someone who tries to solve the mystery at hand before the authour reveals all. However, "Lucrezia and the Mother of Poisons" was an engrossing and riveting read, worth touting as a worthwhile read.
The author's previous mysteries, like many of her romances before them, were set in medieval England, and brought that time and place clearly to life. This new mystery, hopefully the beginning of another series, does the same for Renaissance Italy. I enjoyed this book very much, and recommend it to readers of historical mysteries.