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Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons Paperback – 30 Aug 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Forge; Reprint edition (30 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765306611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765306616
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.5 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,735,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lucrezia has been married off to her third husband and is now living in Ferrara, away from the glare and politics of Rome. She is glad to have escaped the rumours and tittle-tattle. Until one morning a gentlewoman is found poisoned and Lucrezia must find the murderer in order to clear her name.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9e66c480) out of 5 stars 20 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3922b8) out of 5 stars Intriguing premise, but needs work 23 Sept. 2004
By J. Renaud - Published on
Format: Paperback
Probably the main reason I would recommend this book is for David Bowers' beautiful cover illustration. However, the story isn't that bad either, although it was really not as involving as it could be. I did like Lucrezia Borgia as the sleuth. To me, her characterization was the strongest aspect of the novel, and her participation in the mystery of the death of one of her ladies-in-waiting is quite believable. Lucrezia is a convincing Renaissance Italian princess; unlike another reviewer, I did not find her to be a typical romance heroine. A typical romance heroine would be some fiesty Mary Sue type, running around the countryside barefoot and helping urchins and oldsters, whereas Lucrezia is a canny, hard-eyed courtier who possesses an excellent idea of the nuanced behavior required at the Ferrarese ducal palace. This is a relief, after having recently plodded through one of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries where Jane behaves like a Regency Trixie Belden and the mysteries are so contrived that I found myself rolling my eyes on every other page. Gellis is too much of a class act for that, and she understands her period too well to have her characters behaving anachronistically.

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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a2780) out of 5 stars A Small Canvas Seems to Suit Ms. Gellis 2 Nov. 2003
By Sires - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had some real doubts when I first read on a historical mystery list that Ms. Gellis was going to be doing a series of mysteries with Lucrezia Borgia as the detective. Even though in past decades writers have sent a great many famous historical figures off sleuthing after murderers, Lucrezia Borgia has a couple of strikes against her. One is that the popular image of her as a serial poisoner still lives. Another is that even if this image was the work of her enemies (as it was) she still lived a very circumscribed life as the daughter of a Pope and the wife of a Duke's heir.
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a8e88) out of 5 stars Engrossing 24 Dec. 2003
By Woodbuckley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Roberta Gellis is always a good author, whether she is
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a8b7c) out of 5 stars an enjoyable and riveting read 20 Sept. 2003
By tregatt - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Lucrezia has but recently returned to court from the Convent of Corpus Domini when her husband, Alfonso d'Este, publicly accuses her of having had a hand in poisoning Bianca Tedaldo -- one of the unwanted ladies that her father-in-law, the Duke, had installed as her ladies-in-waiting, and Alfonso's (or so he claims) latest mistress. At first, Lucrezia is devastated at the accusation; but then she begins to reflect: Bianca was hardly the type of lady that Alfonso would ever be attracted to, even if she was rather pretty -- Alfonso prefers his women coarser and cleverer, and Bianca wasn't exactly bright. So why was Alfonso accusing her of murder? Realizing that people were going to start whispering about her all over again (because of who she is and all the scandal attached to her name) and suspecting her of murder (and worse), Lucrezia is determined to discover who murdered Bianca and why. And if she can discover exactly what her enigmatic husband (who she has began to develop unexpected feelings for) is up to, so much the better...
"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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3aa210) out of 5 stars Is Lucrezia Innocent? 14 Sept. 2003
By Jane Nelson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Lucrezia Borgia. Her very name evokes images of evil incarnate, but are they accurate? Author Roberta Gellis believes not. In this mystery, set in the Renaissance court of Duke Ercole d'Este, Lucrezia's new husband, Duke Ercole's eldest son, publicly accuses her of poisoning one of her unwanted ladies-in-waiting. Shocked by the accusation and to prove her innocence, Lucrezia sets out in search of the culprit. Lucrezia's many relationships-with her husband, his family, her own family, and her ladies-in-waiting-are well-drawn.
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.
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