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The Borgia Mistress by Sara Poole
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The Borgia Mistress

by Sara Poole

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Young woman is the Poisoner to the pope in 1244, she tests all food & drink the pope and company intake. A big job.
Also she kills people with a knife. a mystrey to keep a person reading . ( )
  donagiles | Aug 12, 2012 |
Summary: Francesca Giordano is the chief poisoner to Pope Alexander IV, Rodrigo Borgia: an unlikely position for a woman to hold, but Francesca is an unusual woman. Borgia has enemies on all sides, and when he orders the papal enclave to travel to a small town north of Rome, Francesca must be extra vigilant. For she has heard rumors that there is an assassin on his way, an assassin who threatens not the life of the pope, but rather his alliance with Spain, an alliance that is critical to his continued reign. But will Francesca be able to protect the Spanish ambassador, when she is slowly being driven to distraction by her continual nightmares of blood and death? As her mind begins to unravel, Francesca is no longer sure who she can trust - not her friends, not her lover Cesare Borgia - or if she can even trust herself.

Review: I had a friend spot this book on my end table, glance at the cover, and ask "Really?" And while I see her point - the title is rather misleading, and the cover art makes it look more lurid than I think the book actually is - the truth is that this book absolutely is escapist historical fiction. But it's very well-done, non-trashy, well-written escapist historical fiction, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as I expected to.

Poole is just as good at evoking her settings and atmosphere as she was in the previous two books, and I enjoyed having the time period brought so vividly to life for me. She's also very good with her characterizations; I really enjoy her depiction of Cesare Borgia, and Francesca is sympathetic as ever. Poole has also mostly abandoned Francesca's narrative tics that were my biggest complaint about the first novel, perhaps because Francesca is maturing, or more likely because Poole's more confident in her character and her story. It also may help that this is a much more inward-turned book than the previous two; there's the assassin to be dealt with, but much of the conflict in the story is Francesca versus herself.

There were some elements that kept this book from being entirely great, however. I figured out the big reveal long, long before anyone in the story managed to, which left me wishing that the mystery had been a little more complicated. Also, this book features a prologue depicting the massacre of the Cathars several hundred years before Francesca's time, but it's not at all clear for most of the book how that one scene fits in with anything else, and the theme only reappears briefly near the end. I think the church's suppression of the Cathars is an interesting topic with a lot of story potential, and I wish it had been incorporated more centrally throughout the book, especially after an introduction that suggests that was going to be the case.

Overall, though, The Borgia Mistress is well-written and absorbing piece of fiction, and I will be looking forward to the next installment of Francesca's story. (And re-watching The Borgias in the meantime. Heh.) 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Although the action in this one is relatively stand-alone, the characterizations are less so, and Poison is good enough that I can't recommend starting anywhere but there. But the series as a whole is definitely recommended to historical fiction fans, particularly those who like the Borgias, or who are just tired of the Tudors. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Aug 5, 2012 |
Author Sara Poole continues her Borgia novels in The Borgia Mistress, the continued adventures of Borgia family poisoner Francesca Giordano. These days, the Borgias are quickly becoming the hot new property in the historical fiction world. Propelled by the Showtime series The Borgias, it seems like more and more novels try to work the Borgia name in to their titles of the sake of a perceived connection (that especially seemed to be the case with this series when it jumped from Poison to Borgia Betrayal and Borgia Mistress).

The tale of the Borgia mistress of death continues, but this time she must confront her own dark past and an ancient evil that could destroy the world -or even worst, end the reign of the Borgias. Even as the Borgia family is forced to flee Rome, Francesca fights to overcome her darkness and nightmares with the help of her lover, Cesare Borgia.

Hum, it's hard to know what to say about this one. It's a good book, but not an amazing book. Yet, I really was excited about the opportunity to learn a little more about Francesca's past and how it has molded her into the unexpected woman that she has become. It helped to give her a much stronger sense of character and personality than in any of the previous novels. The wonderful depictions of the Renaissance Italy continue, the plots against Borgia continue to amaze, and the politics are as strong as always.

Yet, there wasn't much here that was new. I guess this didn't bother me that much (in fact, it shouldn't have bothered me at all), but there was something about it that left Borgia Mistress wanting. I wanted more. Despite the extended character development of Francesca, I still wanted more out of this book. I feel like there just wasn't much here that's new to the series. I just feel like this series could use some new life.

Despite that, Borgia Mistress is satisfying for fans of previous novels and fans of Borgia-era historical fiction. ( )
  BookAddictDiary | Jun 25, 2012 |
“The Borgia Mistress: A Novel” by Sara Poole is a historical fiction story that takes place in Rome around the year 1493. The lead character, Francesca Giordano, is the court poisoner to House of Borgia and Rodrigo Borgia who becomes Pope Alexander VI. Francesca’s father was a prisoner to the House of she was raised in the household along with Borgia’s son, Cesare Borgia, who eventually becomes Francesca’s lover. Francesca has to unravel a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart Pope Alexander’s rule and possibly Christendom. To get to the heart of the conspiracy, she has to find an assassin who was sent to attack the Pope. While trying to locate the assassin, Francesca’s sanity is at stake and she wonders if she is going mad.

This is the third installment in the Poisoners series by Ms. Poole. I did not read the first two. Although I felt that I did miss some of the backstory by not reading them, I did not feel that they were needed to enjoy this story. I love historical fiction and it is books like this that reaffirm why I love them. Ms. Poole blends fictional characters and real people seamlessly in this novel. She has definitely done her research and found a way to breathe new life into it.

I did find the book a bit slow in the beginning (perhaps because I did not read the first two books in the series), but around halfway it really picked up and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. Francesca is a sympathetic character who you find yourself caring about, even though her primary job is to poison enemies of the Pope. I definitely want to read the first two books in this series. It was well written and a pleasure to read.

**This book was received for free through Goodreads First Reads. That in no way influenced my review.** ( )
  HeatherMS | Apr 20, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031260985X, Paperback)

From the author of Poison and The Borgia Betrayal, comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano

Mistress of death Francesca Giordano—court poisoner to the House of Borgia—returns to confront an ancient atrocity that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge the world into eternal darkness. As the enemies of Pope Alexander VI close in and the papal court is forced to flee from Rome, Francesca joins forces with her lover, the brilliant and ruthless Cesare Borgia to unravel a conspiracy that strikes at the heart of Christendom. But when a shattering secret from her past imperils her precarious hold on sanity, only Francesca’s own courage and resolve can draw her back from the brink of madness to save all she values most.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:35 -0400)

Mistress of death Francesca Giordano--court poisoner to the House of Borgia--returns to confront an ancient atrocity that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge the world into eternal darkness. As the enemies of Pope Alexander VI close in and the papal court is forced to flee from Rome, Francesca joins forces with her lover, the brilliant and ruthless Cesare Borgia to unravel a conspiracy that strikes at the heart of Christendom. But when a shattering secret from her past imperils her precarious hold on sanity, only Francesca's own courage and resolve can draw her back from the brink of madness to save all she values most.… (more)

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