Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times
bestselling author of the acclaimed Italian Renaissance novels — The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan,
and Sacred Hearts
— has an exceptional talent for breathing life into history. Now Sarah Dunant turns her discerning eye to one of world’s most intriguing and infamous families — the Borgias — in an engrossing work of literary fiction.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family — in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia — in order to succeed.
Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest — though increasingly unstable — weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.
Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood and Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.
“The big, bad Borgia dynasty undergoes modern reconsideration in [Sarah Dunant’s] epic new biofiction....Dunant’s biggest and best work to date, this intelligently readable account of formative events and monster players has Hilary Mantel–era quality best-seller stamped all over it.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Hugely enjoyable...an old-fashioned rollercoaster of a story....[Sarah Dunant] triumphs, like all good novelists...in a deft, shrewd, precise use of killer detail.” The Guardian (UK)
“[Dunant] is in her element....She brings 15th-century Italian cities vividly alive....[Blood & Beauty] is an intelligent and passionate book that will no doubt thrill Borgia-lovers.” The Sunday Times (UK)
“What a marvelous feast of vices and desires Sarah Dunant gives us — lust and ambition, passion and power, destiny born and bought. The Borgias are arguably the most intriguing and ruthless family in all of history, and Dunant brings them ravishingly, bristlingly to life.” Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
“An astounding achievement, extensively researched and exquisitely written....The Borgias have never been so human, and so humanely portrayed.” Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife
“A fascinating read full of vivid detail and human pathos....Dunant opens a window into the extraordinary machinations and skullduggery of the Borgias and provides us with a richness of description that beautifully locates them in their own time.” Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
“An engrossing tale of beauty and corruption, Blood & Beauty is meticulously crafted, and utterly convincing: a work of a skilled historian and a masterful storyteller who makes the Borgias live and breathe.” Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
“Brilliant and utterly bone-chilling, Blood & Beauty held me spellbound from beginning to end. This exquisite, seductive portrait is destined to become a classic.” Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
“A masterpiece of biographical fiction, and likely her best novel yet....With brilliant detail and flawless prose, she opens the doors to the Vatican of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), his vibrant feuding children, and his sultry mistress. It’s a work I’m not likely to ever forget.” Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine Bonaparte Trilogy
“Blood & Beauty is a wonderful novel, taking you deep into the world of Renaissance passion and the Renaissance papacy. Part of me was happily lost in the time travel, and part of me was repeatedly struck by how vividly ancient Rome met modern Rome, and how the city of history came to life.” Mary Beard, historian and author of The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found
About the Author
Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts, which have received major acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Her earlier novels include three Hannah Wolfe crime thrillers, as well as Snowstorms in a Hot Climate, Transgressions, and Mapping the Edge, all three of which are available as Random House Trade Paperbacks. She has two daughters and lives in London and Florence.