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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Italy in Books Reading Challenge - May


  Poison in the Blood, The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia by M.G. Scarsbrook.     

  Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011


  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services 2011
  • Source: eBook provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
  • Review Quote: "Anyone who enjoys Medieval Italy, love, betrayal and a strong, resourceful heroine on a knife edge, will enjoy this well researched and well written book." Historical Novel Review



The May post with a list of books that the other people taking part are reading this month has already been posted. May Reviews

Until fairly recently the only historical novels I read on any sort of regular basis were those of Philippa Gregory but thanks to LindyLouMac's Book Reviews and the opportunity to review some other historical writers my horizons have been expanded. I have always considered my tastes very eclectic but am nowadays more likely to consider reading this genre, than I have been for years. With the themes of the stories based on real life characters it can be an interesting way to learn a little history. I admit to knowing very little about the historical background surrounding Lucrezia Borgia before reading this novel, so this easy and quick read was a pleasurable way to learn a little more about her.

Set in Renaissance Rome in 1497 it also was a good choice for my May entry for the  Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011  The daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia leads a sheltered life amongst the glamour of the Vatican City. Yet after a brutal killing shocks the city, she learns that all is not as it seems and that her father’s court holds dark secrets. She discovers that her own brother, Cesare and father are willing to commit murder to protect their own lifestyle and love of power.

Written as a memoir narrated by Lucrezia in the first person the blend of fiction and historical fact makes her come alive on the pages as she relates to us the intrigue and tragedy of her fathers court. There is no doubt in my mind that Pope Alexander VI was a nasty and brutal man, I disliked his character immensely. Even I knew of the historical connections of the Borgia family to poison, plus the title of the book so it was no surprise that the poison aspect brings the suspense to a story which I recommend to fans of historical novels looking for a quick read.

M.G. Scarsbrook

M.G. Scarsbrook

The biographical information and photograph included here are courtesy of the authors Goodreads profile

Matthew Scarsbrook was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1981 to British parents and he has spent most of his life in England although he has studied in the USA and Canada as well as Great Britain. He is now living in Southern California. For the adaptation of his book The Marlowe Conspiracy into a script he recently won Writers On The Storm Screenwriting Contest, out of 1000 entries.

He is author of the historical suspense novels The Marlowe Conspiracy and Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia.
He is also the editor of several nonfiction collections:
The Life & Legend Of Lucrezia Borgia
The Life & Complete Works Of Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

M.G. Scarsbrook's Blog

I found this interesting article written by the author that he invites us to share and enjoy, taking him at his word I am reproducing the post here as it makes for an interesting background introduction to the novel

Lucrezia Borgia: The Most Evil Woman In History… Or The Most Wronged?
By M. G. Scarsbrook

Once described as the ‘greatest whore there ever was in Rome’, the legend of Lucrezia Borgia has long captivated people for centuries with wild accounts of her crimes. Some have called her a poisoner, an evil seductress, a femme fatale, and many artists have portrayed her negatively in books, plays, and operas.

But who was Lucrezia exactly? Did she really deserve her poor reputation?

In 1492, when Lucrezia Borgia was still a young noblewoman, her father became Pope Alexander VI and raised her family into one of the most powerful forces in Renaissance Italy. Known for his ruthless ambition, Alexander VI immediately started to eliminate all political enemies in his path, while also elevating his children – including the cruel and clever Cesare Borgia – to prestigious positions within the church and state.

The reign of the Borgias swiftly became the most scandalous era in papal history, marked by constant wars, assassinations, murder, unbridled extravagance, debauchery and allegations of incest. Many political rivals to the Borgias were stabbed, strangled, or poisoned, including cardinals, ambassadors, and the barons of prominent roman families. It was claimed the Borgias dispatched many of their enemies with a custom-made poison called ‘Cantarella’. Lucrezia herself was said to possess a ring with a tiny poison capsule which she used to secretly empty venom into drinks at banquets.

An interesting legend… but is it true?

Probably not. Almost no one in her own time accused Lucrezia of the plots and killings attributed to her family. Nor is there any historical evidence to suggest Lucrezia ever participated in the crimes of Cesare and Alexander. Her contemporaries in Rome merely felt her reputation was tarnished by tales of incest and promiscuity – unlikely allegations made by enemies of the Borgias.

In reality, during her tumultuous life, Lucrezia managed to repair her damaged reputation. After her father died in 1503, and her brother was soon imprisoned, Lucrezia was no longer used as a pawn to increase the power of the House of Borgia. Instead, she left Rome and married a Duke in the distant lands of Ferrara, quickly settling into her new role as a Duchess. Over time, she reinvented herself as a generous patron of the arts, a loving mother of seven children, and a kind benefactor of many charities. By her death in 1519, many people mourned her loss and she was buried with great honor in the highest church in Ferrara, the disgraceful allegations from her past now long forgotten.

This is the story I explore in my latest novel, Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia. Set in Renaissance Rome, during the height of Borgia power, my novel follows Lucrezia’s struggle to escape her dangerous family before they destroy her life forever. After discovering that her new husband is next to die, Lucrezia must help him flee the city before the assassins strike. But as tragedy looms ever closer, and her plans gradually, fail, she finds herself confronting an enemy far more sinister than she ever imagined…

Thanks for taking the time to read this today! To learn more about my novels or me, please visit:

Website: http://www.mgscarsbrook.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authormgscarsbrook
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4447495.M_G_Scarsbrook

Share and Enjoy  Original post link The Hot Author Report



I also post these ‘Italy in Books’ reviews on my other blog

LindyLouMac's Book Reviews


  1. I've had a few freebies from Goodreads - some very good, some less gripping. Glad you enjoyed this one :)

  2. Sounds an interesting read! I'm always unsure about 'historical' novels but whenever I've read them I've enjoyed it.

  3. I am still reading a whole pile of French books that we seem to have aquired.... I will move on to Italy when I run out of these. Time I had a change :-) Diane

  4. Sounds really interesting Linda, I will check it out at the library, love Linda x

  5. sounds like an interesting story. I
    I am currently reading A summer without Men, by Siri Hustvedt.
    Enjoy your weekend. Charmaine

  6. I think I would probably like Poison in the Blood. Great review, and thanks for cutting and pasting the author's intro/commentary.

  7. A book with lots of intrigue - I think I'll like it!

  8. Fantastic review! I really know little about the Borgias but one always had the idea there was a lot more to the story. Thank you for introducing us to this intriguing work! – g

  9. Sounds like a fun read. I am indeed a fan of historical fiction. :)

  10. I have always been fascinated with the Borgia family, and I never believed that Lucrezia deserved the bad reputation nor her name being equated with the female version of Bluebeard (a fairy tale loosely based on Henry the VIII).

    Looking forward to checking this one out!

  11. As always, it was lovely to read your book review. I'm always skeptical about depicting historical figures in literature. I think you need to spend half your life in archives to do that!

  12. Thanks for your lovely comments Linda, and yes I confirm Pinterest is addictive! It has to be severely rationed. Lots of love, Linda x

  13. I love historical fiction and I've read tons of books that take place in Italy, especially history. I've not yet looked over your book review as at the moment I'm loaded with books, but this looks very very good. Not terribly long ago I read a biography of Lucrezia by a woman who's name I can not recall at the moment. She painted Lucrezia as not so evil. Just a woman who was trying to survive in a brutal world controlled by men. She is an interesting character indeed. A new author to the Italy fiction scene is Marina Fiorato if you've not read The Boticelli Secret I think you'd like it. Written around the painting La Primavera.
    Rome is my favorite city in the world. I can understand why you'd go there for an " adventure"
    Ciao for now


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