Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons by Roberta Gellis

Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons by Roberta Gellis
★★★ 1/2
Published in 2003
Personal copy from used bookstore 

Synopsis from inside book cover: Poisoner!" The bellowed accusation strikes into silence all those in Lucrezia Borgia's audience chamber. Lucrezia has fled Rome to a loveless marriage with Alfonso, heir to the duke of Ferrara, to escape the rumors that she is utterly depraved---incestuous, a lecher, a poisoner. To her delight she is warmly welcomed in Ferrara, by the duke, by his court, by the people, indeed by everyone except her husband. And then, after only six weeks of basking in the warmth of general approval, Alfonso rushes into her apartment and accuses her of poisoning Bianca Tedaldo, one of her ladies in waiting and mistress to Alfonso. Immediately, Lucrezia sees the nightmare of her life in Rome recurring. The whispers behind her back, the signs to ward off evil, people making out their wills when she invites them to share a meal. To deny the charge is useless. Lucrezia knows all too well the futility of claiming innocence even when the claim is clearly and plainly true. The only way for her to retrieve her reputation is to discover who committed the crime and expose the true murderer.

My Review: I stumbled upon this book one day while browsing a local used bookstore and I immediately snatched it up because it was about Lucrezia Borgia. With all the recent Borgia talk and never having read about them I knew I had to get this book. 

This book is set in 1501 and Lucrezia Borgia has just married her third husband, Alfonso Ferrara. Bianca Tedaldo has just been murdered and Lucrezia is being blamed by none other than her husband Alfonso. Rumor has it that Donna Bianca is or was Alfonso’s mistress so the finger is being pointed in Lrecrizia’s direction since everyone believes she had a motive for killing her out of jealousy. Lucrezia is appalled at such outrageous accusations, which could not be further from the truth. In order to clear her good name, Lucrezia makes it her duty to find the true murderer and bring them to justice. 

What she wasn’t ready for was what would be revealed and the consequences for delving deep into Donna Bianca’s life. Once her number one suspect winds up stabbed to death it occurs to Lucrezia that the reasoning for Donna Bianca’s murder goes much deeper than anything she ever suspected before. Who is the true killer and could it be someone close to Lucrezia that she never would have suspected?

My opinion: While overall I enjoyed the book I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed with it. I came so close to putting this book down so many times in the beginning. It started out very slow and dry. The conversation kept going around in circles that I began to fall asleep out of boredom and frustration.  However, I didn’t give up on this book because it eventually picked up steam and got very suspenseful and thrilling. With every turn and twist there became a new suspect and a new lead to follow. I would say if you can get past a couple of the boring parts maybe by doing a little daydreaming like I did, then it’s worth reading because it did have some very exciting and “oh no” or “oh crap” moments which spurred me forward. This isn’t a book I would suggest rushing out right now and getting, however, if you have some down time then it’s worth reading.


  1. I bought this a few years ago at a used bookstore but haven't gotten to it yet. Sounds like it's not one I need to move up on my TBR list - that's good to know!

  2. @Daphne If you have books that you know your going to enjoy then no I wouldn't make this a priority, but it is worth reading sometime because I did get into it around page 100. lol


  3. Is the only book you recommend about Lucrezia Borgia?, if its really slow to begin with I probably will throw back on my dresser and never finish it but it does sound interesting.

  4. @Johanna The book doesn't suck it's just has a lot of dry spots. It's worth reading if you have the time but for me there were a lot of other books on my TBR pile that I wish I would have read instead. This is the only book I have read about Lucrezia so there aren't any others I can recommend at the moment.