The Book of Love is set in the early 16th century, in the world of the Borgias. Esther, a Jew who is nicknamed Violante, becomes a conversa so that she might become a lady-in-waiting to Lucrezia Borgia. Very soon, Violante finds herself thrust into a world of danger, romance, and intrigue, as she falls in love with Lucrezia’s brother Cesare.
Bower recreates the world of the early 16th century unfailingly; the historical details of this novel are exquisite. She uses the theme of the “innocent abroad” to tell the story of the Borgias through an impartial viewpoint. One of the strengths of the novel are the characters: Cesare Borgia is easily the most compelling, though I didn’t like how Bower portrayed Lucrezia—I thought her character could have been more diabolical. The plot drags in the middle, and the sex scenes are a bit crude, but it’s what you might expect from a story about one of history’s most infamous families. But otherwise, this is an enjoyable novel.