Skip to main content

Review: The Book of Love, by Sarah Bower


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.

Comments

Danielle said…
I really liked her first book, Needle in the Blood, but have been hesitant to pick up this book. I wasn't sure how interested I was to read about the Borgias. However, I love a good historical novel, and this one sounds well done so may have to pick it up eventually!
Alyce said…
I haven't read any books about the Borgias, so this might be one for me to check out.
Anonymous said…
I really like historical fiction, but I haven't read any about the Borgias.
Marg said…
I too enjoyed Needle in the Blood. I bought this book when it was first released in the UK. Still haven't read it!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…