Saturday, November 17, 2012

Borgia Mistress

Third book in a series by Sara Poole, The Borgia Mistress follows the main character Francesca Giordano and her role as the poisoner of the Borgia family.  Employed by Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, and lover to his son Cesare, Francesca is enmeshed in the court drama.  She is a very conflicted character, trying to avenge her father's murder (who was a poisoner before her) while trying to extinguish the darkness in her that seems to want to take over.  When she has to kill to protect the Pope and his family, it threatens to consume her and she enjoys the kill.  She also has goodness in her and yearns for a normal life.  In this book, the court moves from Rome to avoid plague and ends up in Viterbo.  Word reaches her that a Cathar assassin is on his/her way to kill Herrera, the Spanish envoy visiting.  As mysterious and seemingly random deaths occur of kitchen servants and the like, she is anxious to find this assassin before it is too late.  It is her job to protect His Holiness and his family, so she has to find time to inspect all foods and drinks entering the palace besides other duties.  Francesca also has to practice her poisons in any free time, making her own poisons that would be undetectable and easy to kill someone.  Hers is an important and also despised job.  Many fear her and she is almost reclusive except for a few friendships and her employers.

Borgia is trying to keep an alliance with King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and a man named Herrera a Spanish envoy is at court.  He seems to despise Francesca and even tries to have her killed.  She now finds out she has to protect him, even though she does not like him, so the Pope can keep good relations with Spain.  Another complication to her already complicated life and job.  In Viterbo, she is contacted by an abbess claiming to know of her mother's death.  Francesca had always been told her mother died from childbirth.  As she visits this abbess she gains the truth and is forced to face old demons.  Wrestling with this new knowledge, she is almost too late to save Herrera as she is caught up in her own drama and even poisoned.   Cathar heretics seem to be at the root of this evil and Francesca is caught up in the middle of it.  It all leads to a dramatic and exciting ending. 

My Thoughts:  Dramatic, riveting and exciting to read.  I like the dynamics of Francesca's job and character.  It was also exciting seeing events unfold in her life while this assassin is at large.  I have been a fan of her books so I would recommend.

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