She has been staying in the tremendously interestingly interesting era of the Italian Renaissance. So many amazing personalities, aside from the artists that changed the way we view art, but the characters that gave flesh and blood to the Italian Renaissance. The English Renaissance came later, but just studying the Italian Renaissance would seem like fiction if we didn't know these characters truly lived and made history that affected many lives and royalty, as well as clergy.
The Scarlet Contessa deals with one of the most fascinating characters of the era, Caterina Sforza. She was the daughter of the Duke of Milan. Known for her beauty, she didn't hesitate to use that beauty to her and her city-state's advantage.
Each city state in this period was like a kingdom in itself, much like ancient Greece.
Caterina was married to Count Girolamo Riario, who was boarish at best. It was a political match and soon Caterina came to have extra marital affairs where she finds that sex was pleasurable as well as politically advantageous.
The book is told by the perspective of the fictional 'sister and lady in waiting' Dea. Dea is knowledgeable in the 'Triumph' cards, which we know today as Tarot cards. It is through her eyes the book is written.
Caterina uses her charms to not only protect what is hers, but shows she can command any army as well, no, better than a man.
The papacy of this time was a joke. Most popes of the time had illegitimate children they publically acknowledged, and one of the cardinals we meet is Roderigo Borgia. Borgia?? Oh yeah!
He eventually became Pope Alexander VI, and the public is probably familiar with two of his children - Lucrezia and Cesare. It was said that the then Roderigo Borgia found recipes and methods of getting rid of his enemies with various poisons. His children were also students of this subtle, but effective means of vengeance.
It is well known that there was some sort of incest in the Borgia family - It is pretty much a good assumption that Roderigo was intimate with his daughter Lucrezia. It was also rumored that Cesare also 'familiar' with his gorgeous sister. Lucrezia gave birth to the 'Infanta of Rome', whose paternity was never made clear. What is clear Cesare was devoted to his sister always.
He was also one of the best fighters and strategist of his time in war, and he loved to conquer women as much as he loved fighting.
The fighting between the forces of Caterina Sforza and Cesare Borgia is legendary. She tried valiantly to fight off Cesare's armies, but was not able to for long.
It is said that Cesare raped Caterina; however, it has also been intimated they were lovers as well as adversaries.
If you are interested in women being powerful and in power in history, a great place to start is in the Italian Renaisssance. It was not only artwork, but political intruige and a time of such colorful characters you could spend much time learning about these fabulous characters.
It also sets the backdrop for the English Renaissance - which features my personal favorite historical character Elizabeth I who was strong like Caterina Sforza.
Cesare Borgia is one of the most amazing characters in history, at least to me. Indicative of the time, he was gorgeous, politically untouchable, and insatiable in womanizing, as well as a genius in warfare. He was also a member of the clergy!
This book is not a fast read, but it is an amazingly interesting read.
I sent Ms. Kalogridis some interesting information regarding Pope Alexander VI and one of daVinci's inventions, that in itself would be an amazing read. Hopefully one day it will be used.
Or after I finish my vampire novel THIRST, I will write a novel on the Borgias.
There were so many deliciously evil and entertaining characters in the Italian Renaissance, and no one writes better or more colorfully about the era than Jeanne Kalogridis.
Yia sou, Jeanne! Keep them coming!
The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis, ISBN: 978-0-312-36953-8, St. Martins Press, review by ellen george