Jean Plaidy’s MADONNA OF THE SEVEN HILLS is a novel about the girlhood of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Roderigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander VI.

Lucrezia Borgia is famous for having an incestuous relationship with her brother Cesare, and for having a hollow ring which she would use to slip poison into the drinks of those she did not like. However, these tales were put about by the enemies of the Borgias, and it is not known how much truth there is to these rumors. In her novel, Jean Plaidy portrays Lucrezia Borgia as a gold-haired innocent, naively unaware of the treachery of her nearest and dearest, which includes not only her father the Pope, but also her two elder brothers Cesare and Giovanni.

The story begins with the birth of Lucrezia in 1482 and gradually moves forward through her early years until the age of nine, when she meets 14-year-old Giulia Farnese and they become best of friends. Giulia is the bride of Orsino Orsini, the son of Lucrezia’s foster-mother Adriana. But it is not long before Lucrezia’s father becomes enamored of the young beauty. He is 59 and she is still only 14, when she becomes his mistress.

Jean Plaidy is a talented author who knows how to keep a reader glued to the page with a gripping story. But there is one glaring problem: Ms Plaidy does not handle POV issues well. It seems strange that a book published by Random House would have this problem. One would think that the editors would have done something about it. Perhaps it is because this book was originally published in 1958, and the standard of writing is much higher nowadays. Whatever the reason, Ms. Plaidy is guilty of the sin of head-hopping which both makes her characters less vivid and also is confusing to read. Nevertheless, if you love reading about Renaissance Italy, this tale is sure to please. Five stars for the story, 1 star for head-hopping, making this 3 stars.


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