I really enjoyed reading Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger. (Thanks Semicolon for the recommendation!) This historical novel was originally published in 1947. It is set circa 1500 during the Italian Renaissance. It features glimpses of four Borgias: Pope Alexander VI, Cesare, Lucrezia, and Angela--a cousin. The hero is an ambitious but not ruthless young man initially in the service of Cesare Borgia. His name is Andrea Orsini. He's been sent to Ferrara in order to pave the way for Lucrezia's third marriage. (The potential groom--or the potential in-laws--are NOT thrilled or receptive to the idea of this marriage.) But Andrea Orsini is good at what he does. He even compels the assassin who was sent to kill him to switch sides. (His name is Mario Belli). But while he is satisfied to stay in Cesare's service when it suits him, when it gets a little too personal, well, he takes a stand for better or worse.
Prince of Foxes is historical romance at its best. Andrea Orsini is a great little hero. He falls hard for the (married) woman that Cesare Borgia promised him. If or when Cesare conquers that city (kingdom-state), Orsini will receive her as his reward for loyal service. Her name is Lady Camilla. She becomes very friendly with him, even flirty, I suppose. But she is a good wife who never leaves Orsini's company without urging him to do EVERYTHING in his power to protect her husband's life. Because his love for her is so strong, so transformative even, he no longer wants to "win" her as a prize. He knows that this husband's death is practically essential to his ambitions, and more importantly to Cesare's ambitions, and, so the conflict will end with him having to make a big decision.
I really loved this one! It is so well written too!
Orsini did not conceal the twinkle in his eyes. "No doubt. There are few who can match the divine genius of my lord Cesare."
"Of course," Lorenzo agreed. He would have liked to add: "Fratricide! Assassin! Bandit!" but he said merely, "Divine genius is well put."
"And let me tell you," smiled Orsini, "that he is not the monster that you people of Venice make him. Is not gossip the mother of monsters, Maestro? He has great ends and lets nothing distract him. Perhaps merely he's too consistent. Hard, if necessary; selfish, yes (and who isn't?); but able, of great virtu and splendor. A valiant prince...I'd wager you'd love him, Messer Lorenzo, unless you stood in his ways."
"Probably," said Lorenzo, doubting it. "I rejoice to learn about him."
"Look you" -- Orsini leaned forward -- "if he were a painter, he would use rich colors. Life is his canvas." (7)
Decidedly, thought Andrea, the illustrious Duke Valentino played in luck. He did not even have to pursue his victims: they came to him. But what could Orsini do about it? Indeed, what did he wish to do? (85)
© 2013 Becky Laney