The Scarlet Contessa
St. Martin’s, Jul 6 2010, $25.99
Daughter of the Duke of Milan, Caterina Sforza marries the illegitimate son of Pope Sixtus. He is a pathetic paranoid while though she grew up spoiled she proves energetic, ambitious, and intelligent. She befriends the rich and influential while he makes no efforts to improve the family.
Caterina depends only on her loyal lady-in-waiting Dea as her advisor. Dea uses her skill at reading Triumph (Tarot) cards to assist her lady even as her loved ones are murdered. In 1499 Cesare Borgia lays siege to the Fortress of Ravaldino while Caterina struggles to survive his advances even when he abducts and tortures Dea. Caterina wonders if the Mendican preachers are right that the end of the world is just a few weeks away; at least on her orb.
Interestingly the story is told through Dea’s filter, but though she is devoted and brave, the courage of The Scarlet Contessa grips fans of biographical fiction. Jeanne Kalogridis is at her best with this strong historical that brings alive late fifteenth century Italy; as once again the author entertains readers with an insightful look at Renaissance Italy (see The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa).