The Borgia Mistress ~ Sara Poole

From the author of Poison and The Borgia Betrayal, comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.

Mistress of death Francesca Giordano—court poisoner to the House of Borgia—returns to confront an ancient atrocity that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge the world into eternal darkness. As the enemies of Pope Alexander VI close in and the papal court is forced to flee from Rome, Francesca joins forces with her lover, the brilliant and ruthless Cesare Borgia to unravel a conspiracy that strikes at the heart of Christendom. But when a shattering secret from her past imperils her precarious hold on sanity, only Francesca’s own courage and resolve can draw her back from the brink of madness to save all she values most. 


The third installment of this series is almost as good as both of its predecessors. I was stoked about the opportunity to learn more about Francesca’s past and how it has molded her into the woman she has become. I think that the exploration of her past has helped her to develop as a character and it adds to her charm and personality from the previous two installments. The revelation of what happened to her mother has opened up a whole new mystery. The only problem that I had with this novel is the lack of contiguity from the previous two novels – the main antagonist in the first two novels was missing in the third and I also found myself missing some of the smaller characters who were not present in this novel either. I also found that the supporting characters (Vittorio, Lucrezia, Renaldo) that Ms. Poole has been magnificently developing over the course of this series were either absent or thrown in as an afterthought. Still, I find myself anxiously awaiting the next installment – it’s fun (and slightly annoying … I’m not overly patient) to slowly piece together Francesca’s puzzle one book at a time.  


The Borgia Betrayal ~ Sara Poole

Before the Tudors, there were the Borgias. More passionate. More dangerous. More deadly.

From the author of Poison, called “stunning” and “a fascinating page-turner,” comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.

In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the chair of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of peril, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.

As dangers close in from every direction, Francesca conceives a desperate plan that puts her own life at risk and hurls her into a nightmare confrontation with a madman intent on destroying all she is pledged to protect. From the hidden crypts of fifteenth-century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness.


This is the continuation of Poison and it was just as good as the first novel in the series. Even though this is the second book in a series, it still works as a standalone novel. I still love Francesca Giordano – she definitely grew as a character from the first book. She is the same dark and twisted poisoner, only better! The novel was passionate, dark and magnificent – I cannot wait for the author to continue with this series, I don’t think that I will tire of Francesca’s story, it can just keep going and going. Another awesome novel by Ms. Poole. 


The Queen’s Vow ~ C.W. Gortner

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 400
Release Date: June 12, 2012

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world. 

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.


The Secret Keeper ~ Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books
Pages: 352
Release Date: June 5, 2012

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor. 

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.

The Kings Concubine ~ Anne O’brien

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 464
Release Date: June 5, 2012

A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick-witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone....

Early in Alice's life, a chance meeting with royalty changes everything: Kindly Queen Philippa, deeply in love with her husband but gravely ill, chooses Alice as a lady-in-waiting. Under the queen's watchful eye, Alice dares to speak her mind. She demands to be taken seriously. She even flirts with the dynamic, much older king. But she is torn when her vibrant spirit captures his interest...and leads her to a betrayal she never intended.

In Edward's private chambers, Alice discovers the pleasures and paradoxes of her position. She is the queen's confidante and the king's lover, yet she can rely only on herself. It is a divided role she was destined to play, and she vows to play it until the bitter end. Even as she is swept up in Edward's lavish and magnificent court, amassing wealth and influence for herself, becoming an enemy of his power-hungry son John of Gaunt and a sparring partner to resourceful diplomat William de Windsor, she anticipates the day when the political winds will turn against her. For when her detractors voice their hatred and accusations of treason swirl around her, threatening to destroy everything she has achieved, who will stand by Alice then?


Her Highness the Traitor ~ Susan Higginbotham

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 336
Release Date: June 1, 2012

As Henry VIII draws his last breath, two very different women, Jane Dudley, Viscountess Lisle, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, face the prospect of a boy king, Edward VI.

For Jane Dudley, basking in the affection of her large family, the coming of a new king means another step upward for her ambitious, able husband, John. For Frances Grey, increasingly alienated from her husband and her brilliant but arrogant daughter Lady Jane, it means that she—and the Lady Jane—are one step closer to the throne of England.

Then the young king falls deathly ill. Determined to keep England under Protestant rule, he concocts an audacious scheme that subverts his own father’s will. Suddenly, Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are reluctantly bound together in a common cause—one that will test their loyalties, their strength, and their faith, and that will change their lives beyond measure.