The Borgia Confessions

Written by Alyssa Palombo
Review by Julia C. Fischer

This is Alyssa Palombo’s fourth novel and, like her first two, this one takes place in Italy. Set during the Renaissance, it follows a fictional character, Maddalena Moretti, a young widow who has moved to Rome to work as a maid for the Borgias. Maddalena is nearly assaulted by Juan Borgia but is luckily rescued by his brother Cesare. This fateful meeting would set into motion a love affair between Maddalena and Cesare, the son of a pope who was forced to become a cardinal to advance his family name. In her role as a servant of the Borgias and lover to Cesare, Maddalena becomes privy to all the inner workings of the corrupt and powerful Borgia family. How far will Cesare go to aggrandize his family? And will Maddalena be silenced because of everything she knows?

Palombo describes her latest book as an origin story for Cesare Borgia: accused of killing his brother Juan, sleeping with his other brother’s wife, and even having an incestuous relationship with his sister Lucrezia. The Borgia Confessions reveals how one of the villains of Renaissance Rome was born. In addition, with the character of Maddalena, Palombo explores the inequities of the time period, both in class and gender. While Palombo has clearly done her research and is a gifted writer, for this reader, there was too much about politics in this book. Politics and the machinations of war are constantly revealed through conversations between the Pope and Cesare, and as a result, Palombo is constantly telling the reader what happened but not letting us in on the action. Regardless, through the lens of a fictional character, Palombo gives new insights into the Borgia family and the corruption of the papacy.