The Lion and the Rose

Written by Kate Quinn
Review by Richard Bourgeois

In this sequel to The Serpent and the Pearl, Kate Quinn dives back into the dangerous world of 15th-century Rome and the scheming household of the Borgias. Three members of the household find themselves as pawns in Rodrigo Borgia’s quest for glory in the papacy. Giulia Farnese, the Pope’s mistress, wants to raise her daughter in a loving family where she won’t be corrupted by political intrigue. Leonello, a dwarf who serves as Giulia’s unlikely bodyguard, hides behind his caustic wit but harbors secret passions of his own. Carmelina, the cook, has escaped from a life in a nunnery and wants only to ply her trade in peace. But when a dangerous member of the Borgia family uses his powerful connections to force Giulia, Leonello, and Carmelina to his will – and even to kill – they must work together to find a way to escape without bringing the wrath of the Pope down upon their heads.

Kate Quinn’s plot twists are always a delight, driven by characters so different yet so fully believable in their passions and motivations. No protagonist in this book is entirely immune to corruption or temptation, but each has the capacity for kindness and compassion as well. Just when I thought I knew where the tale was going, not one but two unlikely love affairs blindsided me completely – unexpected, yet fitting perfectly into the fabric of the story. A truly satisfying novel is like a large-scale collage image, where the pieces look distinct when seen from up close, yet come together into a larger picture when you step back to view them all at once. The Lion and the Rose is one of those masterful books that offers this startling – and perfect – shift of perspective.