The Scarlet Contessa reminds me of The Queen's Bastard in the level of detail and development of characters, which is a favorable comparison, by the way. I liked TQ'sB. The main character, Dea, is a push-over, but this might be mostly in juxtaposition to Caterina, who is anything but. I didn't like Caterina, but I couldn't help but admire her and the way that she interacts with her world, despite being a woman in a time when women were given very little power. I do wish Dea had developed a spine earlier, however. She gave up everything for Caterina, and in return got scorn and insults and only at the end some form of respect and affection. The one thing that continues to confuse me is the treatment of faith. I am not a historian of religions, but Kalogridis' angel and rituals don't correspond to anything I have previously heard of. Did she make them up? I just don't know.
What Philippa Gregory has done for Tudor England, Jeanne Kalogridis does for Renaissance Italy. Her latest irresistible historical novel is about a countess whose passion and willfulness knew no bounds—Caterina Sforza
Daughter of the Duke of Milan and wife of the conniving Count Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza was the bravest warrior Renaissance Italy ever knew. She ruled her own lands, fought her own battles, and openly took lovers whenever she pleased.
Her remarkable tale is told by her lady-in-waiting, Dea, a woman knowledgeable in reading the “triumph cards,” the predecessor of modern-day Tarot. As Dea tries to unravel the truth about her husband’s murder, Caterina single-handedly holds off invaders who would steal her title and lands. However, Dea’s reading of the cards reveals that Caterina cannot withstand a third and final invader—none other than Cesare Borgia, son of the corrupt Pope Alexander VI, who has an old score to settle with Caterina. Trapped inside the Fortress at Ravaldino as Borgia’s cannons pound the walls, Dea reviews Caterina’s scandalous past and struggles to understand their joint destiny, while Caterina valiantly tries to fight off Borgia’s unconquerable army.