Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Eros, art, and gorgeous blasphemy…
Adrianna Borgia, survivor of the Borgia court, presents Michelangelo with the greatest temptations of his life while struggling herself with soul-threatening desires and heresies. Her growing passion for the painter Raphaela Bramante mirrors the sculptor’s damnable interest in a castrato in the Sistine choir and in the ideas of secular humanism. Claimed as the epitome of Christian inspiration, Michelangelo’s ceiling is revealed as a coup of Eros upon religion, a gorgeous blasphemy and a paean to forbidden love in the very heart of the Church.
[Originally posted on Amazon 10/18/09]
For those primarily looking for a romance novel you’ll want to look elsewhere. While there is a lesbian romantic element to Sistine Heresy it is not central to the story and develops very slowly. Rather, this book brings to life Rome in the Renaissance period and inserts gay characters into various roles. As it states in the About the Author section, this book is part of an effort by Saracen to “plant our flag retroactively on the literary and historical landscape.”
For those who really enjoy historical novels and find it difficult to find any with lesbian/gay characters then this one will be a real treat. Most of the characters are actual historical figures, though the main character and a few others are fictional. Of course many of the details of events in the book are also fictionalized, but it’s done in such a way that the made-up blends seamlessly with actual history.
Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel take center stage, but there is so much more; the Church and Popes, the Spanish Inquisition, Italian states, politics, gender roles, hints of the Reformation to come, the influence of the old pagan and the clash of modern science starting to emerge, and so on. All this is seen through the eyes of a fictional character who is part of the Borgia family by marriage and who is caught up in all the events swirling around her and trying to survive on her own terms as much as possible.
There were a few places in the book where the pacing dragged a bit or the historical stuff was almost too dense, making it a bit dry. So readers who are a bit more impatient may not enjoy it as much, but for me it wasn’t an issue and I read the book through very quickly.
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much is that not only was it a well-written novel about the period, but it encouraged me to spend time online after I was done reading it looking up information about the Borgias, Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel, etc. Walk-ons by people such as Martin Luther and Leonardo da Vinci only added to the historical fun. For those wanting a fluff romance read don’t bother as you’ll be disappointed. Staunch Catholics will be offended. But for the lesbian historical fiction buff Sistine Heresy is probably right up your alley.