The Borgia Bride
Sancha of Aragon, princess of Naples and illegitimate daughter to the coldhearted duke of Calabria (briefly king of Naples), is used to establish ties to the feared and influential House of Borgia when her father betroths her to the younger scion, Jofre. War with the French briefly returned her to Naples, but rumors of her beauty reach her lecherous father-in-law, Pope Alexander VI, who recalls her and Gioffre Borgia to opulent Rome. There, she avoids the pope's advances—and her jealous sister-in-law Lucrezia's animosity—but falls into a steamy affair with her brother-in-law, Cesare Borgia. Cesare becomes furious when she refuses to leave Jofre, and he sets out on a warpath that includes her brother Alfonso, who has also married into the Borgia clan—to Lucrezia.
The book starts off with Princess Sancha remembering the thirtieth anniversary of her grandfather's ascension to the Neapolitan throne. Because Naples needed a blessing after many wars and natural disasters, the royal family was to beseech San Gennaro to witness a miracle. Inside a reliquary was believed to be ancient blood of the royals and if the blood became liquid once again, it is a good omen for the king. After the "miracle" is performed, the royal procession makes its way back to Castel Nuovo in Naples. A feast celebrating the anniversary of the king was held later that night, and out of boredom, seeks the chamber of the dead of her grandfather, King Ferrante. It is said here that the King had brought his enemies that he had killed, preserved and on occasion visited the dead. She quickly finds the legend of the chamber to be true, and meets her grandfather there. After discussing several matters with her grandfather, Sancha is told by her grandfather to watch over her brother, for he is considered by Ferrante to be "weak". As the pair return to the party, the Duke of Calabria, Sancha's father, sees them and discovers that she was in the chamber of the dead, and had not been invited. He tells her that he will speak to her later. Sancha then leaves to be comforted by her brother. Duke Alfonso returns later to tell Donna Trusia (Sancha's mother) that she will not be allowed to go on a picnic with the other children. He speaks to her in the study and denies her contact with her brother (also named Alfonso) for two weeks for her incorrigible behaviour, since that is the one thing she loves above all else. After two weeks pass, Sancha and Alfonso are reunited and Sancha swears that she would never give her father cause to punish her.
Late Spring 1492
Although a little more less than three years had passed, little had changed in the royal household. Sancha and Alfonso are still close, although they do not share a nursery any longer. A new pope was elected that year, one by the name of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. In the beginning of this chapter, Sancha is summoned to the King's chambers. There, she finds that she is betrothed to the Count Onorato Caetani. His manner towards the royal family is described as jovial. The courtship between the count and the princess preceded rapidly. As a whim, Sancha went to see a strega (witch). When she reached the strega's house, she was surprised to find herself required to enter alone. Immediately, Sancha realizes that the news has a hint of foreboding. After spreading the tarot cards, Sancha chooses the card of a "heart, impaled by two blades, which together made a great silver X".
The strega warns Sancha that if she does not resort to evil, she will "condemn to death those whom you most love". She also says that the princess will not marry the Count, but the son of the most powerful man in Italy, and that she will not love him, nor have any children by him. She ends by saying "Take great care, Sancha, or your heart will destroy all that you love.