Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), Duchess of Ferrara, illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, and sister of Cesare Borgia, has never lost her place in the popular imagination as one of the most evil and immoral women in history. Now Rachel Erlanger, who teaches English literature at Queens College, has set out to clear the infamous name, and in large measure she succeeds. As the reader follows Lucrezia through some of the seamiest decades of Italian history, it becomes clear that the rumors that she shared her father's political ambitions and her brother's taste for political butchery were probably the fruits of jealousy or the re, suits of political maneuvers aimed at discrediting the entire Borgia tribe. For every damning piece of gossip, the author is able to produce more convincing evidence of Lucrezia's gentleness and her love of the arts and music. Moreover, by placing Lucrezia in the context of her times, Erlanger lends a new perspective to all the Borgia activities. In terms of the practices of the day, Alexander and Cesare were merely more successful than other ambitious men who employed similar methods. Also incontrovertible: Renaissance italy was a man's world, and a woman as highly placed as Lucrezia Borgia had to reconcile herself to a life without romantic love; her second husband, the only one she really loved, was assassinated two years after their marriage, probably by order of Cesare. Lucrezia's solution to a life without love was, according to the author, to fulfill herself by serving others. And when Lucrezia died after a difficult childbirth both her husband and the residents of Ferrara were deeply saddened. Erlanger has read widely for this straightforward account which is also highly readable apropos of court life and the life of women in the period.