A genteel reconstruction of the love affair of Lucretia Borgia and the Venetian future Cardinal, Pietro Bembo, scholar and poet -- based on the pair's elegant correspondence (1502-5). Lucretia was then the wife of Alfonso, son of the Duke of Ferrara. From the tangle of Italian Renaissance politics Ms. Briggs has selected a few strands of intrigue: the villain here, Cardinal Ippolito, brother of Alfonso, wishes to rid Ferrara of Borgian connections and gain power for himself, even by disruption within his own family. While the lovers exchange notes and meet secretly, Bembo's friend Strozzi, poet and Ferraran politican, diplomatically dampens family flare-ups and -- not always sympathetically -- monitors the progress of the Lucretia/Bembo romance. Although Briggs' Lucretia is not altogether plausible as a tender-hearted and pure-minded Borgia, and curtains are swiftly drawn on profane love, period ambience and intricate plotting are accomplished with unusual care and delicacy. Overly decorous perhaps, but responsible.