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  1. 7.3 hrs • 12/21/2015 • Unabridged

    It’s no wonder Machiavelli’s account of Cesare Borgia in The Prince became one of the bestselling books in the 1980s business community. It’s full of practical hints on how to stab your adversary in the back while staring him in the face. The surprise is how many educated readers still believe that Lucrezia Borgia was the unrivaled monster of her age. That misconception is one of the myths Marion Johnson shatters in her excellent account of a fifteenth century Italian dynasty. Listeners who prefer contemporary biography will be surprised at how little political mores have really changed.

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    The Borgias

    7.3 hrs • 12/21/15 • Unabridged
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  2. 0 reviews 0 5 4.4 4 out of 5 stars 4.4/5
    16.1 hrs • 10/20/2015 • Unabridged

    Author and historian Tom Holland returns to his roots in Roman history and the audience he cultivated with Rubicon—his masterful, witty, brilliantly researched popular history of the fall of the Roman republic—with Dynasty, a luridly fascinating history of the reign of the first five Roman emperors. Dynasty continues Rubicon’s story, opening where that book ended: with the murder of Julius Caesar. This is the period of the first and perhaps greatest Roman emperors. It’s a colorful story of rule and ruination, from the rise of Augustus to the death of Nero. Holland’s expansive history also has distinct shades of I, Claudius, with five wonderfully vivid (and in three cases, thoroughly depraved) emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—featured, along with numerous fascinating secondary characters. Intrigue, murder, naked ambition and treachery, greed, gluttony, lust, incest, pageantry, decadence—the tale of these five Caesars continues to cast a mesmerizing spell across the millennia.

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    Dynasty by Tom Holland

    Dynasty

    16.1 hrs • 10/20/15 • Unabridged
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  3. 14.5 hrs • 8/15/2015 • Unabridged

    Death in Florence illuminates one of the defining moments in Western history—the bloody and dramatic story of the battle for the soul of Renaissance Florence. By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de’ Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers. However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury and prophecies of doom, Savonarola’s sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. Savonarola’s aim was to establish a “City of God” for his followers, a new kind of democratic state, the likes of which the world had never seen before. The battle between these two men would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events—invasions, trials by fire, the “Bonfire of the Vanities,” terrible executions, and mysterious deaths—featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures. Was this a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic? Between secular pluralism and repressive extremism? In an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts, and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.

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    Death in Florence by Paul Strathern

    Death in Florence

    14.5 hrs • 8/15/15 • Unabridged
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  4. 15.8 hrs • 10/7/2014 • Unabridged

    A fascinating and counterintuitive portrait of the sordid, hidden world behind the dazzling artwork of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and more Renowned as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, the Renaissance is cloaked in a unique aura of beauty and brilliance. Its very name conjures up awe-inspiring images of an age of lofty ideals in which life imitated the fantastic artworks for which it has become famous. But behind the vast explosion of new art and culture lurked a seamy, vicious world of power politics, perversity, and corruption that has more in common with the present day than anyone dares to admit. In this lively and meticulously researched portrait, Renaissance scholar Alexander Lee illuminates the dark and titillating contradictions that were hidden beneath the surface of the period’s best-known artworks. Rife with tales of scheming bankers, greedy politicians, sex-crazed priests, bloody rivalries, vicious intolerance, rampant disease, and lives of extravagance and excess, this gripping exploration of the underbelly of Renaissance Italy shows that, far from being the product of high-minded ideals, the sublime monuments of the Renaissance were created by flawed and tormented artists who lived in an ever-expanding world of inequality, dark sexuality, bigotry, and hatred. The Ugly Renaissance is a delightfully debauched journey through the surprising contradictions of Italy’s past and shows that were it not for the profusion of depravity and degradation, history’s greatest masterpieces might never have come into being.

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    The Ugly Renaissance

    15.8 hrs • 10/7/14 • Unabridged
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  5. 1 reviews 0 5 5 5 out of 5 stars 5/5 (1)
    37.1 hrs • 8/1/2014 • Unabridged

    An engrossing volume on the Italian Renaissance by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Will Durant The fifth volume of Durant’s acclaimed Story of Civilization, The Renaissance chronicles the history of Italy from 1304 to 1576. In this masterful work, listeners will encounter the poets Petrarch and Boccaccio, the fathers of the Renaissance; the paintings, sculptures, and architecture of Milan, Florence, and Venice; the life and accomplishments of Leonardo Da Vinci; the Catholic church and the popes of Avignon and Rome; the politicians and philosophers of Italy, including the Borgia family, Julius II, and Machiavelli; the Italian Wars, the conflicts with France, and the country’s decline.

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    The Renaissance by Will Durant

    The Renaissance

    37.1 hrs • 8/1/14 • Unabridged
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  6. 14.2 hrs • 1/28/2014 • Unabridged

    From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Catholic church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican’s role in the rise of Fascism in Europe. The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922 and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different: one was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals. In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the church and the dictator for many years. The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius’s personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini’s Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature—literally and figuratively—to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini’s most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come. With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI’s papacy, the full story of the Pope’s complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.

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    The Pope and Mussolini

    14.2 hrs • 1/28/14 • Unabridged
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  7. 8.1 hrs • 7/1/2013 • Unabridged

    Since childhood, Paolo Tullio has returned each year to his hometown of Gallinaro, to the labyrinthine nest of his relations and the passionate, warmhearted people of his valley. In North of Naples, South of Rome, he describes a hilariously chaotic wine competition, samples the Italian cantina, instructs on market-day haggling and surreptitious truffle-hunting, and investigates the charms and scams of Naples. He looks with disbelief at a tortuous bureaucracy, shows how to win a local election, observes the Catholic Church’s role in daily life, and reflects upon a recent earthquake that saved the valley. With fascinating detours on local buildings, history, folklore, and fashion, the listener tours a carousel of picnics, feasts, and fireworks. This affectionate tour of a charming, intimate world is as enticing and as original as A Year in Provence.

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    North of Naples, South of Rome

    8.1 hrs • 7/1/13 • Unabridged
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  8. 0 reviews 0 5 3 3 out of 5 stars 3/5
    11.6 hrs • 5/6/2013 • Unabridged

    When Hitler’s armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind’s greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire. On the eve of the Allied invasion, General Dwight Eisenhower empowered a new kind of soldier to protect these historic riches. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes, artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt, embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli. With the German army retreating up the Italian peninsula, orders came from the highest levels of the Nazi government to transport truckloads of art north across the border into the Reich. Standing in the way was General Karl Wolff, a top-level Nazi officer. As German forces blew up the magnificent bridges of Florence, General Wolff commandeered the great collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace, later risking his life to negotiate a secret Nazi surrender with American spymaster Allen Dulles. Brilliantly researched and vividly written, Saving Italy brings readers from Milan and the near destruction of The Last Supper to the inner sanctum of the Vatican and behind closed doors with the preeminent Allied and Axis leaders: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Churchill; Hitler, Göring, and Himmler. An unforgettable story of epic thievery and political intrigue, Saving Italy is a testament to heroism on behalf of art, culture, and history.

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    Saving Italy

    11.6 hrs • 5/6/13 • Unabridged
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  9. 0 reviews 0 5 4 4 out of 5 stars 4/5
    32.7 hrs • 4/16/2013 • Unabridged

    In the second volume of his epic trilogy about the liberation of Europe in World War II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the harrowing story of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy. In An Army at Dawn—winner of the Pulitzer Prize—Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north toward Rome. The Italian campaign’s outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their military advisers engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once under way, the commitment to liberate Italy from the Nazis never wavered, despite the agonizingly high price. The battles at Salerno, Anzio, and Monte Cassino were particularly difficult and lethal, yet as the months passed, the Allied forces continued to drive the Germans up the Italian peninsula. Led by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, one of the war’s most complex and controversial commanders, American officers and soldiers became increasingly determined and proficient. And with the liberation of Rome in June 1944, ultimate victory at last began to seem inevitable. Drawing on a wide array of primary source material, written with great drama and flair, this is narrative history of the first rank. With The Day of Battle, Atkinson has once again given us the definitive account of one of history’s most compelling military campaigns.

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    The Day of Battle

    32.7 hrs • 4/16/13 • Unabridged
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  10. 20.2 hrs • 4/2/2013 • Unabridged

    The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu. The Borgias They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes. Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare Borgia, who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia Borgia, who was as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil. But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape—a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day—when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights. Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.

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    The Borgias

    20.2 hrs • 4/2/13 • Unabridged
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  11. 7.8 hrs • 3/19/2013 • Unabridged

    A conspiracy within the Vatican—to stop an outspoken pope In 1938, Pope Pius XI was the world’s most prominent critic of Hitler and his rhetoric of ethnic “purity.” To make his voice heard, Pius called upon a relatively unknown American Jesuit whose writing about racism in America had caught the Pope’s attention. Pius enlisted John LaFarge to write a papal encyclical—the Vatican’s strongest decree—publicly condemning Hitler, Mussolini, and their murderous Nazi campaign against the Jews. At the same time conservative members of the Vatican’s innermost circle were working in secret to suppress the document. Chief among them was Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, whose appeasement of the Germans underlay a deep-running web of conspiracy. Pacelli, who would become Pope Pius XII, was joined by Wlodimir Ledóchowski, leader of the Jesuit order, to keep the finished encyclical from reaching the increasingly ill pope. Peter Eisner, award-winning reporter and author of the critically acclaimed The Freedom Line, combines shocking new evidence (released only recently from Vatican archives) with eyewitness testimony to create a compelling journey into the heart of the Vatican and a little-known story of an American’s partnership with the head of the Roman Catholic Church. A truly essential work, it brings staggering new light to one of the most critical junctures in modern history.

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    The Pope’s Last Crusade

    7.8 hrs • 3/19/13 • Unabridged
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  12. 9.4 hrs • 2/1/2012 • Unabridged

    The first major biography of the Borgias in thirty years, Christopher Hibbert’s latest history brings to life the family and the world they lived in: the glittering Rome of the Italian Renaissance. The name Borgia is synonymous with the corruption, nepotism, and greed that were rife in Renaissance Italy. The powerful, voracious Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, was the central figure of the dynasty. Two of his seven papal offspring also rose to power and fame—his daughter Lucrezia and her brother Cesare, who murdered Lucrezia’s husband and served as the model for Machiavelli’s The Prince. The Borgias were notorious for seizing power, wealth, land, and titles through bribery, marriage, and murder. The story of the family’s dramatic rise from its Spanish roots to the highest position in Italian society is an absorbing tale.

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  13. 14.2 hrs • 1/1/2010 • Unabridged

    The rise and fall of the Venetian empire stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. In City of Fortune, Roger Crowley, acclaimed historian and New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea, applies his narrative skill to chronicling the astounding five-hundred-year voyage of Venice to the pinnacle of power. Tracing the full arc of the Venetian imperial saga for the first time, City of Fortune is framed around two of the great collisions of world history: the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminated in the sacking of Constantinople and the carve-up of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, and the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503, which saw the Ottoman Turks supplant the Venetians as the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. In between were three centuries of Venetian maritime dominance—years of plunder and plague, conquest and piracy—during which a tiny city of “lagoon dwellers” grew into the richest place on earth. Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion. Defiant of emperors, indifferent to popes, the Venetians saw themselves as reluctant freebooters, compelled to take to the open seas “because we cannot live otherwise and know not how except by trade.” From the opening of the spice routes to the clash between Christianity and Islam, Venice played a leading role in the defining conflicts of its time—the reverberations of which are still being felt today. Only an author with Roger Crowley’s deep knowledge of post-Crusade history could put these iconic events into their proper context. Epic in scope, magisterial in its understanding of the period, City of Fortune is narrative history at its most engrossing.

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    City of Fortune

    14.2 hrs • 1/1/11 • Unabridged
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  14. 14.0 hrs • 11/9/2010 • Unabridged

    The Venetians’ language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This latest work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its listeners to that sensual and surprising city. His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals, and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists—Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, and Tiepolo; and the ever-present undertone of Venice’s shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, and scandals and seductions. Ackroyd’s Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a number of themes. History and context are provided in each chapter, but Ackroyd’s portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide—enjoying Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.

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    Venice

    14.0 hrs • 11/9/10 • Unabridged
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  15. 0 reviews 0 5 3 3 out of 5 stars 3/5
    8.9 hrs • 9/7/2010 • Unabridged

    In 64 AD, on the night of July 19, a fire began beneath the stands of Rome’s great stadium, the Circus Maximus. The fire would spread over the coming days to engulf much of the city of Rome. From this calamity, one of the ancient world’s most devastating events, legends grew: that Nero had been responsible for the fire, and fiddled while Rome burned, and that Nero blamed the Christians of Rome, burning them alive in punishment, making them the first recorded martyrs to the Christian faith at Rome. The Great Fire of Rome opens at the beginning of 64 AD and follows the events in and around Rome as they unfold in the seven months leading up to the great fire. As the year progresses we learn that the infamous young emperor Nero, who was twenty-six at the time of the fire, is celebrating a decade in power. Yet the palace is far from complacent, and the streets of Rome are simmering with talk of revolt. Dando-Collins introduces the fascinating cavalcade of historical characters who were in Rome during the first seven months of 64 AD and played a part in the great drama. Using ancient sources, as well as modern archaeology, Dando-Collins describes the fire itself and its aftermath, as Nero personally directed relief efforts and reconstruction. The Great Fire of Rome is an unforgettable human drama that brings ancient Rome and the momentous events of 64 AD to scorching life.

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    The Great Fire of Rome by Stephen Dando-Collins

    The Great Fire of Rome

    8.9 hrs • 9/7/10 • Unabridged
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  16. 13.2 hrs • 11/16/2009 • Unabridged

    Nancy Goldstone portrays the riveting history of a beautiful queen, a shocking murder, a papal trial, and a reign as triumphant as any in the Middle Ages. On March 15, 1348, Joanna I, Queen of Naples, stood trial for her life before the pope and his court in Avignon. She was twenty-two years old. Her cousin and husband, Prince Andrew of Hungary, had recently been murdered, and Joanna was the chief suspect. Determined to defend herself, Joanna won her acquittal against enormous odds. Returning to Naples, she ruled over one of Europe’s most prestigious courts for more than thirty years—until she was herself murdered. As courageous as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as astute and determined as Elizabeth I of England, Joanna was the only female monarch in her time to rule in her own name. She was notorious: the taint of her husband’s death never quite left her. But she was also widely admired: dedicated to the welfare of her subjects and realm, she reduced crime, built hospitals and churches, and encouraged the licensing of women physicians. While a procession of the most important artists and writers of her day found patronage at her glittering court, the turmoil of her times swirled around her: war, plague, intrigue, and the treachery that would ultimately bring her down. As she did in her acclaimed Four Queens, Nancy Goldstone takes us back to the turbulent and colorful Middle Ages and with skill and passion brings fully to life one of history’s most remarkable women. Her research is impeccable, her eye for detail unerring, and in The Lady Queen she paints a captivating portrait of medieval royalty in all its incandescent complexity.

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    The Lady Queen

    13.2 hrs • 11/16/09 • Unabridged
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