Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

The Second DuchessTitle: The Second Duchess
Author: Elizabeth Loupas
Series: Stand Alone
Page: 368
Published: Available now from New American
ISBN: 9780451232151
Source: Publisher 

Description: In a city-state known for magnificence, where love affairs and conspiracies play out amidst brilliant painters, poets and musicians, the powerful and ambitious Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, takes a new bride. Half of Europe is certain he murdered his first wife, Lucrezia, the luminous child of the Medici. But no one dares accuse him, and no one has proof-least of all his second duchess, the far less beautiful but delightfully clever Barbara of Austria. At first determined to ignore the rumors about her new husband, Barbara embraces the pleasures of the Ferrarese court. Yet wherever she turns she hears whispers of the first duchess's wayward life and mysterious death. Barbara asks questions-a dangerous mistake for a duchess of Ferrara. Suddenly, to save her own life, Barbara has no choice but to risk the duke's terrifying displeasure and discover the truth of Lucrezia's death-or she will share her fate.

 I Give This ...

I've made a vow to read more historical fiction this year because it's a genre that I really enjoy.  I'm not very well rounded in it though since I tend to gravitate to those surrounding the English courts.   This one is set in the northern Italian province of Ferrara.  

Since I'm unfamiliar with other countries cities, courts and historical dates, I tend to be a little confused.  I wasn't with this one in the slightest.  The story was very easy to follow.  A huge bonus is that there isn't a huge cast of characters and the setting stays mainly in one location.  

Barbara was a very strong character.  Granted the best historical females usually are.  They have to be to have any sort of name in a time when females were little more than propriety, even those who had royal blood.  She's determined to show her husband that she is his equal.  At the same time, he's just as determined to put her in her place.  It made for some moments that really made me hold my breathe.  I wasn't sure that I liked Alfonso because of this.  But, at a time when love wasn't common in arranged marriages, I was more or less expecting this.   

The mystery surrounding the death of Alfonso's first wife was very well done.  It put the story on edge right from the very beginning.  I was really positive that he had something to do with since he had nothing but disdain for her.  I didn't think she deserved that.  As Barbara starts to ask questions, the attempts on her life begin.  I was surprised at Alfonso's reactions to these.  I expected him not to care, but he did just the opposite.  Turns out he needed a women who would test him and not run around behind him.

I was sad to learn what type of person that Lucrezia was.  That never ends well for anybody of royal blood.  Although, I was extremely surprised at who was the actual culprit behind her death and how far s/he would go to hid the truth.

Overall and excellent debut historical fiction.  I really enjoyed the characters and the story line.  I hope the author comes up with a second novel!

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