review: The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas
from Amazon… 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…
I’ve read my fair share of historical (romance type) fiction, most have been about falling in love with someone above/below your station, about a soft and gentle hero…this is not one of those books. Alfonso is all about preserving and advancing his ducal standing, which means he is hard, brutal and unrelenting. He very carefully selected his second wife, and it was not for love. AND he is very much a husband of the 16th century, he rules the household. Period. Through the course of the book and while piecing together the mystery, you quickly learn why Alfonso is harsh – one is not powerful without enemies.
As for Barbara, she was ready to be free of her country life and highly anticipating a life of courtly living, adventure. While she was unprepared for the harshness of Alonso and his court, she quickly learned how to play the game. She was surprising, daring, clever and sympathetic.
The mystery is probably one of the best aspects of the story; it’s intriguing and leaves the reader constantly guessing. It’s like the game CLUE, trying to figure out who was the killer and what “weapon” was used.
While I enjoyed the mystery and the angst understanding (love?) between Alfonso and Barbara, I didn’t like the immobili, the ghost aspect. I felt it cheated the reader; it shared too much and gave too much reasoning, too much insight.
I give this book 3 STACKS
See you in the STACKS,
Stacy, who very much liked the ginger heroine!