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.
The Second Duchess is one of the best historical fiction novels that I’ve read in awhile! I love pretty much any type of historical fiction, but the author, Elizabeth Loupas, added a twist to this historical fiction novel by adding the element of mystery.
Apparently the Duke of Ferrara has long been suspected of killing his first bride, the flighty Lucrezia de Medici. When his second wife, Barbara of Austria, moves to Ferrara it is immediately put into her head that the first duchess was murdered. Those who are putting these ideas in her head are those who are against the Duke of Ferrara and Barbara of Austria's marriage. Barbara is a strong willed and intelligent woman who decides to take it upon herself to find out the truth of the suspicious death of Lucrezia. At first when the Duke of Ferrara finds out, Barbara is punished, but as he grows to respect her he gives her more freedom to ask questions and find answers. The part that I really liked is that the author has Lucrezia’s “immobila” (basically her ghost) following the action and the investigation the whole time, and giving hints here and there (to the reader) of what really happened. I was unable to guess who the murderer was until the very end of the novel! I would be set on believing that one person had been the murderer, and then another clue would come about that showed that they could not have been the person who murdered Lucrezia. I also liked that Loupas didn’t make Lucrezia’s “ghost” out to be some creepy, haunting presence. Only the reader knows that she is there, and all she does is comment on certain things that happen in the investigation and in the lives of her former husband and his new duchess.
This was the first book I have read in awhile just for me, not for a review. It was nice to sit back and read and not worry about taking notes down. Although, I find that I forget quite a few parts of books when I don’t write things down! I would definitely recommend this book to historical fiction lovers. I knew nothing of Lucrezia de Medici or Barbara of Austria prior to reading this novel. I had heard of the Duke of Ferrara before, but not of this Duke of Ferrara, so it was very interesting to read about the history of a different group of people, with the author's amazing creative license of course!
It is definitely a book worth 5 out of 5 stars!