The Second Duchess

Finally, I got to read The Second Duchess. Seems like I’ve been waiting forever for it to come out. Let me tell you, this book was well worth the wait. It's a rare thing today to read an historical, which can whisk me through a time portal and give me the feel I'm actually there. This one did and I was in the court of Ferrara and I didn't want to return home. I was having too much fun figuring out the mystery with Barbara of Austria. :-)

The Second Duchess a sumptuous feast of colors, foods, dress, and political intrigues of Renaissance Italy and the court of the Duke of Ferrara. This was not a story in which you barely recognized the time period and have a modern love story between characters dressed in costume. This story gives you a glimpse of the pomp and pageantry of the court as well as being true to the mores of the time--ie the attitudes and formality between a power couple such as the sister of an emperor, Barbara of Hapsburg, and the ruling duke of the city state, Alfonso d'Este. The state of the church during this time with the rather loose morals when it came to fulfilling their vows. Even the pope had a mistress and some had children during this time period so it was no surprise to see worldly bishops or mother superiors acting the same. I appreciated how Elizabeth portrayed how servants really acted, and how aristocratic ladies in waiting really behaved towards each other and to the one they served. The power the man had over the women in his life. How an arranged marriage between virtual strangers could become a love story.

This is a wonderful Gothic styled mystery fraught with passion, intrigued and danger. Who killed Lucrezia de Medici? Did the Duke kill her as the gossips of the European and Ferrara royal courts whisper?

I love the way Elizabeth intertwines the Two Duchess' stories with both having a say as the story progressed; one tells the story from her point of view as a ghost (immobili) and the other is the main narrator and a wife in fear of her life. I'll tell you, it wasn't easy to figure out who was actually guilty of the murder. Facts were presented and the reader was on the hunt for the truth as much as Barbara was. Well paced with plenty of tension. And of course the "Pocket Beagles", Tristo and Isa, the darling little heroes of the day.

If you like a rich in culture historical served with a dollop of romance and an extra serving of a spicy mystery, you're going to love The Second Duchess. I know I did and I didn’t want it to end. This is an outstanding story, beautifully written, well researched with realistic pageants and festivities, the dialog is distinctive to each character and moves the story along, the mystery and suspense is well done. 

Book Blurb for The Second Duchess

A rich, compelling historical novel-and a mystery of royal intrigue.

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.

Night Owl Reviews Mar, 2011 5.00