The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas
Historical Romance -March 1st, 2011
Barbara is part of Austria’s illustrious Hapsburg family. She is the sister of the Emperor and selected as the bride of the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d’Este. But when she arrives at the duke’s court, she is dazzled by the sumptuous elegance and blinding magnificence. But all that glitters is not gold. Beneath all the beauty, terrible secrets and ugly power struggles lay wait to trap Barbara and to doom her marriage. There is a hideous rumor that the Duke had killed his first wife, Lucrezia de’ Medici. Her death has exacerbated the intense rivalry between the Medicis and the d’Este. However, Alfonso had forbidden his new wife ever to mention Lucrezia or ask any questions. But Barbara decides to launch a secret investigation into the death of Lucrezia.
Did Alfonso kill Lucrezia? Will Barbara learn to trust her husband and discover who are her allies and foes before it is too late?
Strictly speaking, this book is 90% historical mystery and 10% paranomal. If you are looking for a pure historical romance, you may be disappointed. The romance part was mostly about how Alfonso and Barbara slowly grew to respect and adjust to each other and their marriage. Over time, you sense that they grow to love and cherish each other, but let’s face it, the who-done-it mystery aspect is the main star of the show.
The Second Duchess is such an intriguing and suspenseful read that I could not put it down at all. Loupas is a masterful writer who draws out the tension in the book and keeps the reader guessing at every page. I could not figure out who’s the murderer until it was revealed in the end. Needless to say, the answer was very satisfying and the story a wild, wild ride.
The other part I really liked about this book was Lucrezia’s narrative. In this book, there are two narrators - Barbara and Lucrezia. Lucrezia’s ghost lingered in the castle, unable to go to either hell or purgatory. At the end of every chapter, Lucrezia tells her side of the story. While unconventional, Lucrezia’s voice is very powerful and packs a lot of punch. She doesn’t tell you who killed her, but drops tantalizing hints. As the book progresses, you felt sorrier and sorrier for her.
An outstanding historical thriller, this is a must read for all those who are searching for a GREAT read. The romance may be light, but the Second Duchess is bursting at its seams with danger and excitement.
Reviewed by Pauline from the Bookaholics Romance book Club