Stacy's Reviews > His Last Duchess

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm
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Mar 31, 12

Read from March 26 to 31, 2012

This book is a little hard to pin down. I guess it's part of my lack of discretion when it comes to free/cheap e-books, but I generally don't look very deeply into the story synopses. Just from the cover and the brief on-line description, I just assumed it was another standard historical romance, set in medieval Italy. I suppose this could nominally be called a romance, but it's not standard by any means--it's much more a dark psychological drama, focused more on the sexual deviance of the Duke of Ferrera and its impact on the rest of the characters.

I found myself repeatedly questioning why the author would take the approach she did, but at the conclusion of the book, Robert Browning's poem "His Last Duchess", which was the inspiration for the story, was included and everything became clear. I don't specifically remember reading this poem previously, but its tone reminded me of my own favorite poem from high school, Browning's "The Laboratory." (and I freely admit I didn't remember the author nor the name, just the macabre subject matter--thank you, Google!) With that reference material in hand, I can say that the book was an interesting imagining of the story behind the story--the duke who is obviously obsessed with the painting (and love-hate memory) of his last duchess even though he did away with her and is now shopping for a new duchess. I agree with the author that the discovery that the poem is based on a real Duke of Ferrera and his wife, Lucrezia di Medici, makes the story even more fascinating.

That being said, I can't truly say that I "liked" it. I gave it three stars because it was decently written and I frequently had a hard time putting it down, but the subject matter was just too disturbing. (view spoiler) I've read plenty of books that disturbed me that I still came out of saying, "That's amazing!" but this one just didn't quite have that something to get it to that point.
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