The Second Duchess
NAL, Mar 1 2011, $15.00
In December 1565 powerful widower Alfonso d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara, marries Austrian virgin Barbara. Although she has heard he murdered his first wife, the notorious Lucrezia of the de’Medici family, she figures her spouse will be a less of a hell than her sibling though she knows she is much older than the first wife and nowhere as pretty. Thus Barbara concludes the marriage is a means of escaping from the control of her brother Emperor Maximilian II and avoiding an undesirable stay at a convent of her sibling’s choosing.
Barbara enjoys living at the Ferrarese court, but detests the whisperers that her husband killed her defiant predecessor. She errs when she begins to ask questions at the court as those who want to rid the court of a rival for power gleefully inform the Duke and those in his inner circle that the Duchess is interrogating people. Fearing for her life as threats mount, Barbara investigates what happened to Lucrezia in an attempt to avoid joining the first wife in death.
With homage to Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess", Elizabeth Loupas writes a powerful Renaissance biographical fiction starring a brave intelligent heroine who walks on an extremely thin tightrope that is being shaken by wicked whisperers, avaricious adversaries and her harsh husband. Readers, even those who know the history of Barbara, will wonder whether her Alfonso will prove to be a widower maker in this delightful glimpse into the late sixteenth century court of Ferrara.