The Second Duchess

( 27 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Second Duchess

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Robert Browning's classic poem "My Last Duchess" provides the starting point for Loupas's winning debut set in Renaissance Italy. Barbara of Austria, the virgin bride of Alfonso d'Este, the fifth and last Borgia duke of Ferrara, has heard rumors that Alfonso murdered his first wife, but by marrying the duke she has escaped the convent as well as her controlling brother, Maximilian II. "Banquets and music, dancing and fashion, loving and loathing--everything is an art in Ferrara," one of the duke's sisters tells Barbara, who must carefully maneuver around the gossip about her predecessor, gossip that the duke has forbidden, as she seeks to establish herself at court. Meanwhile, spies lurk around every corner, ready to besmirch her reputation and standing. Readers will warm immediately to the clever, intelligent Barbara, while the demanding, sometimes brutal, Alonso makes an intriguing man of mystery. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451232151
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 419,276
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Loupas has held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant. She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Recommended to anyone who loves historical fiction and mysteries!

    Let me first start off by saying that I will most assuredly be gushing about this book. And it will be a lengthy post because there is so much to share. Debut author Elizabeth Loupas has hooked me in with The Second Duchess, which was just released this month. Go to the store, flip through the pages...

    Scandal and murder... this was life in 16th century Italy, and more specifically, Barbara of Austria and her marriage to Alphonso. Thus, the Duke and second Duchess of Ferrara begin their marriage with a whispering servant in Barbara's ear...did you know that his first wife was murdered, and that he murdered her...

    When Barbara of Austria marries Alphonso, the Duke of Ferrara, rumors wind their way around the Duke's previous marriage to Lucrezia de' Medici, a young fifteen-year-old girl from Florence. That marriage ended with an untimely death after the Duke confined her to a monastery. Barbara, intelligent and independent for a woman of her time, begins to secretly ask questions about what happened to Lucrezia, but as she begins her investigation, she herself becomes the victim of attempts on her own life.

    With an intriguing character introduced into the story that I cannot give away, I found I was absolutely captivated. Elizabeth Loupas has developed an elegant whodunit wrapped in Italy in the 16th century. Detailed descriptions carry the reader into a comprehensive and enthralling story that I couldn't put down. While Barbara of Austria was compelling and engaging, and I enjoyed her spirit and intelligence as she slowly began to piece the puzzle together, I found that I was also pulled into the Duke's conflicted emotions and mannerisms. He was both very much a man of his day, but at times, so much a modern man of our contemporary times. Now this... this was a book. A book that I loved.

    I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mysteries, and Italy... I loved this book!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    Review by Violet Yates

    First and foremost, I must say, "BRAVO!" I absolutely loved this book. Elizabeth Loupas did a brilliant job knitting all of the pieces of this story together, accomplishing something a lot of authors only dream of being capable of doing.
    The story, set in the 16th century Italian city-state of Ferrara, surrounds the mystery behind the death of the stunningly beautiful and youthful first Duchess of Ferrara, Lucrezia Medici; the Duke, Alfonso d'Este, was rumored to have murdered her. The Duke has married again, this time taking to wife Barbara of Austria, a twenty-six year old woman who is not known for her beauty. From the moment of her wedding, Barbara is subjected to the intrigue of the court- there seems to be no end to the gossip of the Duke's first duchess, and she is the target of not only that, but veiled threats as well. Spurred at first by curiosity, then by necessity, Barbara takes it upon herself to discover what actually happened to Lucrezia Medici and therefore vouchsafe her own safety. Her husband the Duke is at first kept in the dark about his wife's sleuthing, and treats her rather cruelly for her disobedience when he discovers her secret investigation. As the story progresses, however, we begin to see a change in his demeanor and he becomes redeemable. Throughout the story, we are given insight into the character of the first duchess, Lucrezia, in the form of an inner monologue from the woman's ghost.
    This story is rich and full of life, true to the Renaissance Era. The mention of the English legend of Tristan and Isolde (Barbara receives beagle puppies from Queen Elizabeth and names them Tristram and Iseult), endeared me further to the story. Loupas put a lot of work into this novel; her knowledge of the Italian Renaissance Era is apparent. Her ability to use that knowledge to create such a wonderful historical mystery puts her on par with the likes of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory. I hope to read more novels by Elizabeth Loupas.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I bought this book because I love Robert Browning's poetry. I had a one on one class solely focused on Robert Browning. The book was very well done. The characters are well drawn and stay in the period intended. I can only hope the author keeps writing.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    review taken from One Book At A Time

    I've made a vow to read more historical fiction this year because it's a genre that I really enjoy. I'm not very well rounded in it though since I tend to gravitate to those surrounding the English courts. This one is set in the northern Italian province of Ferrara.

    Since I'm unfamiliar with other countries cities, courts and historical dates, I tend to be a little confused. I wasn't with this one in the slightest. The story was very easy to follow. A huge bonus is that there isn't a huge cast of characters and the setting stays mainly in one location.

    Barbara was a very strong character. Granted the best historical females usually are. They have to be to have any sort of name in a time when females were little more than propriety, even those who had royal blood. She's determined to show her husband that she is his equal. At the same time, he's just as determined to put her in her place. It made for some moments that really made me hold my breathe. I wasn't sure that I liked Alfonso because of this. But, at a time when love wasn't common in arranged marriages, I was more or less expecting this.

    The mystery surrounding the death of Alfonso's first wife was very well done. It put the story on edge right from the very beginning. I was really positive that he had something to do with since he had nothing but disdain for her. I didn't think she deserved that. As Barbara starts to ask questions, the attempts on her life begin. I was surprised at Alfonso's reactions to these. I expected him not to care, but he did just the opposite. Turns out he needed a women who would test him and not run around behind him.

    I was sad to learn what type of person that Lucrezia was. That never ends well for anybody of royal blood. Although, I was extremely surprised at who was the actual culprit behind her death and how far s/he would go to hid the truth.

    Overall and excellent debut historical fiction. I really enjoyed the characters and the story line. I hope the author comes up with a second novel!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Elizabeth Loupas writes a powerful Renaissance biographical fiction

    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.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Renaissance Italy is my favourite genre of historical fiction, a

    Renaissance Italy is my favourite genre of historical fiction, and Elizabeth Loupas has written a wonderful story about two of this era's leading ladies. When Barbara of Austria marries Alfonso d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara, she has no idea she will be forced to encounter the ghost of his first wife, Lucrezia, who was said to have been poisoned. For the sake of her marriage, Barbara does her best to ignore the rumours, but she soon finds her husband to be less than what he appears. He is arrogant, coldly assessing, and a man who would be more than capable of murder to suit his own needs. Despite all this, Barbara is determined to unearth the secrets behind a hidden painting of his first wife and how and why she died.




    The story is told through the points of view of Barbara and the ghost of Lucrezia - a fascinating tool that I found very powerful when it came to the development of both characters. These two distinct voices highlighted the differences and the similarities between the two minutes. But it was through the malevolent spirit of Lucrezia who revealed the secrets of her marriage. 




    I loved this story. It engrossed me from the very first page and held my interest until the gripping ending. The author has done an excellent job of bring the royal courts of Renaissance Italy to vibrant life. The characters are ever evolving, always doing the unexpected, and becoming larger than life as more and more secrets are exposed. This is a wonderfully engaging story! One of the best in the genre of Italian historical fiction.

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    excellent

    excellent

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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