From Goodreads: 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.
My Thoughts: I must say that I LOVED this book. After reading Loupas' novel, The Flower Reader, I knew I wanted to read more of her work so I picked up The Second Duchess. This book did not disappoint. It is about historical figures that I have never heard of which added to its' appeal as it wasn't another tired out Tudor story. Alfonso d'Este was the grandson of Lucrezia Borgia which creates an aura of mystery around the story. Barbara and Alfonso are both interesting characters. For most of the book, I wanted to like Alfonso and didn't but he slowly redeemed himself. I really liked how his soft side slowly came to the surface throughout the story. Barbara was a great character too in that she wasn't the naive pretty young bride that seems to feature in many other works of historical fiction. She was older and smarter and I loved how she always stood up to Alfonso even though she was a little afraid of him.
Not only is this book a great work of historical fiction, it is also an awesome mystery. From the beginning, I was sure that I knew what happened. There are a lot of secondary characters lurking around in the story and each of them was just suspicious enough to make me unsure who was the bad guy. As things started to twist and turn, I found myself questioning whether or not I had the mystery figured out and I definitely did not. The Second Duchess is a well-woven tale that I could not put down. I hope Loupas is working on another book because I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. 4 1/2 stars.