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.
“I’ve always loved Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’ and the way Loupas springboards from that is a delight. I can hear the voice of Browning’s duke in her Alfonso, and the way she departs from it into a mystery is very satisfying. The clothes, the manners, the food and decorations! She creates such a vivid sense of the magnificence of an Italian Renaissance court with her tissues of silver and braids of emeralds, silk stomachers and damascene daggers, candied angelica and rice pudding rolled in cinnamon; festivals, hunts, and balls all the more splendid because of the poisons and thumbscrews and murder going on underneath. Alfonso is fascinating…but Barbara is the jewel here. Her courage and candor seduce the reader as well as her enigmatic new husband. Applause for Elizabeth Loupas. I loved it.” —Cecelia Holland, author of The Secret Eleanor and one of my favorite books of all time, Great Maria.
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