Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from the publisher for review
“The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke's entire inheritance–and Lucrezia's future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.”
The famous Robert Browning poem is getting quite the novel treatment these days – his first duchess, Lucrezia de Medici, and star of the poem, is featured in His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm while his second duchess, Barbara of Austria, is featured in His Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas. His Last Duchess by Kimm does a wonderful job of taking what is given in the poem and building an entire world around it. Almost every detail that is given in the poem is integrated in some way. Even if you know the poem quite well you are still surprised at the twists and turns that are made throughout the novel. I loved the ending – you were not really sure what they were going to do next – the writing really kept you on the edge of your seat.
There is a small secondary storyline about a young girl that occasionally runs through the first half of the novel and then ties into the second half and becomes very important. I wish that during the first half it had been given a feel of some importance because I honestly had no idea of the point of this plot and blew it off to some extent. Another storyline that was added into the novel is the addition of the artists who create a fresco for Alfonso as well as the portrait of Lucrezia featured in the poem. I thought that this really helped to connect the actual portrait to the story from the poem. I also subsequently learned a lot about frescoes. Kimm provides vivid descriptions of the world around the characters so that you can see everything, including the artwork, in great detail.
A word of warning – there are many discussions of sex throughout the novel – between Alfonso and his wife as well as with his whore. Sometimes these can be somewhat graphic and very dark. I understand that this was to create the dark and twisted nature of Alfonso so that we can understand the decisions that he makes – however, I wouldn’t recommend this book to a young teen reader. I would say for those 16 and older.
There is an upcoming spin-off novel coming out based on Franchesca – Alfonso’s whore. While she was a well developed character in the novel, I don’t know that I felt enough about her to care to read her own novel
Gabrielle Kimm has a spin-off book coming out soon (releasing in the UK November 24, 2011) – The Courtesan’s Lover. You can visit Kimm’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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