Kimm, Gabrielle. His Last Duchess

Sphere, $32.99

They say you shouldn’t judge your historical romance by its cover, but just look at that cover. What a bodice. Frills, brocade, and ribbons all just asking to be unlaced, undone and above all, ripped.

Brand new bride 16-year-old Lucrezia de’Medici would love a good bodice-ripping, but her husband, the fifth Duke of Ferrera, seems disinclined to the point of impotence. The Duke is a Villain. We know this because he’s the one perennially clad in black. And he’s got a big scary dog, a strumpet on call, and an interest in falconry. He’s a vision of towering machismo, with one dishonor: he just can’t seem to bed his beautiful teenage wife. This is important, because without a legitimate heir (his illegitimate 6-year-old twin girls are of no consequence), the Roman Catholic Church will reclaim his estate.

Who can satisfy the yearnings of a frustrated duchess? Enter Jacomo, the lusty artist who is creating a masterpiece fresco for the Castelllo Estense. Jacomo is tall, dark, handsome, and humble. He’s even saving his employer’s reputation by letting him take all the credit for Jacomo’s artistic genius. So before the plaster on the castle walls is dry, Jacomo and Lucrezia are trysting their nights away. And sometimes even their afternoons. The young lovers plan an escape, but the Duke has other more sinister plans afoot.

Inspired by a poem by Robert Browning and based loosely on actually historical figures, this rendering of sixteenth century Italy contains some interesting material about frescos.

 

Reviewed December 2010

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