Barbara of Austria is the second duchess of Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara – his first duchess, Lucrezia de’ Medici having died mysteriously several years before. Barbara may not be the great beauty that wife #1 was, but she’s got brains and breeding and goes into the marriage with her eyes wide open and accepts her lot in life. Well sort of, because she’s soon hearing unsettling rumors that Lucrezia may have met an untimely end and Barbara decides to investigate for herself, which is no easy task when one’s every move is observed and reported back to one’s husband.  No surprise, but Barbara finds she’s opened a bigger can of worms then she really wanted and she finds herself having a few too many close accidents. Could it be Alfonso himself who did in Lucrezia and now has the same plans for her?  One of his jealous sisters? Or his brother the Cardinal? Or…

…I’m thinking you really don’t want me to tell you, do you? It’s a lot more fun to read it for yourself and see if you can guess. I enjoyed this book a lot, and found it a great change of pace and I’m hoping there will be more from Ms. Loupas in the near future. There are two narrators in this piece, one being Barbara and so as not to spoil the fun I won’t name the other but trust me, you’ll love the twist and the voice of both ladies, and that says a lot coming from one who doesn’t normally care for first person narratives. Barbara’s voice was very much what I would expect from a woman of her class and breeding, no stamping of feet demanding *twu wuv* forever. No hysterical pouts when she doesn’t get her way with her husband. How refreshing.

Ms. Loupas does a great job with her setting, giving the reader a good sense of time and place with realistic characters acting appropriately to their positions. All in all a very engaging read, a great mystery that keeps you guessing and turning the pages until the very end. Recommended.

FTC disclosure – I won a copy off of Librarything.