Review: His Last Duchess

His Last Duchess
His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book held so much promise that it ultimately did not deliver on. Perhaps it was my fault for expecting too much from it, or maybe I was disappointed because I was expecting a gritty historical novel and was handed instead a sappy historical romance whose other man just happens to be a dark, brooding asshole that makes it seem like it will be a gritty historical novel. Whatever the reason, this book did not live up to my expectations.

The plot itself isn’t even adequately described on the back. The true plot is Lucrezia Medici is unsatisfied with her marriage to the brutish and impotent (only around her) Alfonso d’Este, and falls in love with the painter’s apprentice crafting the Castello’s latest fresco. Even that, however, is not an adequate description.

This novel reads very much like someone who watched Titanic, was disappointed that Jack died and decided they were going to rewrite the Titanic romance in the Italian Renaissance with historical figures and with the other man a complete douchebag. His name was Jacomo. There was even a scene where her lover started sketching her naked. Granted, it was after they had sex, but the entire scene was giving me extreme Titanic vibes. And Alfonso is the ship with a giant hole in it. This is honestly the best way I can think to describe this book.

Everyone in this world is a decent person at heart, except for Alfonso. As a general rule, I’m getting tired of the other man being an abusive jackass and that is why the heroine is driven to infidelity. In the case of Alfonso, is it not enough that he was impotent to drive her to the arms of another man? Or what is wrong with an arranged marriage simply not working out to drive the heroine elsewhere? Do we really have to dehumanize her husband in order to justify her having sex with someone else? It’s a sad state of the world when the only justifiable reason for a woman to have an affair without fear of being branded a slut is only when her husband is turned into a complete monster. With regards to the historical Alfonso, even if he were such a brute, it would not be so jarring if everyone else weren’t such a saint in comparison. Even the man who decided his daughter was a whore and told her she had to give up her baby when it was born went rushing after her as soon as he realized she was missing.

Speaking of decent people, poor Chiara only exists within the context of the book so that she may die in order for the heroine to have the happily ever after with her beloved. You brave, decent soul, thank you for sacrificing the negligible impact you had on the story so that Lucrezia could run away with the starving artist of her dreams.

In regards to the ending, I don’t understand why she didn’t use their names after they ran away together. It was almost as if she were trying to keep their identity a secret, but any clever reader is going to know that it is the hero and heroine having such a happy and loving moment at the end. So why all the secrecy? Speaking of names, I wished on more than one occasion that someone would call Lucrezia something other than cara. There is more than one pet name in all languages.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad book. It’s thoroughly researched and incredibly well-written. The fact that I finished reading it after I kept drawing comparisons to Titanic speaks volumes about her ability to keep a reader hooked. It was just not the book I was looking for. If, however, you are the type of person that would enjoy the love story of the Titanic set during the Italian Renaissance and with a happier ending, then by all means, read this book. You will absolutely love it.

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