Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: His Last Duchess

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm

Publication Date: October 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 416pp
ISBN-13: 9781402261510
ISBN: 1402261519

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Gabrielle Kimm on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from His Last Duchess


That's My Last Duchess painted on the wall...

Seduced by the hot sun and blinding passions of Renaissance Italy, sixteen-year-old Lucrezia de' Medici sees a gilded life stretching ahead. Her wealthy new husband handpicked her to be his bride, and his great castle in Ferrara will be her playground. But Alfonso d' Este, Duke of Ferrara, quickly proves to be just as dangerous and mysterious as he is dark and handsome, and the stone walls of the castle seem to trap Lucrezia like a prison.

For the duke, a desperate need to produce an heir drives him deep inside the dark recesses of his complex mind. Only his lover Francesca seems able to tame him increasing fury, but Alfonso obsesses over the vicious plot he thinks will save him from disaster. With her head full of heartbroken dreams, Lucrezia flees down a dangerous path that may cost her everything. 


Gabrielle Kimm brings 16th century Italy to life in her book, His Last Duchess based loosely on the Robert Browning poem, "My Last Duchess." Much has been written over the years about the Medici family and it's presence in Italy. Kimm brings readers a portrait of a young passionate woman, who seems to have the whole world at her feet, yet she struggles against the control of a mad man. Alfonso d' Este Duke of Ferrara is a complex man ruled by his need to possess beautiful things, including his young wife. Kimm's ability to harness history and allow it drive her novel is exceptional. Readers will find themselves lost in this story and waiting with baited breath to see what happens next.

Being a former history major, historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's to read, whether is a romantic portrayal or a strictly historical account. But it isn't a genre that usually sparks staying up all night or biting my nails. Probably because it is rooted in history and stories that most readers already know the outcome about. But Gabrielle Kimm stretches the limits of historical fiction. Her portrayal of Lucrezia de' Medici is riveting. It will grip the reader and not let go. It is definitely what I would call a page turner, that will leave readers satisfied and feeling as if they were somehow a part of the story.

Kimm obviously knows her subject matter well, from the Browning poem to the sights and sounds of 16th century Italy. Her descriptive prowess is remarkable. Readers will find themselves transported through time and become lost in the imagery and details that Kimm brings out in this novel. An amazing amount of research had to go into a novel of this magnitude, and that will not be lost on readers who love rich period detail and a strong sense of time and place. 

The characters in this novel are so well drawn and explored. Lucrezia, is portrayed as a young woman, who may have been hand picked by the Duke to be his bride, but she isn't easily quelled. She is passionate and vibrant. Though she lives a privileged life, her suffering happens in private. Living with a man like Alfonso d' Este probably would have broken the spirit of many women, but Kimm shows Lucrezia as strong to the very end. The Duke is such a wonderfully written character. Though he obviously the villain, he is very complex and three dimensional character. The darkness in his soul seems to spill out into the novel and his madness is stark and raw. I thought he was the most interesting character in the book. The secondary characters are also well fleshed out and add to the overall sense of desperation that permeates the book. 

Kimm keeps the action high and intense throughout the novel and holds the interest of the reader easily. There are so many twists and turns that the reader will have a hard time figuring out how this one will end. The conclusion is very satisfying and readers will have to set back and take a breath when they turn the last page. They will probably forget they were holding it through the last few chapters. Excellent story, well drawn characters and highly enjoyable!

His Last Duchess is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book  bag!

Gabrielle Kimm is a graduate of the creative writing master's program at the University of Chichester. She is writing her second novel, The Courtesan's Lover, which features one of the characters of His Last Duchess as the heroine.

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