This book is not only the story of the twisted Duke of Ferrera, Alfonso and his wife Lucrezia de Medici, but also of a whole group of people who rely on the two for support, either financially or emotionally. When Lucrezia and the Duke marry, Lucrezia is looking forward to her new life as wife, mother, Duchess. On their wedding night, the sadistic Duke finds that he can't reconcile his perfect still-life image of what his Duchess should be with the real girl in front of him, and thus begins two frustrating years of impotence which he increasingly blames on Lucrezia. When the Vatican tells him that the Duchy will be forfeit if he does not produce an heir, he decides he must be rid of his imperfect Duchess...meanwhile Lucrezia has found happiness in the arms of a simple painter's apprentice who has been working in their castello. Will they be found out? And can the people who truly care for Lucrezia save her in time? The prologue suggests not, and I will say no more.
The book is based on a poem by Robert Browning, and it is pretty amazing that the author wrote an entire novel (and sequel which I look forward to reading!)based on such a short poem. This was well-researched and written and I enjoyed it.
I am currently reading the sequel, The Courtesan's Lover and quite enjoying it! Look for my review soon!