Review: His Last Duchess

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9781402261510
Expected publication: October 1st 2011 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Rating: 4, DNF

(From Goodreads) When sixteen-year-old Lucrezia de' Medici marries the fifth Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este, she imagines life with her handsome husband will be idyllic. But little does she know that he is a very complicated man. The marriage is fraught with difficulties from the start, and, as time passes, Lucrezia becomes increasingly alienated. For Alfonso, the pressure mounts as the Vatican threatens to reclaim his title should the couple remain unable to produce an heir. Only his lover Francesca seems able to tame his increasing fury. But Alfonso's growing resentment towards his duchess soon becomes unbearable, and he begins to plot an unthinkable way to escape his problems. Originally inspired by a Robert Browning poem, His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara. It is a story you are unlikely to forget for a long time

Here's the tricky part about His Last Duchess: It was really good, but I couldn't make myself finish it.

It was good because it was a well written character-driven novel. This means the novel progresses and is interesting not because of what happens, but because of the character's feelings and thoughts and how it happens. A good character-driven novel is hard to find these days.

It was also good because it had serious conflict that made me want to keep reading so I could see it resolved.

But this is why I couldn't finish it: It was painful to read. If you've been following my blog for any time at all you know I'm a romantic at heart. Poor Lucrezia was practically raped on her wedding night, her husband didn't respect her personality,  he didn't give her a place in the home other than the trophy on the shelf, and he didn't appreciate her. And because I know the poem, I have a general idea of how much worse it will get (I'm about 140 pages in). Now, I know and love Robert Browning's poem My Last Duchess, which is the poem the novel is based off of. We discussed it in British Literature class extensively. It's one of my favorite poems and I knew to expect this. The character is right. Kimm portrayed exactly the man Browning was writing about. This is why it's so good. But this is also why I just couldn't keep reading it. Maybe I'm too much of a softie, but I wasn't enjoying it. And I firmly believe that if you're not enjoying a book, there's no reason to keep reading it.

Again, I give it 4 stars because it's good. But it just wasn't the kind of book I can enjoy, even though I truly wish I could.

Content/Recommendation: Some sex, little language. Ages 18+

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