The Second Duchess - Elizabeth Loupas The Second Duchess is entirely different from what I usually read; ergo, I had no idea what to expect from this book. Which is why it was surprising when it turned out to be an extremely interesting and thoroughly delightful read.

Barbara is an archduchess from Austria, betrothed to the duke of Ferrara. Said duke's first wife dies under very suspicious circumstances and everyone believes the duke to be the murderer. Despite her misgivings, Barbara is determined to be the ultimate wife and duchess, highlighting her proper upbringing. Curiosity gets the best of her, however, and she finds herself tangled up in the mystery of who killed the first duchess. That proves to be a more dangerous task than it seems, though, when Barbara becomes the target of several assassination attempts because someone wants her to stop asking so many questions.

Alfonso is the cold and dangerous duke. For most of the book, he's made out to be a hard-hearted and arrogant man, but while he doesn't quite undergo a personalty transplant by the end, he certainly becomes a lot more likable. And I love the way the duke refers to Barbara as Madonna! He makes even that formal word seem like the utmost endearment.

Barbara is an extremely clever and sharp-witted woman. Her brilliant yet stiff upbringing shows in her personality and her composure under every duress is rather admirable. She's everything I imagined a proper duchess would be like.

If you're a huge fan of romance (like me) and usually aren't interested in a book unless it has lots of said factor in it (also like me), then this book is probably not for you. But if you happen to appreciate a good mystery and adore history (me again), then go ahead and give The Second Duchess a try, because it certainly doesn't disappoint when it comes to the suspense, action, intrigue, and mystery aspect of the story. You'll be left guessing as to the real murderer of the first duchess until the very last chapter!