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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2010
Historical fiction isn't normally my first choice of reading, but this book has made me reconsider my options. Not only is is very well written (the carefully chosen similes are particularly effective), but it shows great depth of research into C16 century Italy and leaves you with far greater historical knowledge than you started out with (in my case, anyway!). The historical detail is not just tagged on, but is essential to the plot. It is often cleverly used, so that we gain great insights into the art of fresco painting, for example, which is key to the storyline, but, because of the great detail, it acts as a brake to the pace, to keep us in more suspense. This novel is a mixture of romance and dark doings, the most effectively drawn character being the complex Duke Alfonso. When he features, the pages spring to life. Is he the Italian Heathcliff? Although the book is undoubtedly a great page turner, it stays with you once you have finished it. An excellent first novel.
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on 5 August 2010
"His Last Duchess" is a wonderfully evocative picture of 16th Century Italy, combined with a touching love story and a thrilling who-dun-it plot, that I couldn't put down! Gabrielle Kimm was inspired to write this book by Browning's sinister poem,"My Last Duchess", in which the speaker, Alfonso d'Este, is describing the portrait of the woman to whom he was married; as the poem unfolds, we realise that her demise may not have been natural! Indeed, historically, Lucrezia di Medici, who was the Duchess in question, vanished from sight three years after her marriage to d'Este, and there are no historical records of what happened to her. Kimm has taken this enigmatic poem, and spun a captivating possibile explanation of it, telling the story with vivid language, and painting unforgettable pictures, which linger in the memory long after the end - which I won't give away! Her research is meticulous (for example, the descriptions of fresco painting, from preparation to completion, are fascinating), and her scene setting has the immediacy and clarity of cinema, so that I found myself almost watching the novel, as the plot unfolded. Kimm is to be congratulated on a first novel that combines the elements of history, romance and mystery in one very readable and thoroughly enjoyable whole. I look forward very much to the next book.
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on 17 September 2012
I have loved the restoration novels by Fidelis Morgan, so was looking forward to reading 'His Last Duchess' and I was riveted from the start. It was fascinating to be transported back to a time when, for a woman, it wasn't only a bodice that was suffocating and a woman's value was more akin to that of a brood mare than a human being.

All the characters are beautifully drawn and the complexity and frustrations for both the men and women of that period are very well described. I could feel myself walking around the endless corridors and hearing the noises of the house and smelling the food that was being prepared.

An intelligent and entertaining read and, even better, you get to follow Francesca, the lover, in the follow-up book 'The Courtesan's Lover' which is another must read.
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on 5 December 2011
His Last Duchess is the debut novel by Author Gabrielle Kimm.

At just 16 years of age, it is Lucrezia de' Medici destiny to marry the fifth Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este. Despite her rose-tinted glasses of what marriage to a Duke would be like, she couldn't be any further from the reality!

With outside pressure from Vatican to produce an Heir to be able to keep the title within his family, this is not as easy as it should be. Alfonso becomes more resentful and distant towards his Duchess and runs into the arms of his Mistress, Francesca. Unknown to Lucrezia that this is going on behind her back but his absence makes her feel more and more alone.

When Alfonso hires the talented Artist, Fra Pandolf to paint the Fresco masterpiece, could the sitting for this be the distraction she needs? Can she find happiness within the Castello grounds? Can Alfonso grow to love his Duchess or has his resentment gone too far?

What a fantastic read! Originally inspired by a Robert Browning poem, His Last Duchess. Gabrielle has written a tragic yet very passionate story full of betrayal and twisting plots. everything you'd expect from a Historical novel.

I adore this genre and certainly was not disappointed. Set in sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara, packed full of historical facts that clearly Gabrielle has spent a huge amount of time researching. Great story, beautifully written with lots of "behind closed doors" activity that is very appropriate to the period of the story. Whilst it rather detailed in places, it fits perfectly within the text and not at all out-of-place. Wonderful strong characters and relationship, particular mention about the Duchess's Childhood Nurse, Giulietta and the wonderful closeness they shared. Also loved Francesca's character.

Passion, heartbreak, illicit affairs and sorrow makes this a must read - fabulous!
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on 5 December 2011
This book is excellent. It should be a best seller. I think it holds up against writers such as Phillipa Gregory.

The plot holds you and is fast paced, whilst giving a good idea of the life of a woman living in Italy at that time.

You hope it will come out all right in the end - but will it, how can it? There is more than one plot and the story interweaves. I cant remember now because i read it too fast. So i am going to have to re-read it soon. I hardly ever re-read books - so theres a recommendation for you.

Give this book a try - i was not interested in history/romances before i read The other Boleyn Girl. But there is so much more to these types of books than history, but what history there is brings it to life in a way i never understood it before. Now i know thats been said many times before but its so true.

Its a different world so try it if you like Sci fi also, or time travel. Well there you are it can appeal to all, those who like biographies too.

I will be actively seeking out this writers 2 other books.
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on 3 August 2010
If you want a really good read, His Last Duchess is just what you need.
I took this book on holiday and was captivated by the wonderful descriptions and attention to detail that Gabrielle Kimm has captured in her first novel. Sixteenth Century Italy really came alive for me, as did the characters.
As a set designer, I visualise books in terms of potential films and this book really inspired my imaginative side. Gabrielle has researched thoroughly, and has written an intriguing story with twists and turns and a definite dark side to the narrative, which holds your attention right up until its final climax.
I really enjoyed this book and cant wait for the next one.
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2010
This is the sort of book to take away with you on a wet weekend as it immediately conjures a sense of the hot sun of Renaissance Italy.One of Gabrielle Kimm's strengths is that she is able to convey that heat and light to someone like me, sitting in Cumbria with the grey rain sheeting down outside. Her other strength is in describing the minutiae of life in a Tuscan estate, including a wonderful description of the kitchens, the intricacies of falconry, the manufacture of lime, and most of all the lost art of fresco painting. Impeccably researched, the history is woven fluidly into the plot so that you never feel as if it is slowing the story.The plot is fast-moving and unfolds from the poem with inevitability, but there is a twist in the tale which is very satisfying to the reader - I shan't spoil it for you though.

Lucrezia comes across as a sweet-natured heroine, out of her depth in a marriage to the sinister and controlling Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara. In many ways his conflicted character drives the book, and the reader is both fascinated and repulsed by his developing psychology. In terms of the poem, Gabrielle Kimm has managed to make sense of the hidden story behind the monologue, and I doubt if I will ever be able to read the poem again without remembering this book.

One word of warning though for parents and teachers who might buy this book for a child who is studying the poem - best read it yourself before giving it to younger readers - not just because it is an excellent book, but because you might want to check out the adult nature of the themes before passing it on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the character of Francesca, Alfonso's whore, is one I look forward to meeting in Gabrielle's next book, The Courtesan's Choice.
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on 30 March 2011
I really loved this book! The story, the setting, the characters, the writing --- everything was absolutely superb. Ms. Kimm's style of writing is so wonderfully descriptive without ever being overburdened by unnecessary details. Right from the start I was drawn completely into the story, and truly felt like I'd been transported right back to Renaissance Italy. In that way, reading this book felt very much like watching a movie --- the scenes unfolded right before my eyes.

The characters were all vividly drawn --- they all felt absolutely real to me, particularly Lucrezia, Alfonso, Francesca and Jacomo! And I have to say, they stayed with me at all hours. They kept me from falling asleep at night and crept into my thoughts during the day.

Lucrezia, the happy, carefree girl who is suddenly thrust into a situation she doesn't understand (and how could she?!?!). She's such a charming heroine that I kept hoping and wishing for her to have a happy end.

Alfonso, who seems charming at first but who quickly turns out to be a coldhearted, controlling man for whom Lucrezia is not much more than a possession to show off. Alfonso is a cold and distant man whose thoughts are often disturbing, and who is slowly driven into a sort of madness by his inabilty to have a sexual relationship with his wife. There is a darkness in him from the start, and it only intensifies as the story unfolds.

And Jacomo, who truly loves Lucrezia and wants nothing more than to see her safe and happy. Sweet Jacomo who is light where Alfonso is dark.

"His last duchess" is a captivating and beautifully written novel of historical fiction, one that kept me immersed in its story from the first page to the last, and one whose characters I will not soon forget. There was even a point in the book at which I seriously considered calling in sick at work so I could keep reading --- it was that good!!!

I will definitely re-read it in the future, and I look forward to the release of Ms. Kimm's next book, "The Courtesan's Choice".
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on 12 February 2013
Rich in historical texture, pulsing with emotion, this is a vividly imagined and much-expanded retelling of a Robert Browning poem. Gabrielle Kimm does a great job of getting inside the heads and beneath the skins of her characters (not to mention under their bodices). The complex and conflicted Alfonso is particularly compelling. An entertaining and enjoyable read that makes light of all the masses of meticulous research that must have gone into the writing.
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on 9 August 2010
I devoured this book, simply couldn't put it down over the weekend. It is a lush and luscious story of forbidden love; we follow the heroine as an innocent and idealistic young woman, dreaming of the perfect marriage with her handsome husband Alfonso, through to the reality... She goes from living in her family's beautiful, summery Tuscan estate to the dark and brooding castle owned by her husband in Ferrara. She is trapped.

I found this book utterly sexy and beautifully written, it has a good cast of supporting characters and an explosive and unexpected ending that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Read it, you'll be transported to Italy, and swept up in this enchanting story of love.
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