Francesca Felizzi, former mistress of the Duke of Ferrara, is now an aspiring courtesan. Astonishingly beautiful and ambitious, she revels in the power she wields over men. But when she is visited by an inexperienced young man, it becomes horribly clear to Francesca that despite her many admiring patrons, she has never truly been loved. Suddenly, her glittering and sumptuous life becomes a gaudy facade. And then another unexpected encounter brings with it devastating implications that plunge Francesca and her two young daughters into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began to work the streets all those years ago.
Just as a warning, I didn’t read the book this is meant to be a sequel to (His Last Duchess) but I feel this book stood very well on its own. Maybe I’ll say something different if I read the first book because it does reference some things which happened in the last book but doesn’t dwell on them too much.
This book left me so conflicted because, on one hand, I absolutely loved most of this book. I loved the characters and how their stories intertwined together, how the different POVs led you to seeing the characters in different ways so you never got just one side of the story. Modesto was a special favourite of mine and I would have loved to see more of his and Francesca’s forcibly-platonic relationship. The setting was gorgeous and very well done, I want to read more books set in this time because of how well the book did the setting.
On the other hand, with the same intensity I also hated the romance. It wasn’t because I disliked the people involved in the romance. Francesca was a heroine I rooted for and I didn’t completely hate Luca (although I found him a little dull at times and couldn’t see what Francesca saw in him) but I despised how the romance was written. It was always lauded up as this big starstruck romance and even other people were thinking about how they had never seen love like it – Francesca and Luca had barely known each other a week! I really expected Luca to reject her when he found out her secret because in everything we had seen about Luca so far, that was the reaction which made the most sense. Having Francesca be rejected but then rising out of the pain and open to finding love where her heart was closed before (not necessarily with Luca) – I would have loved that ending.
The romance was out of touch with the rest of the book and was a big case of telling not showing. If it had ended a different way, I probably would have given this book five stars, but how the romance was written dragged it straight down.
Three stars it is.