I picked up My Last Duchess looking for a fun, easy read and I wasn't disappointed. It's the kind of book where you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit, plunge in head first and just enjoy it. It's not a believable story by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly an entertaining one. Cora herself is a well rounded character but some of the other characters are merely stereotypes or one-dimensional, such as Cora's mother the fortune hunter and her love interest Ivo, the mysterious and reserved English gentleman.
What I did like about this book was that it went further into Cora's story than I was expecting it to. I thought it would be a straight-forward marriage plot with Cora's wedding and happy ever after in the final chapters. But it wasn't - Cora gets married very early on and we follow her as she attempts to be happy. And to give credit to Goodwin, this isn't easy for her. Cora has married for love, but it's unclear whether her husband has, and she's married into a society that isn't welcoming at all. There's plenty of ups and downs and even at the end, it's unclear whether Cora will ever be truly happy. I liked the lack of a definitive happy ever after, and I liked that we got to see beyond the wedding.
You'll enjoy My Last Duchess if you like books that are purely escapist and you don't mind if the story is unrealistic in parts. I had a lot of fun reading it and it was perfect for when I was up in the small hours of the morning feeding the baby.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5