The Serbian edition of The Second Duchess has been released–it’s called Vojvotkinja, which is Duchess in Serbian. A very striking cover, don’t you think? Barbara is far too beautiful, of course (cover models always are) and is showing rather too much bare skin as well (cover models often do that as well), but it really does capture the moment in the story when, wearing her scarlet wedding dress after a session with a portrait painter, she manages to send her ladies away and runs up some stairs to find the mysteriously hidden portrait of the first duchess. I do love the way she is looking over her shoulder–she even says, in the text, that she feels she is being watched.
(Which she is, of course…)
The translator, Branislav Ivkovic (Hi, Bran!) tells me that the line of copy under the title reads, “Love, intrigue and secrets in the city of art and beauty.” Really a perfect description of the story.
For more information, check out the website of publisher Mono I Manjana.
In the sixteenth century, which is where my heart seems to be drawn over and over again, astrology was a serious science. Perfectly orthodox Christians had horoscopes cast, as earnestly as you and I might have an MRI. Astrologers (and alchemists, but we’ll be getting to that in my next book) were taken very seriously, and often had considerably influence over the affairs of nations and princes.
I used astrological signs liberally in The Second Duchess, and they’re all quite real, in the sense that they’re based on the historical birth dates of the characters. Yes, Alfonso II d’Este really was a Scorpio (born November 22, 1533). Barbara of Austria really was a Taurus (born April 30, 1539). Lucrezia de’ Medici is a tiny bit more problematic, in that there is some confusion as to her actual birth date—some sources say June 7, 1545, and other sources say February 14, 1545. I chose the June date and made her a Gemini in the course of writing the book, although now, after the fact and after more research, I am leaning toward the February date—Lucrezia would fit just as well as an Aquarius.
That’s the thing. The signs just fit the personalities so well. Alfonso is a Scorpio down to the bone. Barbara is so perfectly a Taurus. It’s enough to make one believe.
A week or two ago I received an email from a reader, Victoria Jadick, who is herself a Taurus and who kindly gave me permission to quote from her reflections on how similar her own personality was to Barbara’s personality:
I recently finished your book about Barbara of Austria, The Second Duchess. I normally don’t like historical fiction placed in Italy. But this book was so beautiful. The detail of the decadence and luxury of the court of Ferrara was so entrancing. I also could not help but notice how similar Barbara and I are, not only because I am a Taurus, because of how proud, defiant, and so composed in stressful situations.
I love the fact that Victoria identified with Barbara so closely, and that it was partly because she and Barbara were actually Taurus sisters!