It's exciting, interesting, and intense, especially with all the cat fights. There's a lot of royal women duking it out and their fights/staring matches get really intense. I could actually imagine I was Chiara, caught the middle--to curtsy or not to curtsy?--and her conflicted emotions flew right off the page and into myself.
There's a very paranoid grand duke and a vile mistress, husbands killing wives, brothers turning on sisters. There's a lot of vileness, actually, but for every vile thing, there's something nice, such as Chiara and Ruanno's love, her Nanno, the kind lady in the nunnery, the grand duchess's dogs... In the end, besides all the history, I also took away from this that true love can conquer ALL.
I feel the story was lacking in one thing, however. Chiara grew to care for each one of her mistresses, from Isabella to Diadora (I don't think I spelled that right), to the grand duchess...but why? There was very little of her relationship and communication with these ladies and why she cared so much about them was continuously lost on me. I feel like some scenes were missing, scenes in which we could have had a chance to watch these relationships between the women develop and strengthen.
The alchemy was strange, because I've never read about it before...it's like primitive and early laboratory work. The twists involving poison were absolutely fascinating, as were the real-life characters and their personalities: the grand duke Francesco, his mistress, his wife, his brothers. And yet, their drama never once detracted from the main heroine, a fictional lady alchemist who found herself embroiled in everything.
Very well done. Elizabeth Loupas has a winner.