In The Courtesan’s Lover, Gabrielle Kimm takes a minor character from her debut novel, His Last Duchess, and gives her a story of her own. Francesca, the fictional mistress of the Duke of Ferrara, has started a new life for herself in Naples and managed to become a courtesan of some worth. She has two houses (one for business and one for a home for her twin daughters), a list of wealthy, regular patrons and a life that seems to be everything she could want (given her situation).
After about the first third or so I was afraid that this was going to be nothing more than Francesca’s “Adventures in Whoring”. But then something happens that abruptly causes her entire life - and the way she looks at it - to change. What follows is an engrossing story about love, truth, betrayal and how your past can totally ruin your future no matter how much you wish it otherwise. Although I thought Francesca’s revelation and desire to change her life came about a little too abruptly, her reaction to it was fascinating. Here is this confident woman who knows exactly who and what she is (and for which she offers no apologies) and she completely falls apart right in front of you.
Francesca wants what everyone wants – to be truly loved and to give love in return. Due to the extremely personal and intimate nature of Francesca’s meltdown, the first person narrative works well. I could feel her pain and anguish as she dared to hope for a better life for herself and her children only to realize the possibility that she might lose it all. Because I can’t imagine this working as well without Francesca telling her own story, I can overlook what I consider to be an annoying trend – the use of third person for other parts of the story (but it still beats the info dumps usually required in first person narration to account for events the narrator couldn’t witness). Here, it makes sense but the transitions are a little awkward at times.
Surprisingly, for a book about a courtesan, what little sex is in the book is relatively tame. By the time I got to the last third or so of the story, I couldn’t put it down. Nothing else got done that evening as I waited to see if Francesca would get the opportunity to truly be happy.
In case the FTC asks: copy from the publisher