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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Courtesan's Lover by Gabrielle Kimm

The Courtesan's Lover by Gabrielle Kimm
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (493 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Francesca Felizzi knows she wields an immense power over men. Her patrons see only a carefree courtesan, and they pay handsomely for the privilege of her time. Francesca never saw him coming, the man who cracked her heart open and ruined her for the job. But he's shown her what a gaudy facade she's built, and she doesn't know how to tear it down without taking her beloved daughters with her. The wrong move could plunge all of them into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began her perilous work all those years ago.

An exquisite tale that explores the intricate nature of a mother's heart. The Courtesan's Lover draws you close and whispers in your ear. In the tradition of Sarah Dunant and Marina Fiorato, a compelling and vibrant tale from an up-and-coming fresh voice that readers will want to savor.

A lover! A patron or patrons yes, but a lover for a courtesan brings a wealth of different emotions and conflicts to the mix.

At first just surviving was Francesca’s number one desire and then surviving well by charging big fees for what she had, at one time, been forced to do for nothing seemed like a good way to secure her and her daughters’ futures.

In the sixteenth century, women and children could be used and abused or adored and cared for as the man of the family saw fit. Francesca had not been among those adored and cared for. As a courtesan she is desired by many but available to only a few. She is like both sorceress and temptress as she divines and meets the needs of each of her patrons—fulfills their fantasies and sends them on their way—no strings attached. Of course, she does keep her “Book of Encounters” for insurance.

Modesto, Francesca’s house servant, nurse, pimp, bodyguard and faithful friend, sees the two of them as ‘the seedless and the strumpet’ against the world. His story is compelling. He can sing with the voice of an angel, albeit a sad angel.

Luca della Rovere and his sons Carlo and Gianni, without knowing it, change the course of Francesca’s life as well as the lives of all those who depend on her for a living. Gianni, the virgin, who shows her compassion like she has never known before has a profound effect on her life. Carlo, who fences illegal goods for privateer s and lives a life style that could get him burned, creates the most anxiety-ridden episodes in the novel. His associates chill the blood. And then there is Luca, a university professor—ten years a widower, who creates a tingling of surprise and need in Francesca every time he walks into the room.

The many secondary characters entangled in the evolving of Francesca have secrets and fears that create astonishing sub-plots that affect the main plot. The political and religious power enters into the motivation of many of the characters. Miguel Vasquez, a patron of Francesca, lives in fear of losing his place of power if his secrets are discovered, a fact that comes in handy for Francesca as the story unfolds. Signor di Cicciano, another patron, wild, depraved, and unpredictable brings terror and chaos into the primary characters lives. Filippo and Maria’s story, though somewhat twisted and dark, intrigues. Most charming of all are Beata and Isabella, Francesca’s twin daughters. They wiggle their way right into the reader’s heart. When they get caught in a forbidding situation, it sends the heart pounding.

Gabrielle Kimm weaves together a tale of opulent living, depraved living, and lascivious living with characters that seem to come alive on the pages of The Courtesan's Lover. In a few places the verbiage slows the story and it seemed the bad overwhelmed the good too much of the time. But the story is rich with emotion and throbs with life. Even though some of the scenes are horrifying and some are sordid, the descriptions are so vivid that the reader’s senses are brought to full alertness with smells of the filthy and the fine, with the touch of fine satin and silks then the hurt of harsh hands, the taste of gourmet food, sounds of happy giggles and angelic singing and sounds of a fight to death in a filthy tavern on the waterfront. Ms. Kimm manages a tangle of characters with amazing skill as she weaves in a touch of history and mores of the time with intrigues and clandestine doings that captivate and sometimes takes one’s breath away. The happy-ever after for these lovers is hard won and precious.

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