But when she is visited by an inexperienced young man, it becomes horribly clear to Francesca that despite her many admiring patrons, she has never truly been loved. Suddenly, her glittering and sumptuous life becomes a gaudy facade.
And then another unexpected encounter brings with it devastating implications that plunge Francesca and her two young daughters into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began to work the streets all those years ago.’
Set in Naples in 1564, ‘The Courtesan’s Lover’ picks up the story of Francesca Felizzi, a minor character from Gabrielle Kimm’s earlier novel ‘His Last Duchess’. Francesca was mistress to the Duke of Ferrara, but has now fled the court with her twin daughters and faithful manservant Modesto, and established herself as a courtesan. Business is going well for Francesca until she finds herself falling in love for the first time, and with someone who most definitely would not approve of her career choice. But as Francesca struggles to change her life, it looks like there may be some parts of it which she cannot escape.
‘The Courtesan’s Lover’ could be read as a sequel to ‘His Last Duchess’, but worked well as a stand-alone. Before starting I’d steeled myself for what I’d anticipated to be a series of very steamy romps. However, although there were a fair amount of sexual scenes, none were particularly graphic.
The book started at a beautifully leisurely pace, allowing the reader to really relish exploring the characters’ lives and the city they lived in. When I felt nicely settled into the period, the drama and tension increased dramatically during the second half of the novel when Francesca found that her own safety, as well as that of her beloved daughters, was under threat from a dangerous foe.
Interwoven with the main plot were the stories of Francesca’s clients and so Kimm ends up with a pretty large cast! Modesto was definitely my favourite: he was an extremely absorbing character with a terribly sad back story. I really enjoyed his relationship with Francesca; they were certainly not a typical sixteenth century mistress and servant!
Kimm’s attention to detail is exquisite, I really did feel transported back to the period and everything from the descriptions of the food to the birth control used seemed completely genuine. The setting provided the perfect backdrop to the tale, which contained plenty of drama and excitement to keep the reader captivated, whether they are a historical fiction fan or not.
4 and a half stars