The Courtesan's Lover by Gabrielle Kimm
|The Courtesan's Lover by Gabrielle Kimm|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Beautiful Francesca Felizzi is employed in arguably, the oldest profession in the world. Her clients are normally well-off gentlemen and so she's able to maintain high standards, both professionally and domestically - until a young client turns her world upside down.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: November 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
This is a big thumping book running to almost 500 pages. We're in sixteenth century Italy, Naples to be precise and the scene is set for the entrance of the main character, courtesan Francesca. And what an exotic creature she is. But also charming, thoughtful and intelligent.
Kimm tells us a little about Francesca's earlier life. It was tough and she 'fell' into prostitution against her will. She's a high class trader of sex and entertains some important clients either in their homes, tucked away from the family in some secret corner or bedroom, or at one of her homes. She has two. As the mother of two young girls Francesca doesn't want her work (which is normally a relentless seven days a week) to taint them in any way. The contrast between two innocent and charming young daughters playing away in the family home while their adored mother is ahem ... opening her legs to order, is marked and rather shocking indeed. As I'm sure it's meant to be.
I feel as if Kimm has done an excellent job with the characterisation in particular. I actually liked the fragrant Francesca and I didn't give a toss about her sordid day (that really should be night) job. Kimm paints an interesting home life around Francesca, her two daughters and also her faithful goffer, Modesto. His brutal childhood sees him now as less than a man physically. He's no threat to either Francesca or the girls. But all the same, he adores all three, would probably lay down his life for them, if need be. And the intimate (in a non-physical sense) moments that Modesto and Francesca share on a regular basis are perhaps more tender than all of her sexual encounters. But that's about to change ...
Men adore Francesca. But in secret. They'll happily have their wicked way with her, pay up, then sneak home, often to dull and sexually unadventurous wives. And there's one wife in particular who keeps popping up in the story. It makes for rather pitiful but interesting reading. The two women have a chance encounter with this shrewd wife putting two and two together and coming up with the magical figure of four. But it's not all snarls and hisses as you may expect.
Francesca keeps a diary, a kind of running commentary on her clients and their 'performances'. Some are older men, flabby, past their best etc and often with the most unappealing of habits. And Francesca has to be pleasant and interested ... while the meter's ticking. But her sense of loathing and disgust is apparent in the prose. So, why doesn't she just give it all up? Kimm tells us in her own good time and it makes for an interesting read.
As you'd expect, the sex scenes are an integral part but they don't swamp the story. Their descriptions are rather tasteful, so much so that when Francesca sometimes lets slip the f*** word, it's all the more shocking. Although this is not normally the sort of book that would appeal to me generally, I did enjoy it very much. Francesca's life story is an interesting one and Kimm's narrative voice is engaging so I have no hesitation in recommending this book.
If this book appeals then you might like to try The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.