Courtesan's Lover

Courtesan's Lover - Gabrielle Kimm Synopsis:16th century, Naples, the south of Italy. Francesca Felizzi has been a courtesan for ten years now. She earns a lot, owns two houses and generally enjoys a great popularity among men due to her stunning beauty and intelligence. She has several rich and influenced patrons, sumptuous dresses and three servants. Still, when she falls on the street people jeer, catcall or feign indifference at best. Nobody wants to help her. She is a sinner, the lowest of low. No courtesan ends well, no matter how popular or rich she is during her best years.One evening Francesca, dressed up as a respectable young widow and accompanying one of her regular clients, discovers an entirely new world – the world of true friends, decency, propriety and peace of mind. And she falls in love at first sight with Luca della Rovere, a scholar and a respectable widower with two adult sons. It seems everything should divide them but Luca cannot forget that lovely, quiet widow and soon enough he is courting her like a man at least 20 years younger. What will happen when he finds out the truth about Francesca? How couldn’t he find it out?What I liked:I am really impressed by the amount of research done by the author. Her sixteen century Naples (Napoli) came to life for me and I was delighted by all these tidbits concerning ships, dresses, renaissance houses and habits of Italians, inhabiting them. I learned a lot!In the first part of the book I liked Francesca Felizzi. She was definitely better than an ordinary whore and she took care of her daughters while working hard, almost too hard, to ensure her girls have a better future. When she returned from that fatuous evening during which she fell in love her reaction was heartrending. I also liked Modesto, her castrate friend and servant who also acted as her pimp and advisor. It was very touching that these two broken souls could count on each other even in the most difficult moments.Also Carlo, a secondary character and a baddie through and through, seemed somehow nicer than he should. Maybe I felt so because he was a deceiving brat, a ‘Loki’ type and I always fall for them.Oh, and the cover is lovely.What I didn’t like:I asked myself different minor questions while reading this one (translation: had several WTF moments) but I admit my biggest problems began in the second part of the book, after our lovely, hard-working courtesan fell in love with Luca. I know, love is basically a mental illness but does it have to make you so completely naïve and stupid? Does it, really?Francesca abandons her profession all of a sudden, right after one evening spent in the company of her beloved. That much was at least understandable - she was in a shock and she didn’t want to be unfaithful to him even before they went to bed. However her complete lack of apprehension when it came to the reaction of her former patrons was surprising to say the least of it. After all she knew the best that they were a bunch of unsavoury (although rich and influential) types who hardly accepted a ‘no’ for an answer; still she thought that if only she informed them about her decision, writing a letter or sending her faithful Modesto with a verbal message, they will meekly thank her for her troubles, kiss her hand gently, leave a good-buy gift and find themselves another courtesan. Oh lady, who do you think you're fooling? I did wonder how you survived in that ruthless profession for 10 years at all and remained such a gullible, unpractical creature. In my humble opinion Francesca's best course of action would be lying low for some time, conducting business as usual or even better, feigning a venereal disease or, in fact, any disease (I know, I am cruel but it would cool down even the most libidinous customer, don’t you think?) and then, after selling her houses secretly she should have fled the city even before any of her clients got wind of her real intentions and sudden change of heart.Then her next, surprisingly stupid blunder: she informs her two servants, Ilaria and Sebastiano, that they would be made redundant soon and then… she leaves her precious twin daughters in their tender care because she has to go on a much-expected date with Luca. No doubts, no second thoughts. Hello, earth to Francesca, have you ever heard of spiteful people who bear a grudge ? No? There are no spiteful servants in Napoli? Not even when they find out that after two years of more or less acceptable service they will be shown the door? Oh dear…and you are a courtesan, right?Finally I was very surprised by Luca’s easy acceptance of Francesca’s past. It was highly uncharacteristic for a man, even a man madly in love so in a state of advanced stupidity. I would summarize his attitude this way (it is a bit spoilerish so click to read or omit it): “Ok, sweetheart, so you had two extramarital kids with some old, rich creep, you have screwed a countless number of people for money and half of the city knows you as basically an exclusive whore? Not a problem. We don’t have to go out at all or keep decent company, your past won’t influence my position at the University and I’ve always wanted to sleep with somebody like you. You took the virginity of my younger son? Oh, simply peachy, it was basically a favour, great to know he was in such professional hands his first time. He is in love with you and would like to repeat that experience? Puppy love, it will pass in no time. I trust you and I know you love only me, you are such a sweet girl, all forgiven and forgotten, now come and kiss me, darling…”To me it rings hollow, especially from the psychological point of view. People need time to accept such earthshaking truths; people living in the 16th century were overall definitely more conservative and more observant when it came to religious laws and customs. Perhaps a complete libertine would actually enjoy such a situation but nothing suggested Luca was a libertine and even if he was he still had to think about his reputation, his colleagues and superiors at the university, his everyday aquaintances. I wouldn’t be surprised if that guy needed months, even years to accept such a colourful past of his beloved. Once again it would have been far more believable and easier if they (Luca and Francesca plus their families) had left Naples and started anew in another city.Final verdict:A nice novel which could have been better if not for the maudlin, improbable romance and some psychology glitches. If you like historical romance and those saccharine-sweeet HEA endings you might enjoy it. For me it had too high sugar content.