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Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Francesca Felizzi, the beautiful, quick-witted and caring courtesan we first met in Gabrielle Kimm’s novel, His Last Duchess, is back and center stage in The Courtesan’s Lover.

Two years have passed since she ran from the Duke of Ferrara and her life as his paid mistress, taking their twin daughters with her. Francesca is now enjoying the life of a well-paid courtesan in Napoli. She has two houses: one for her life with her daughters and one for her work. She has all the money she could need and is able to live an opulent, lascivious life on her own terms. She gives her body to her patrons in any manner of lewd ways and entertains patrons who can be quite brutal. But, she is paid very highly to do so and has always been able to keep her heart her own and stay in control of what happens behind closed doors. No matter what, she strives to keep the end goal in mind: to keep her daughters innocent of her work and to ensure that they will never have to sell themselves to survive.

When her services are paid for to deflower a young man named Gianni Della Rovere, he shows Francesca a touch of kindness she isn’t used to and she begins to long for someone who would truly love her. Out with another patron and disguised as his virtuous, widowed cousin, she meets Gianni’s father, Luca, and they share an instant attraction that shocks them both. She knows she wants him more than any other man and must do whatever it takes to try and make a life with him. But Luca is not the sort of man who would want a courtesan and she will have to give up the life that has helped her to survive all these years. But even when she gives up that life, will he accept her tainted reputation?

As Francesca’s lies about her life become too much and she resolves to tell Luca the truth, her life, and the lives of her daughters, are put in jeopardy by her past. She now must not only tell Luca the truth but enlist him to help her save her family. Will he be able to forgive her? And will she ever be able to be anything other than a courtesan?

I absolutely adored His Last Duchess and was so excited to read The Courtesan’s Lover. Gabrielle Kimm does not disappoint and this book is juicy, dramatic and thoroughly enticing. Readers who tend to shy away from sexualized stories may feel uncomfortable with some passages but I found that Kimm was able to communicate the bawdy parts of the story without being vulgar. While there are a few characters that I thought could have been left out of the story to condense its length, everyone served a purpose and all details were neatly wrapped up by the end.

The book stands alone from His Last Duchess but I would definitely recommend reading both books because they are both wonderful. If you like racy but well written historical fiction you can’t go wrong with either.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks Landmark. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.