Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spotlight Review: The Courtesan's Daughter by Claudia Dain

Berkley Sensation Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-425-21720-7
October 2007
Historical Romance

London, 1808

It's not easy being the daughter of a courtesan, not even when one is the legitimate daughter of the Countess of Dalby and the late earl. Twenty years don't seem to be enough to wipe away memories of the most beautiful, most sought after courtesan of her day. Not when Sophia is still youthful and a presence among the ton. Even though many doors are closed to her, everyone is fascinated by her. Lady Caroline, Sophia's daughter, knows better than to expect to dance at Almack's; she rather doubts she'll ever receive a decent proposal, unless it be from a rich merchant or other. But Caro forgets her mother is a master at getting her way...or should we say mistress.

Sophia buys up the vowels of the Earl of Ashton and concludes a marriage contract between him and Caroline. But Caroline learns of the financial arrangement and refuses to marry a husband bought by her mother, before she even meets him. She declares she'd rather become a courtesan as her mother once was.

Now, Caroline always considered herself a logical person, but here she veers away from any logic but that of a lady smitten, now that she's met the ruggedly handsome Ashton. What she is is a naive, carefully brought up and protected young lady with much to learn about life and men. And her mother, as hinted above, is a consummate manipulator. Of Ashton, we are not privy to his true feelings for many chapters, though we are given several hints that he, too, has a parent with an agenda. His father and Caro's mother knew each other before she married Lord Dalby; not many know the reason for their current enmity.

Sophia attempts to teach Caroline how to play the game, as she calls dealing with men. There are games of seduction and games of revenge in play, with many other characters entering the lists. What follows is highly amusing to London's Society -- and undoubtedly also to readers of this engaging novel.

Claudia Dain writes in a light bantering style that becomes more and more entertaining as the players give and take, advance and retreat. (Caroline learns quickly.) Sophia's friends include young Anna Warren, widowed at eighteen, and another project of Sophia's, plus many other minor characters of note, with plenty of lusty lords among them. The later chapters contain even more surprises as the novel takes on a slightly farcical tone, and I mean the witty, laugh-provoking kind of farce.

THE COURTESAN'S DAUGHTER is the first of the Courtesan Series. Surely Sophia, Lady Dalby will be around to pull the strings while ensnaring another couple or two. If so, the fun is guaranteed. Now's the time to get in on the beginning.

Jane Bowers

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