The Courtesan's Lover is Gabrielle Kimm's second novel, whose heroine, Francesca, first appeared in Kimm's debut novel, "His Last Duchess". She has now moved to Naples, where she has become a courtesan. Through an encounter with a young man (given a tryst with her as a birthday present) she finds herself questioning her way of life. I shan't give away any more of the plot - suffice it to say that this novel is rich with twists and unexpected directions. What makes Kimm's novel special is her unfailing eye for detail. She writes about 16th Century Naples with an almost cinematic view, so that you not only see the pictures, but are aware of the sights and sounds and smells of the city. She evokes the strange life of a high class whore vividly, and though there is a certain amount of graphic sex, it is never prurient, and is an important tool in the telling of Francesca's story. Added to the sumptuous descriptions of place are more fascinating characters, whose histories one really cares about. My favourite is Modesto, Francesca's servant and protector, a castrato who can no longer perform, but each of these people come alive, and their stories evolve through the pages of this book, so that one really cares what happens to them. There are plot developments which carry this tale way above the normal romantic fiction, and some moments (deep under the streets of Naples) which are truly disturbing. I loved this novel, and thoroughly recommend it to anybody looking for an exciting, touching, beautiful and memorable book. A GREAT Christmas read!