Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Didn't let anything get in the way of reading this straight through!
on 26 June 2012
This writer absolutely hits the spot with her historical fiction. It is pacy, gripping, sexy (as you would expect given the title), full of historical detail and with that trick that so few writers truly have of bringing the past to life - sounds, smells, tastes and social behaviours, alongside menace and brutality.
Francesca is a wonderful heroine. A woman who has courageously moved herself and her two small daughters from a dangerous situation in Ferrara, where she had been mistress to its unstable Duke, to start a new life in Naples, setting herself up as a successful Courtesan. She provides a comfortable lifestyle for her family with the wonderful Modesto as her devoted servant, who picks up the pieces when needed, sorts out her glamorous wardrobe, soothes her frequent bruises and lovingly manages her affairs both financial and intimate - who knew that lime skins could be put to such practical use! However, Modesto has his own secrets and sadnesses and MUST at some point justify a book all to himself!!
I digress!! An attractive and virginal young man, Gianni, is "given" a night with Francesca. From what should have been an undemanding introduction to the ways of love for a pleasing boy, spins a wholly unexpected catalogue of events as unfamiliar emotions are uncovered along with Francesca's lavish charms. Then, one of her regular clients invites Francesca to pose as a respectable widow and to be his guest at a social event which his partially estranged wife will not be attending. At this event, she falls powerfully in love for the first time in her life. This love is fully reciprocated. How then to reconcile her "commercial" past with her longing for a settled future with just one man? Impossible to say more without spoiling the enjoyment for new readers, suffice to say it is quite a journey - a journey fraught with terrors and dangers, as one of her former clients takes her retirement from her "career" very badly, but well worth making in this heroine's excellent company. This is far from being the lightweight romance one might have been expecting, but has depth and resonance with plenty of attention paid to the supporting characters. You will not forget Francesca in a hurry!