Why did I pick this book as my Book of the Month?
At the end of 2011 I was talking with my good friend, Sue Uden about a book she was reading, His Last Duchess and how much she was enjoying it. I realised that I purchased this book a few months back so decided to give it a try and I loved it. As a huge fan of historical fiction I was gripped (you can read my review on this blog). It was only natural that I would then rush to buy Gabrielle’s next book, The Courtesan’s Lover and I have to say I loved it even more than His Last Duchess, which I didn’t think possible!
Also .. being the Month with Valentine’s Day – seems the perfect time to feature it!!
Francesca Felizzi, former mistress of the Duke of Ferrara, is now an aspiring courtesan. Astonishingly beautiful and ambitious, she revels in the power she wields over men.
But when she is visited by an inexperienced young man, it becomes horribly clear to Francesca that despite her many admiring patrons, she has never truly been loved. Suddenly, her glittering and sumptuous life becomes a gaudy facade.
And then another unexpected encounter brings with it devastating implications that plunge Francesca and her two young daughters into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began to work the streets all those years ago.
Yet again Gabrielle has written another novel that is gripping, full of plot twisting pages, slightly sinister but packed full of romance (most not in the traditional way!) Set in Naples 1564, whilst the book is focused on the lead, Francesca Felizzi who was in His Last Duchess, she was only a very small part of that book and you certainly do not have to have read that book before reading The Courtesan’s Lover (mind you it is a great book so why wouldn’t you want too!!)
The book starts with Francesca doing what a good Courtesan’s does best, being the Mistress of some well to do and then we follower her life as she earns her living. Until one day, a new ‘Client’ makes her stop, think and realise what she is missing in her life. Can she go back to her old ways when there is something she wants more? Over a dinner one evening her whole world changes, but can she hide her past long enough for the real her to shine through?
I adored this book, from the moment I opened the first chapter I was hooked. Historical fiction is my favourite genre (as anyone who follows my blog now knows!!) Gabrielle has clearly researched the period in time and the role a Courtesan has to play. There are some very strong bonds between a few of the characters that are totally believable and extremely heart warming in places and heart wrenching in other, I particularly want to mention Modesto. There is far more to him than first meets the eye.
This really is a must read for anyone that like some grit to their novels they read. By no means a gentle romance but a real page turner that will have you hiding behind a pillow in places, crying in others and desperate for things to turn out ok in other.
Truly a fantastic novel and totally worthy to be my 2nd Book of the Month in 2012.
I asked Gabrielle the following:-
1) Both your books have really grabbed me due to the Historical theme before I even turn the pages, what inspires you to write this genre over any other (so far!)
It all started because of the Robert Browning poem, which inspired my first book ‘His Last Duchess’. The narrator of that poem is a historical figure – the complicated and dangerous fifth duke of Ferrara – so when I decided to tell the back-story to that poem, I realized the book would have to be set in northern Italy in 1559 (the year of the duke’s marriage). I discovered in the writing of that book, that I love writing historical fiction – not something I’d ever thought of writing before.
2) Clearly a huge amount of research has to go into each book. How do you go about doing this?
Research is really painstaking for historical fiction writers – but I really enjoy it! I start with browsing in books, and internet articles, and then try to contact the authors whose information I find most helpful. Once you’ve made personal contact (and people are almost always hugely generous) you can discover the specific things you need to know. I try to do as much hands-on research as I can, too: for ‘The Courtesan’s Lover’, for instance, I spent one wonderful day with an antiquarian book conservator (the books are antiquarian, not the conservator!) There was a fair amount in ‘The Courtesan’s Lover’ for which I definitely DIDN’T do any hands on research though!
3) If you could be transported back into any date in time, what would you pick and why?
I would definitely have to have proof that the return journey to the present day was guaranteed, as the thought of being trapped in a century without decent dentists or medicine or plumbing fills me with horror! But of course, I’d love to go back to Italy in the Renaissance, to see if I’ve got it right!
4) What can we expect from your next novel and when will it be available?
Ooh, my new novel is a very tender and delicate little shoot at the moment – it’s a brand new idea, and I’m just reading around my first thoughts, and letting the story grow and take shape as I read and discover the things I need to know, in order to begin writing properly. I promise I’ll keep you posted, though!
5) What was your favourite read of 2011?
Oh, golly, that’s a hard one. So many wonderful books – many by people I’ve come to know and admire, too, so I’d love to be able to mention them all. But I think the book which stayed longest with me after I’d finished it, was ‘Florence and Giles’ by John Harding. It’s a genuinely scary gothic ghost story – a homage to Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’ – and the story is told by a narrator with a truly unique ‘voice’. I loved it! I’m re-reading ‘Great Expectations’ at the moment, and marvelling all over again at Mr Dickens’s story telling skills.