“The Courtesan’s Secret” by Claudia Dain

“The Courtesan’s Secret” by Claudia DainThe Courtesan's Secret by Claudia Dain
Published: 2008 by Berkley
Genres: Romance
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
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Generally, I avoid romance novels like the plague.  I avoid romance novels even more than I would avoid the plague, as the plague doesn’t generally pop up in my day to day life.  However, every now and again I realize that I’m in a situation where I have to choose between a romance novel or no book at all.  I read this during one of those times and was pleasantly surprised.

Claudia Dain’s work is better than most romance novels because she doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a sense of humor.  Her writing pokes fun at the typical regency novel.  I started laughing when the heroine Louisa solicited help from a prostitute named Sophia in order to retrieve a missing “pearl necklace,” as well as to get her crush to notice her.  Of course, Sophia has a different suitor in mind for her, and making sure Louisa is ruined is all a part of her master plan.

I was impressed that this novel wasn’t terrible.  It’s not exactly high literature, but it’s good for something mindless to read while sitting by the pool.  The characters are better than typical romance stock, and didn’t make me want to strangle them.  That is saying a lot for a romance novel.

I’ve often wondered whether it was possible to find a romance novel that is well-written, and where the female character actually has a brain and isn’t a complete dolt, and where the author doesn’t use sad sexual euphemisms that make me want to chuck the book across the room.  I’ve given up on that, but “The Courtesan’s Secret” may be about as close as one can realistically get.

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14 comments

    1. My mother had given it to me when I was visiting (she and I sometimes swap books), and I had run out of fiction at the time and needed some sort of pool reading. Of course, I’ve since discovered a used bookstore, and with Borders closing I don’t think I’ll be running out again anytime soon. 😛

        1. Most recently one of the Charles de Lint ones, but I don’t know if she liked it. Our reading tastes used to line up a lot more closely than they do now, back when I was obsessively reading any novels about Elizabethan royalty or Arthurian legend.

  1. I don’t like romance novels that much either, but I like to have at least some romance in the books I read. I’ll have to try this one. Lol. I can at least tell there’s a happy ending.

  2. I was going to ask the same as TBM. I’m not much of a romance reader and I am even less of a lover of historical fiction but there are exceptions in both genres. I think nowadays a lot is labelled romance, Urban Fantasy as well as a lot of chick lit and especially among the latter there are quite good books, funny and intelligent.
    One romance writer that I read people raving about all the time is Georgette Heyer. I want to give her a try.

    1. I do own a Heyer novel, although I never finished it. She’s very big on describing every little detail about life during that era, although sometimes I wonder whether she borders on taking too seriously the things that Jane Austen wrote about to mock.

  3. “I’ve often wondered whether it was possible to find a romance novel that is well-written, and where the female character actually has a brain and isn’t a complete dolt, and where the author doesn’t use sad sexual euphemisms that make me want to chuck the book across the room.”

    Here are three–I’m not sure which may seem interesting to you. They are all historical, but, I think, meet your criteria above. I’d be interested to hear if you agree.

    “Flowers from the Storm” by Laura Kinsale (He’s the Duke of Jervaulx…powerful, rich, intelligent and locked in a lunatic asylum.)

    “Spymaster’s Lady” by Joanna Bourne (Annique Villiers, the elusive spy known as the Fox Cub, has outwitted, outmaneuvered and outfoxed every man she’s ever met, until British spymaster Robert Grey steps into a French prison. Grey’s mission is to capture the Cub and uncover exactly what she knows and who she works for.)

    “Private Arrangements” by Sherry Thomas (To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, freedom—and living on separate continents. Now Camden has returned from America with an outrageous demand—an heir—in exchange for Gigi’s freedom.)