All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Claiming The Courtesan – Anna Campbell

on January 4, 2014

Claiming The CourtesanClaiming The Courtesan
Anna Campbell
Avon
2007, 375p
Bought for my Kindle

To the Duke of Kylemore and everyone else in society, she is known as Soraya and she is the most sought after courtesan. For years the Duke had fought to make her his lover and a year ago he finally succeeded with a one year contract that guaranteed she was exclusively his.

Now the Duke has decided to fly in the face of tradition and make Soraya his bride. She doesn’t exactly greet this suggestion with the enthusiasm he expected and he gives her a day to mull it over. When he returns for her answer he finds the house he provided for her stripped of all its contents and Soraya….gone.

Kylemore is incensed and vows to find her. When he does, he discovers that Soraya is no longer and instead Verity Ashton stands before him. She was forced by dire circumstances to enter the life of a courtesan at fifteen and she always intended to make her choices carefully so that she could retire early from her “career”. She wants nothing more than to now live a peaceful life, a peace that is shattered when Kylemore tracks her down and then kidnaps her, taking her to his very remote Scottish estate.

At first Verity longs of escape, although the remote location and dedicated staff make that almost impossible. But night after night, as Kylemore takes her back into his bed, she begins to realise that when the time comes, she may never be able to leave. Kylemore is difficult, plagued by the demons of his childhood and the instability of both his parents. But although he is demanding, he is also passionate and a lot lurks beneath his polished surface. Verity can’t see a future for them, with him as a Duke and her as a former courtesan but leaving such a man twice is going to prove very difficult.

I love Anna Campbell’s historicals but they’re not for the faint-hearted. They’re not your usual historical romance and this one which is I think, her first, is a little more difficult to navigate than most. Her heroes are almost always terribly damaged and are capable of pretty horrible acts, most of which tend to be forgiveable because of circumstances/the grovelling at the end/etc. However there’s no denying that this one….well….it’s a little….

Rapey.

When I was about to start my first year at university, I moved into one of the residential halls on campus. In the first week they gave us a big sexual harassment talk – most of us were 18ish, living away from home for the first time in our lives. They gave us what we fondly called the “sexual harassment cube” which was exactly what it sounds. A cube that you could manipulate to put different sides together, all of which basically told you what meant no (for the record, everything but YES, means no. No means no, I’m drunk means no, I’m asleep means no, I don’t want to means no, I am unsure means no, I’m unconscious means no, I feel pressured means no. IT ALL MEANS NO). The Duke of Kylemore could’ve benefited from possessing one of these cubes because quite frankly, he isn’t aware that a lack of verbal consent means no. Unfortunately, sexual harassment cubes didn’t exist then and although he paid for a year of Soraya’s services, that year was up. I’m assuming here that during the contract, Soraya had to submit to his advances, regardless of whether or not she felt like it – that’s what a courtesan does, although it’s probably more enjoyable for everyone if they’re enthusiastic. However, when he kidnaps her, she’s not playing that role anymore, so his taking her when she’s sort of in two minds about it (she doesn’t want to, but her body kind of does but she doesn’t give her consent or take part really) gets uncomfortable. For pretty much everyone concerned. Kylemore is concerned because later on, he feels guilty about it but it also doesn’t really stop him from doing it again. Verity is concerned because although she didn’t want to like it, she did, because she desires Kylemore and they’ve always had chemistry. And I was trying to read this taking into account the time and situation of when it was set but part of my mind was still saying “sexual harassment cube, sexual harassment cube”.

Get past that and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here. Justin, the Duke of Kylemore has had a pretty heinous upbringing and his mother still provides plenty of fodder for his emotional retardation. He has perfected the sort of veneer he needs to get by in society but at the same time, he also doesn’t seem to particularly care about it. It’s a ritual he goes through, something that he does because he’s supposed to and he’s willing to give all of that up in order to marry Soraya/Verity (before he kidnaps her). He was aware of her from the time she first arrived on the scene and although she had two protectors (lovers) before him, he waited for five years until he was able to secure himself as her protector via a contract for an extremely exorbitant price. When he kidnaps Verity, she tells him that the woman he is obsessed with is no more, that Soraya never really existed, she was just something Verity created (maybe because that way, it was someone else who was the courtesan?). Kylemore refuses to believe that Verity and Soraya are two separate people and sets about reconciling her to the fact that Soraya is a part of her and it’s okay for her to embrace that. It’s all quite progressive in some ways (if you ignore the regressive rapeyness).

This isn’t my favourite Anna Campbell (it skirts a little too close to a line I don’t believe should be crossed) but I appreciate the way in which she constructed this story and the characters. She excels at writing people who are flawed in many different ways and she always puts a new spin on the historical romance idea. I purchased this eBook as a 3in1 and I’m looking forward to reading the next two stories in the volume.

7/10

Book #334 of 2013

AWW2013This was the 115th book I read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2013.

 

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One response to “Claiming The Courtesan – Anna Campbell

  1. MidnightPageTurners says:

    “sexual harrasment cube” that is hilarious, sometimes it’s so great to read a review that’s funny as well as about the book, thanks for sharing this one! 🙂

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