Published By: Ballantine Books
Book Category: Fiction, Science Fiction
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Reviewed by Kathy Perschmann (Librarian, Carver County, Minnesota)
Susan Carroll is the author of Bride Finder, Night Drifter and Winterbourne. The Courtesan is the second in a trilogy; the first is The Dark Queen. The trilogy is set in France in the late 1500s.
The Courtesan is Gabrielle Cheney's story. Gabrielle is the middle of three sisters with extraordinary abilities. The sisters are "daughters of the earth," with special talents. Ariane, the eldest sister, is a healer. Miri, the youngest, can communicate with animals. Gabrielle's talent is the art of creating beauty—usually with painting.
Gabrielle moved to Paris, in 1575. She has given up painting, feels worthless, and has decided to make a career of being a courtesan; she can make herself beautiful and she is ambitious.
She has set her sights on Henry, the Huguenot King of Navarre who is the son-in-law of Catherine de Medici. However Gabrielle has never gotten over her attraction to the knight, Captain Nicholas Remy. She thought Remy was dead, but he returns to complicate her life and plans since Remy is pledged to serve Henry of Navarre. Remy is determined to get Henry out of the clutches of his evil mother-in-law, and back to Navarre.
Remy is renowned on the battlefield, but is tortured by his memories of battles and all those he has killed. Remy discovers Gabrielle's secret shame, that she was raped by a man she liked and trusted. This event has contributed to her becoming a courtesan.
The story has a great deal of intrigue as we follow Gabrielle and Remy. There are other daughters of the earth, or witches, including the Queen, Catherine de Medici, and Cassandra, a blind necromancer, who are out to destroy Gabrielle and her sisters. Witch hunters manipulated by the Queen, evil plots set in motion by Cassandra, a book filled with ancient dark magic spells loose in France, and suspected betrayals and misunderstandings all complicate the story.
The Courtesan is filled with strong female characters and the magic is just magical enough. The relationship between Gabrielle and Remy is fraught with exactly enough honor and duty and sacrifice to make it really romantic. This is a great love story to read on the beach or in front of a crackling fireplace. Armchair Interviews says this is a wonderful read that will have you buying the first book and watching for the final installment in the trilogy.