Rake’s Revenge

Saving Sarah

A Wild Justice

The Courtesan’s Courtship
by Gail Ranstrom
(Harl. Hist., $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0373-29383-6
I wanted to like The Courtesan’s Courtship so much more than I did. There is a lot of creativity in the plotline, the hero is solid and the story moves at a pace that keeps the reader engaged. The heroine, however, has little common sense and unfortunately, the premise of her trying to become a member of the demimonde without losing her virginity and reputation is so absurd, it overshadows the highlights of the story.

Dianthe Lovejoy is discovered next to a corpse and with blood on her gown. She states that she came upon the body by accident. But when her name and address is found on a slip of paper in the dead woman’s pocket, she is accused of the murder. Dianthe, who is staying with friends while all of her relatives are out of the country, runs. The dead woman, Nell, is an unknown cousin and Dianthe is determined to find her killer.

Lord Geoffrey Morgan is a self-made millionaire who happens to have a title. He is accepted by society only because of said title. He is a rakehell and an agent for the crown who has been chasing a white slaver named Diabul for five years. Several women have either died or almost died and Geoff is determined to find him. He discovers Dianthe alone and in need of help. Geoff sets her up in one of his many homes and hopes she will wait there quietly and incognito under her relatives can return. Geoff owes one of them a favor and sees this as his repayment.

But Dianthe has other ideas. She solicits assistance from a modiste and disguises herself as Lizette Deauville, newly arrived in England from France. She goes to the brothels and tries to get to know the “girls” so that she can get information about Nell. Morgan finds her there and they agree to an unsteady truce. Each keeps some secrets, sharing just enough information to make it dangerous for the other. They are attracted, but know they are off limits to the other. Dianthe, as a murder suspect on the loose, doesn’t want to stain Geoff’s reputation. Geoff knows he is not the sort of man that society miss like Dianthe should be associated with; besides, he is not interested in marriage, only short term alliances.

The tale moves on the strength of the investigation as they make their way towards a show down with the dastardly Diabul. There are a few men who could be this villain, but it becomes clear early on to the reader who he is thus becoming more a matter of how they will recognize him. This is when Dianthe’s lack of sense comes into play. She often enters situations that are obviously dangerous even after being warned to stay away. She is lucky to be alive and intact thanks to last minute rescues. She spouts independence and solving the mystery on her own, but relies on Geoff to provide her with a fencing master to learn self-defense and a “tutor” on how to get on with the other courtesans.

While Ranstrom’s writing is clear and the plot line is creative, there are holes that are glaring and hard to dismiss. Dianthe has been a sheltered girl her entire life, and yet, she delves full bore into joining the underworld. She is not even shocked by many of the things she sees and hears. She acts a bit too twentieth century for a Regency-era miss. She hides relatively easily from the entire ton and Bow Street, yet she is out and about all the time. Her disguise is just a wig and a little rouge. This seems a bit out of place, especially since she calls attention to herself as a French courtesan looking for a provider.

Despite these incongruities, I did enjoy the banter between Geoff and Dianthe and I did like their spunk. The action was fast paced with break-ins, confrontations and a daring climatic fight scene. For something a tad different, The Courtesan’s Courtship has more good than bad moments.

--Shirley Lyons

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