A Courtesan's Scandal by Julia London
Grayson Christopher, the Duke of Darlington, is not at all pleased when the Prince of Wales request that he escort Kate Bergeron around town. Kate is a courtesan that the Prince has "purchased" from her former protector, a cloth merchant, but he does not want his wife, whom he is trying to divorce, to find out about her. Disguising her as Grayson's mistress is the perfect solution as he knows that Grayson is far too upstanding and conscience of social standing to ever try anything. Grayson does not even try to disguise his dislike of this duty when he meets Kate and he is very startled, and very intrigued, when she calls him on it and turns the tables on him by claiming that she wants even less to do with him than he does with her. He escorts her to the various functions the prince requests of him- all places where the prince will be so he can play with her in the linen closet and comes to realize there is so much more to Kate than he had first assumed. She regards life with an openness he has never observed before and she makes the most of everything, even forgiving all those who slight her.
When their time is officially up Grayson knows that he can not simply walk away from Kate but Kate knows that she cannot go back on her word to the Prince. But the man who first treated her as the dirt beneath his feet has suddenly become the first man she has ever felt desire for and she too wants to spend more time with him. As Grayson's family, and his former mistress, grow increasingly concerned, the two of them begin spending time together that has not been approved of by the prince, ice skating, going to museum and tea stores. The prince is not the only person who is enraged to find out that Grayson and Kate are growing very close. Grayson's ex-lover, who is married, is determined to get back at him for leaving her with her aging and barren husband. There is his family warning him that he cannot allow this "whore" to ruin his family's good name, and her friends warning her that Grayson is a peer and would never risk his reputation for her. But as the walls begin to close in on them, in the form of royalty, family, close friends, and obligations, they both need to realize that love might be worth a little sacrifice and a whole lot of scandal.
I knew from the first scene in this novel that I was going to absolutely adore it. Grayson is such a stickler and to read about him coming apart over a woman he feels is beneath him, is just so much fun- especially as he comes to realize that she is not beneath him. And I love that Kate is really a courtesan. I know that other authors have done this route and covered it up by having her turn out to be a twin of the courtesan, but London makes no bones that Kate really does stay on as a man's mistress for money. Granted she does only do it because she has no other way of supporting herself, she does not enjoy it, and wants nothing more than to leave this life and open up a bakery. This also makes it far more believable, and not annoying, that she works hard for the less fortunate and her background makes her cheerful outlook and hopeful attitude so much more inspiring and interesting than if she had been a pampered miss. However there were definitely times where her "integrity" got on my nerves as even when she was in very desperate straights she refused to sell the jewelry the prince had given her because she felt she had not earned it. Not very practical of her really.
The whole book is romantic development and Grayson undergoes some immense changes in his outlook on life and Kate has to overcome her insecurities and her past. I enjoyed the realistic portrayal of his family's horrified reaction to Grayson being involved with a courtesan as surprisingly enough it seems the "outsider" family who scorns society's mores seems to be more common in romances today than a typical ton family. I know I have gone on about a writer's way with words and I will say that London certainly has a magical way with them- the interactions between Kate and Grayson were amazing and I absolutely loved reading them. In addition all the other characters, including the villian-ish person, were written superbly as well and she did a great job telling the story from both point of views. There was quite a bit of steam and the two had an immediate and striking attraction to her each other and I loved that it was an extension of their feelings for each other and was both HOT and romantic. And of course the situation called for quite a bit of angst between the two and I loved it as it was fun but not overwhelming.
Rating: Absolutely loved this book. Very well written, amazing characters, and such an interesting change to read about a woman who really is a courtesan.