Sunday, October 16, 2011
Claiming the Courtesan
After years of courtship and one year as his courtesan, Justin, the Duke of Kylemore, appreciates having his beautiful mistress, Soraya, available and compliant whenever he wishes. But Soraya is really Verity Ashton, a Yorkshire girl, who has used the only asset she saw available. to earn a better life for herself and her siblings, Ben and Maria. Their contract specified a year for their relationship and at the end Verity takes the vast sums of money she has earned from her time with Kylemore and leaves to set up a quiet existence. Kylemore is immediately determined to bring Soraya back because his obsession with her has not ended and the longer it takes the more he becomes intent on revenge. He must make her suffer as she has made him suffer and when he finally finds her and invades the escape she has created for herself he sets out to break her and make her regret ever leaving him. He and his Scottish strongmen escort Soraya/ Verity to his hunting lodge deep in the Scottish Highlands where escape or rescue are impossible, even though memories of his boyhood there haunt Kylemore.
Things get off to a poor start as Verity is determined to maintain her pride and refuses to give in to Kylemore and this makes him even angrier and he sets about cruelly breaking her spirit. He chooses to do this by seducing her, even when she is reluctant or unwilling, and this only proves to him that he needs her in his life. He realizes that far from breaking her, he is breaking himself as he comes to discover that she brings peace to his troubled existence and it is only with her that he can forget the demons that haunt him. Verity tries to hold herself apart, convince herself that she does not want Kylemore, especially after all that he forces her to endure, but it becomes harder as she sees him interact with his tenants and learns of what he went through as a child with his crazed father. Even as the two begin to warm to each other and accept their feelings for the other, Verity worries that an ex-courtesan will never be good enough for a peer of the realm and it is up to Kylemore to convince her that their past does not matter; the only thing that counts is that they each need and love the other.
Campbell has a very distinctive style that is wordy, dark, and emotional and this one stuck to that script perfectly. I love having a courtesan be the heroine of a novel and how her past came up and was definitely an issue between them, but with work they were able to move past it. Her dedication to her siblings was admirable and I enjoyed that she took charge of her life and did not martyr herself while still recognizing that her chosen path was not one for the righteous. Her determination to hold herself apart from Kyelmore seemed ridiculous to me after everything they went through and especially once she "gave in" and everything was so happy between them. She was so worried about losing her heart and her "self" and that dragged the book down and on for a long while and was very darkly emotional in keeping with Campbell's style. Kylemore was a tortured soul of course, and his determination to break Verity lead to some very dark and disturbing places and he performed some nearly unforgivable actions that I still have not quite come to a decision about.
Their relationship was based on a past where neither really knew the other and while their time secluded in Kyelmore's hunting cabin certainly gave them the opportunity to learn more about the other it also felt like they fell in love because they had to. I am just not a big fan of isolated people turning to each other for comfort and believing that they are in love, especially not when one has such a power advantage over the other. The sex between them was interesting and I would hesitate to say hot because even when it was entirely consensual, it was tinged with melancholy because of past deeds or what they expected from the future. I did appreciate the part of their relationship where they were both happy and enjoying themselves, it seemed that the majority of this happy time occurred in the bedroom, but it was short and overshadowed by the immense cloud that hung over both of them and their entire relationship. Kylemore's demons were certainly tortured soul worthy, but not cruel and evil human making. Perhaps my favorite character was his super evil witch mother just because I liked a genuine person to hate.
Rating: A long and very emotional book with two characters who had a very complicated and dark relationship. I debated between 2 and 3 but can not say I precisely enjoyed it.