The King’s Courtesan by Judith James

Redonk Nutshell: With his impending nuptials, King Charles marries off a favored courtesan to a titled Lord so he can eventually call her back to court

You know, I was somewhat skeptical of this book going into it.  The premise is kind of intriguing, though one would imagine filled with predictable outcome.  The king’s courtesan, one of many, is readying to be forcibly exiled from court because of his upcoming wedding.  The king, however, wants her to be looked after, and ultimately, able to come back to his bed once things, er, quiet down.

Hope Matthews is an inherently beautiful woman, a woman who makes the most of what life deals her.  She grew up in a brothel, and worked her way up to courtesan, catching the King’s eye and establishing herself as a hot commodity.

Robert is a military man, a good and patient man who has dedicated his life to avenging his sister’s violent death at the hands of corrupt British soldiers.  It is a guise burdens heavily upon himself.  When the Crown takes his lands and title, he almost sets out to finish his quest, but a personal summoning from the King redirects him to London.

King Charles schemes to get these two hitched, with the intention that a) Robert can keep his lands and title, b) Robert will provide safe haven for Hope and c) Hope can still serve as the King’s lover when called upon.  Robert reluctantly agrees, his hands tied.  Hope, meanwhile, is completely in the dark upon her arrangement, until it’s too late for her to protest.

You can probably imagine where things go from here.  Undoubtedly, they do.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the journey.  In a way, both Hope and Robert have prostituted themselves, and they each deal with it in fascinating ways.  Their interactions with one another are awkward at first, livid and emotional as a start, and gradually friendly and more as they lick their wounded pride.  Foreseeing the outcome of these two ending up together was no big surprise, but the journey to this destination was well written and earnest.  It was very well worth the read.

The King’s Courtesan is something of a sequel to James’s previous novel, Libertine’s Kiss.  In fact, we see both William and Elizabeth many times.  I personally found it a bit extraneous – it wanted this story to focus solely on Hope and Robert.  However, it didn’t detract too much from the general tone of the book for me.  It’s a personal quirk of mine, as far as series’ go.  I imagine one could pick up The King’s Courtesan without having Read Libertine’s Kiss and be able to follow it with no problems.  The backstory of William and Elizabeth isn’t detrimental, though the reader may wonder why these two figure so prominently into Charles’s decisions.

James passion for history is reflected in her characters and plot development.  It’s obvious she’s done her research, and as a fellow love of history, it’s a sentiment I very much enjoy.

The King’s Courtesan by Judith James

Rating: B

Romance: 3.5/5       Raunch: 3/5

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