Verity Ashton, alias Soraya, has lived as the well-kept mistress of the Duke of Kylemore, Justin Kinmurrie, for a year. She has been cosseted and kept in a fine house and in return has provided all the seductive pleasures the Duke has asked of her. They share a fiery passion but Verity has never let the Duke know the true her, because she has plans to finally end her life as a member of the demimonde and return to obscurity in a small English village. She wants peace in her life, and now that she has the wealth to take care of her siblings, she no longer has to live for the whims of powerful men.
When she leaves Kylemore, he is beyond furious. His one thought is for revenge and he will let nothing stand in the way of getting Soraya, his only source of contentment, back in his life. After a three month search, he finally discovers her in the obscure town of Whitby where, after a painful confrontation, he kidnaps her and takes her to his hunting lodge in Scotland where he will use every resource he has to convince her that she belongs with him.
Claiming the Courtesan is the first novel from new author Anna Campbell. It is certainly fraught with passion, but it is unfortunately fraught with acts of rape that do little to endear the hero to the reader.
Kylemore has his reasons for his cold demeanor, for the hatred and anger that festers inside him, but I do not necessarily believe those reasons allow him to perform such hurtful acts to the heroine. Verity did not deserve rape and that is what it was, plain and simple.
Verity is a character who is admirable, in that she tries to find a way to help her siblings when she was only a mere fifteen years old, but as the story continues, she challenges readers to continue that level of admiration and understanding because, for all of the horrible acts Kylemore perpetuates against her, she still finds ways to excuse his actions and, unbelievably, loves him in spite of it all. I did not come away from this book feeling their love was a “true love” match, more like a continual struggle for power in their relationship.
So why three roses? Anna Campbell has a very distinct voice and poses some interesting conundrums to the reader regarding female morality and male power in the nineteenth century. And, this passionate duo will draw readers in. While I was repulsed by the actions of both Verity and Kylemore, I was still intrigued, in a somewhat sick fashion, enough to read and finish. Anna Campbell will garner attention with this novel, and will certainly promote discussion in the romance genre. But, does that make this book worthy of your dollars? Not necessarily. Readers may well be better off getting this book from the library.