Book 1 in the School for Courtesans Series
First of all, a great cast of supporting characters. Secondly, His Grace could’ve been really annoying. In fact, he tried really hard to be really annoying. Sometimes he succeeded – like with his overly possessive, anger-management-issues behavior that occasionally flared up. His desire for revenge I thought was actually fairly realistic for a duke of the day, whom I often imagine to be spoiled, arrogant, rich brats. That’s how Nicholas Drake, His Grace, comes off at first (especially with his temper tantrum. Jeez, man, get a grip). But throughout the story, Eva Winfield/Black (our heroine) works her way under his skin and brings out the better side of Nicholas – his spontaneity, his desire to be loved, and his singular wit and charm. When that happened I found myself falling for his pleasant charm about as quickly as Eva did (not quite as quickly, but close).
Eva had one really unique point in her favor – as far as historical romance heroines go, she was spunky. She didn’t make a big deal about her virginity, which I thought made for a beautiful scene when Nicholas found out. Equally refreshing was that he did not insist they be married after deflowering her. Thank you, Cheryl Ann Smith, for breaking convention! The other things that made her spunky: she runs a school for courtesans and wears a costume so she looks more spinster like. Hm. Interesting. The only thing that bothered me about her was how quickly she fell for his touches. I felt as though she might have held out a little longer than she did, given how determined she seemed to resist. She had a backbone of steel when talking to him, but he touches her and she pretty much melted. Sketchy.
The unfortunate thing about this book, I thought, was that the plot was pretty silly. I mean, silly in a stupid, ridiculous way not silly in a fun way. There were simply too many coincidences and unimportant plot twists that detracted from what could have been a decent plot line. The stuff about Margaret-Abigail at the end we really could’ve nixed without losing any value and it made the story seem a little too fake. Also, when the women go to rescue Yvette and sneak into the abbey I wanted to scream in frustration at the unrealistic, idiotic nature of it. I have an imagination, however there is a realm of believability that I adhere strictly too. Like Judge Judy says, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me its raining". But anyways, the romance blossomed so I happily waded through a sucky plot to get to the happy ending. And what a happy ending it was. J
Unfortunately, Eva had neither the time nor the desire to find a shovel and dig for humanity.
One enlightened courtesan and four to go.
“If I’m to risk my reputation, Miss Black, I would prefer us both to be discovered wearing much less clothing.” (Nicholas)
“Sexy”ness rating: Bring on the Water! We’re Smokin!
Overall Rating: B-
Bottom Line: This was not the best historical novel I’ve ever read – but it was far from the worst and better than average. The characters were interesting even if the plot was silly, and I found the book, for the most part, refreshingly light. Cheryl Ann Smith, what a wonderful debut. I’m looking forward to the next one!
Published: April 5, 2011