Lessons From A Courtesan
by Jenna Petersen, historical (2008)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-113814-0
While I don't think that Jenna Petersen's Lessons From A Courtesan is a particularly badly written book, I find it a very frustrating read. Let me put it this way: by the last page, I'd happily cheer if someone tie up heroine Victoria Reed and hero Justin Talbot, place them on a wheelbarrow, and push that wheelbarrow off a high cliff right into the sea.
Okay, three years ago, Justin is blackmailed into marrying and consummating the wedding night with Victoria, the daughter of his late father's enemy. He does it with all the finesse of a prickly rhinoceros, but the heroine enjoys it anyway because we all know romance heroines are genetically programmed to be unable to experience an orgasm with any guy that isn't the one. You know, that one. That is in the prologue. We cut to three years later, when Victoria, in what she believes to be a fabulous plan, decides to pose as "Ria", a notorious courtesan that has descended to London to pick a lover who can afford her services. Don't ask. Her plan is so ridiculous, I really don't want to talk about it. As for Justin, our beloved husband, who has been happily committing adultery with who-knows-what all over France, returns to London to see whether he can play with Ria too, only to realize that Ria is his wife.
I am then told that Justin has never stopped thinking of his wife all these three years. Am I to believe that when he sticks it to those floozies in Paris, he cries out his wife's name or something? "Honey, I never wrote, I never called, I didn't even care whether you lived or died, and look, I got the clap in France, but all the while, you're always on my mind, baby!" As for Victoria, the moment she sees Justin, the lessons she's had from some courtesan are completely forgotten as she begins stammering, quivering, and melting into a puddle of dumb wench goo on the floor. Poor Victoria is completely unable to resist the husband that all Justin has to do is to wag that thing and she'll be a complete mess. Victoria, of course, insists later in the story that she and Justin have some kind of spark between them. Oh honey, if I stick my finger into a socket, there will be sparks too... right before I become barbecued to crisp. I don't see any romance here, just a heroine too weak-willed to resist the hero and therefore unable to stop being manipulated by him.
And oh boy, Justin is such a hypocritical asshole here that I don't even know where to begin. Can I begin by using his head as a bowling ball? A scene late in the story illustrates Justin's personality the best. Our heroine has described all the sordid events that happened to her when Justin abandoned her to stick it to floozies left and right, and trust me, some of these events are not pretty, especially when you think about how poor Victoria was abandoned by her husband with no allies on her side. When Justin hears all those sordid details, you know what he tells Victoria? Instead of feeling even a little guilty for ditching her to face those ordeals on her own, he tells her that she has lied to him and therefore he can't trust her anymore! It's all about Justin where Justin is concerned, and it's infuriating for me to see this asshole keep getting the upper hand over our professional victim of a heroine.
I really do not enjoy reading Lessons From A Courtesan even a little. If you want to read this baby, I hope for your sake that your mental threshold for assholes and stupid heroines is much higher than mine.
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