Review: Courtesan

by Diane Haeger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Courtesan / 1-4000-5174-6

This is not a bad book, but it does fall prey to a lot of flaws. Haeger's characters tend to all look and sound precisely the same, despite differences in age, temperament, upbringing, and social status. The characters are all very one-dimensional - the good people are always, unfailingly good; the bad ones are awful and spiteful, regardless of how kind they are treated. Haeger lacks the lighter touch of, say, Philippa Gregory, who manages in even her worst novels to still lend a sympathetic air to the wronged wife and an occasional claw, tooth, or nail to the sweet, patient mistress.

Although I cannot speak to the historic accuracy of this novel, it seems jarringly unlikely that this sweet-tempered, perfect mistress would never once be even a tiny bit jealous of her husband's necessary visits to his legal wife. There's a lot of Mary Sue-ism going on here, and it distracts from the narrative. I would have liked our mistress to show a little backbone, humanity, and gumption - even some private angst would have sufficed - rather than smile brainlessly, constantly, regardless of the hardships she endures. And, similarly, I would have liked our antagonist-wife to show something more three-dimensional than just pure hatred, rage, and frustration. While we're on the subject, the king is badly rendered as well, seeming to just be a cipher to react to both women.

The novel reads quickly enough and isn't technically bad, but the characters are bland and uninteresting and I was pleased when the novel was finally over.

~ Ana Mardoll

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