How Does One Become a Courtesan?

Courtesan's Lover

Guest Post by Gabrielle Kimm, author of The Courtesan’s Lover

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog!

Your question – ‘how does one become a courtesan?’ did make me smile.  I wondered at first how a classified ad might read:

Career Opportunities for the Broad Minded:

Thinking of making a fortune, and hoping to retire in luxury?  Do you have style and charm, sex-appeal and courage?  Is your sense of timing immaculate?  Prepared for anything?  Yes?  Then you might just be standing on the brink of an extraordinary and highly lucrative career as … a courtesan.  No formal qualifications required, though experience is preferred.  Lack of moral scruples advised.  Enthusiasm is a must. 

Being a little more serious, though, many Renaissance courtesans were in fact introduced to the profession by their mothers, who had most likely been courtesans themselves, and had hopes of being kept in their old age by their offspring in the lavish style to which they had become happily accustomed.  As it happens, Francesca, my eponymous courtesan, is an exception to this rule – as a devoted mother to her two daughters, she expresses her disgust at the thought of maternal procuring at one point in the book:

“Unlike me ,” she says, “(I discovered this life late, compared to most),  most courtesans are born to it – born into harlotry – like that little snake, Alessandra Malacoda, who, if I am to believe the Neapolitan gossips, was introduced to the delights of the bedchamber at the age of ten by her pimping whore of a mother.  No doubt La Malacoda has made her mamma proud of her.  And she plans, so I have been told, to be just as proud of her own daughter.  Hoping she’ll be kept in luxury in her old age, no doubt.  The child is four.  God! – the very thought makes me retch.”

In contrast to the more lowly street-walking prostitutes (or puttane), the courtesans never worked for pimps.  Those who had been introduced into the profession by their mothers would have had patrons procured for them by those mothers; others would have worked with, say, a manservant, and provided their own clientele.  Unwanted patrons were quickly dismissed, and so, to a large extent, a courtesan’s diary was filled only with those men she was happy to see and entertain.

Gabrielle KimmEven within the luxurious world of the high-class courtesan, though, there lurked the threat of danger and disease.  The great Veronica Franco, probably the best-known of the Renaissance Venetian courtesans (and subject of the film ‘Dangerous Beauty’), talked about this.  I include a quote from Franco before the start of The Courtesan’s Lover.  She says:

“  To expose yourself as prey to so many men, with the constant risk of being despoiled, robbed or killed; with the chance that one man, one day, may take from you everything you have acquired with many, over a long time;  to say nothing of the other dangers – of insult and contagious, frightful disease.  ”

Yes, it’s true that a courtesan in Renaissance times might not have faced the grueling terrors that an enslaved and drug-addicted modern sex worker is forced to face every day, and the courtesans may have lived lives that others might see as luxurious, but the bottom line was that they were selling sex, with all the inherent dangers that such a lifestyle brought with it.  On top of everything else, too, at this period in history, there lurked the terror of damnation – the courtesans knew that what they were doing, in the Church’s eyes, was a mortal sin.  Towards the end of The Courtesan’s Lover, at a point at which Francesca’s life seems to be falling in on her and crushing her, she says:

Behind all the tawdry trappings, I have to face the fact … that I’m nothing but a whore.  I earn my scudi on my back.  Strip me of my finery and I am no different from any street puttana.

What was the difference between a mistress and a courtesan?  This is a difficult one.  In  many ways the courtesans were businesswomen – astonishingly independent, acute, even feminist, businesswomen.  They may have slid into emotionally-charged affairs from time to time, and become to all intents and purposes mistresses of whichever man it happened to be; they may have become allied to one particular patron, to the exclusion of all others, for a protracted period; but in the end, they were at heart professional lovers.  I suppose you could sum it up by saying that any courtesan could be a mistress, but not every mistress could be a courtesan.  Does that make sense?

It’s been great fun exploring the world of the courtesan and discovering how extraordinary they were.  I suppose, that in our comparatively liberal, sexually-emancipated world, there is no need for creatures like courtesans any more, but I can’t help thinking, having spent such a lot of time in their company of at least one of them over the last couple of years, that life is perhaps a little less colourful for their loss.

I do hope you enjoy The Courtesan’s Lover – and thank you again for inviting me onto the blog!

Gaby x

Buy: The Courtesan’s Lover

Interview with a Hero: Keirnan Fitzgerald

guestblog

by Loucinda McGary guest blogger and author of The Treasures of Venice

Thank you for inviting me to blog with you today. I’m excited to be promoting my newest release from Sourcebooks Casablanca, The Treasures of Venice. This book is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements and a dual storyline set in both contemporary and Renaissance Venice.

American librarian, Samantha Lewis is in Venice on what should have been her honeymoon, but she called off the wedding after learning that her fiancé cheated on her. Sitting in an outdoor café in St. Mark’s Square, she is feeling a bit sorry for herself when a handsome stranger approaches her and asked her to play along with him. On an impulse, she does and goes with him into the Doge’s Palace.

Charming Irish rogue, Keirnan Fitzgerald never met a lock he couldn’t pick. But he finds himself in Venice on a dangerous mission. His sister, a Renaissance scholar has been ruthlessly kidnapped. The ransom is the legendary Jewels of the Madonna, stolen and missing for over 500 years. Keirnan’s plans do not include becoming involved with a beautiful American tourist, but he and Samantha seem drawn to each other in an almost other-worldly way.

As the story behind the jewels original disappearance in 1485 unfolds, Samantha and Keirnan question if they are soul mates from a previous life. Or are they merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasure?

Now that you know a little about the book, I thought you might enjoy an interview with the hero, Keirnan Fitzgerald. My critique partners, friends, and thus far the readers and reviewers have been very enthusiastic about this charming Irish rogue. They’ve all expressed interest in learning a bit more about him and I thought the readers here at Love Romance Passion might like to know too. (Special thanks to my critique partners Cathy D. and Jo-Mama who helped with some of the questions.)

TreasuresofVeniceCVR.inddLoucinda McGary: Hello Keirnan, you have a somewhat unusual name. Is it a family name?

Keirnan Fitzgerald: As a matter of fact, it is. I was named for both my grandfathers, Keirnan Fitzgerald and Sean Farley. My sister was also named for our grandmothers, Kathleen Mary, so I guess you could say it’s a family tradition.

LM: In the story The Treasures of Venice, you mention being kicked by a horse as a child. Did you grow up around horses?

KF: Most everyone in County Kildare does. All the finest Irish thoroughbreds are born and raised there. My father was a trainer on one of the smaller farms.

LM: But you didn’t want to follow in his footsteps?

KF: Ah, no. I saw too much of the more unpleasant aspects of the job growing up to want to spend my life doing it.

LM: How in the world did you go from a horse farm to Venice?

KF: That would be my sister’s doing. She studied there for a semester during her early days at university, and she couldn’t get enough of the place – became a bit obsessed actually. When she moved there to do her graduate studies, I used to visit her on school holidays. Unlike her, I never wanted to live there. America was the place for me, the land of opportunity and pretty girls. First chance I got to go there, I jumped at it and I’ve lived there ever since.

LM: What is it about American women you find so appealing?

KF: Most of them have a fresh-scrubbed look about them that makes them appear to be both innocent and sexy at the same time. And most of them are incredibly direct. No doubt about where you stand. Oh, and most of them also find an Irish accent irresistible. (He gives a knowing smile.)

LM: Back to the storyline of The Treasures of Venice, what would you have done if Samantha hadn’t gone along with you? Did you have a Plan B?

KF: (chuckles) Darlin’ I didn’t even have a Plan A! I had that funny feeling on the back of my neck that I get when I’m being watched or followed. I saw a pretty girl sitting alone at a table in Piazza San Marco. I could tell by the way she was dressed that she was American. She looked familiar somehow, so I just walked up to her and took a chance.

LM: It never once occurred to you that she might say no, did it?

KF: (shuffles his feet and looks a bit sheepish) I adore the ladies, and most of ‘em adore me, so honestly, no. I didn’t think what I’d do if she refused. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it, did I? (His blue eyes gleam and he winks.)

LM: You do have quite an adventurous streak, don’t you? So how many times have you wound up naked in some strange woman’s hotel room?

KF: Don’t ya know a gentleman never kisses and tells? And I am a gentleman.

LM: All right then, what is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?

KF: Why fall in love, of course. Nothing’s more dangerous than risking your heart.

LM: One last question, certain people in The Treasures of Venice believe you and Samantha were soul-mates from a previous life. Do you believe you that?

KF: If you had asked me that before I met Samantha, I’d have told you it was all a pile of rubbish. I still think perhaps it might be. But I do believe in true love, and when you meet the one for you, you will know it.

LM: On that lovely note, we’ll end our interview. But if you have any questions for Keirnan, please ask away! Oh, and if you have any questions for me, his creator, I’ll be happy to answer those too.

L McGary Photo1

About the Author

Loucinda McGary took early retirement from her managerial career to pursue her twin passions of travel and writing, and sets her novels of romantic suspense in the fascinating places she has visited. She was a finalist in the 2006 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest in Romantic Suspense. She lives in Sacramento, CA. For more information, please visit http://loucindamcgary.com/.

Buy: The Treasures of Venice