Generally, I avoid romance novels like the plague. I avoid romance novels even more than I would avoid the plague, as the plague doesn’t generally pop up in my day to day life. However, every now and again I realize that I’m in a situation where I have to choose between a romance novel or no book at all. I read this during one of those times and was pleasantly surprised.
Claudia Dain’s work is better than most romance novels because she doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a sense of humor. Her writing pokes fun at the typical regency novel. I started laughing when the heroine Louisa solicited help from a prostitute named Sophia in order to retrieve a missing “pearl necklace,” as well as to get her crush to notice her. Of course, Sophia has a different suitor in mind for her, and making sure Louisa is ruined is all a part of her master plan.
I was impressed that this novel wasn’t terrible. It’s not exactly high literature, but it’s good for something mindless to read while sitting by the pool. The characters are better than typical romance stock, and didn’t make me want to strangle them. That is saying a lot for a romance novel.
I’ve often wondered whether it was possible to find a romance novel that is well-written, and where the female character actually has a brain and isn’t a complete dolt, and where the author doesn’t use sad sexual euphemisms that make me want to chuck the book across the room. I’ve given up on that, but “The Courtesan’s Secret” may be about as close as one can realistically get.