Forbidden Publications, $2.99
Historical Romance, 2007
Sela Carsen’s The Virgin Courtesan is set in Italy in the year 1528, a pretty exotic and underused setting where romance stories go. Our heroine, Nerina Morinelo, decides to become a prostitute because she has no other means of making a living after the death of her parents. She doesn’t go as far as to become an actual prostitute in this story, hence the title The Virgin Courtesan. What happens is that she soon learns that she doesn’t have the stomach for her job and leaves, but only after she has angered a powerful man who would no doubt find a way to make her pay for her insult. Our hero, wealthy merchant and nobleman Domenico Venieri, witnessed the incident and stepped in to offer her a proposal: she’ll be paid to pose as his – fake, of course – mistress so that he can get back at the villain in question.
I find the story somewhat confusing because Nerina is said to have resorted to prostitution as a last resort but she certainly doesn’t come off like a desperate person to me. While I like how she planned her new career path pretty intelligently by approaching the madame who knew her late courtesan mother so that Nerina can jumpstart her career in a brothel rather than having to sell her wares on some street corner, she speaks and behaves like a feisty contemporary heroine. While I normally adore heroines who can take care of themselves and Nerina certainly fits the bill here, the story and her personality don’t really suit in my opinion. I find it hard to imagine that she can’t think of any better option other than prostituting herself for money.
I like that Domenico and Nerina manage to interact and bond in a credible manner so the romance can be quite convincing as a result, but at the end of the day, the heroine is too modern for the story and therefore, the premise of this story never really takes off for me. The premise requires a heroine who intelligent yet in dire straits to work but Nerina comes off only as an intelligent and smart heroine. This is one of those historical stories where the heroine is too invulnerable and contemporary to make the story believable, no matter how readable and even enjoyable the result can be.