Book Review: 'The Illicit Love of a Courtesan' by Jane Lark

by - January 30, 2014

Publisher Harper Impulse


In the eyes of the ton, Ellen Harding lives a charmed life – she is the beautiful, exquisitely adorned mistress of Lord Gainsborough. But on the inside, behind her glamorous façade, she is empty – a vessel – deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame. Unable to escape the gilded cage she has been trapped within. Kind, gentle Edward Marlow could prove to be her salvation… With one look he gives her hope. With one touch he sets her senses alight. Lose yourself in the passionate intensity of this stunning debut from exciting new talent Jane Lark.


I was really looking forward to reading The Illicit Love of a Courtesan as I love romance novels, and I have always been intrigued by history. I love getting insight into what life was like through different periods of time.

For this reason I really enjoyed The Illicit Love of a Courtesan as Jane’s writing beautifully recreated history within this story. It really seems that Jane did a huge amount of work in researching Regency England in order to ensure this story was authentic and real for the reader. Jane’s imagery is so beautiful, she really draws the reader into the story and makes you feel as though you’re really there.

The characters Jane has written into her novel are brilliant. The heroine, Ellen, finds herself caught up in a life she despises, and has a great longing to escape. As the mistress of Lord Gainsborough, she wants for nothing, but it is at the cost of her pride, freedom and dignity. I really felt for Ellen being trapped in this dark, horrible world, and found myself glued to the pages to find out what fate lay ahead of her. Lord Gainsborough is a horrific man; he is abusive, manipulative and full of lies. Nobody deserves to be treated the way Lord Gainsborough treats Ellen. And then there is Edward! He is always there trying to help Ellen get out of this terrible life she is living. I really admired his commitment to being there for her. I was sometimes frustrated by Ellen having her own secrets from Edward, as it sometimes felt that all his effort was in vain because she never appears to truly let him in. Jane keeps you turning the page, as you can’t wait to find out how the story turns out, whether Ellen escapes this horrible life, and whether Edward and her find happiness together.

I really became engrossed in this story from start to finish, learning about a new historical period as well as becoming entangled in the love story between Ellen and Edward. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical romance; it is truly captivating. I was also pleased to find that the erotic love scenes were very tastefully written.

A dark and emotional historical romance, driven by hope and desire, laced with passion.


He’d been waiting ten minutes when he saw her. She was simply and elegantly dressed, her appearance nothing like that of a courtesan. The long dark navy pelisse she wore was to keep her warm in the chill, early March winds. Spring was still as yet unbroken.

The demure garment hung to her ankles, with double breasted buttons across her chest, and an upturned fox fur collar framed her beautiful neck and face. Her hands were within a matching fox fur muff at her waist. The dark navy hat, sitting high on her ebony hair, was decorated with jay’s feathers that swept up from the brim above her left ear. And a narrow, navy veil, woven in a fine net, was drawn down over her eyes and nose.

His hands curled into fists inside the pockets of his thick, many-caped greatcoat as he watched her, waiting for her to notice him.

She had thought to hide herself, he guessed, but he would know the curve of her jaw, that mouth, the column of her neck, anywhere, even within a crowd. He had committed it to memory half a dozen times in recent weeks and lain awake night after night recalling every detail.

She looked over her shoulder, glancing back up the street, as if she half expected to be followed. Then she looked to the traffic in the road, waiting until it was clear before she crossed to the park gates. She’d still not seen him.

Within her muff he imagined her hands clasped together, her thumbs circling one another. He’d seen her tendency to fiddle when she stood at Gainsborough’s back. She was forever twisting and turning her fan; never comfortable, nor secure. The other courtesans he’d seen in London were women of excessive confidence, bold, never meek and maidenly in their manner as Ellen always seemed. With Ellen he could not even lay her lack of confidence at the door of her age. She was older than him, and yet her nervous behaviour made her seem half a dozen years younger.

She was on the path some distance before him now, her short, quick strides slicing at the skirt of her pelisse. Her gaze was on the pavement ahead of her, oblivious to the men who passed her and looked back, as nearly every man did, even with her beauty covered by a veil.

She looked up.

The moment she saw him, he could tell she’d not thought he would come. It was in the sudden drop of tenseness in her shoulders and the smile opening her mouth as if she would speak and acknowledge him from afar. But such an outburst would be folly, even though he had come as asked without acquaintance or equipage, someone may know him. Her mouth closed on the exclamation as she increased her pace, weaving through people walking the other way.

About the Author:

Jane is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romances.

She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis.

When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write one.

Now Jane is writing a Regency series she’s thrilled to be giving her characters life in others’ imaginations at last.

Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, and uses her knowledge of psychology to bring her characters to life.

‘Basically I love history and I’m a sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love; it’s wonderful being able to do it time and time again in fiction, and my understanding of people helps me write the really intense relationships I enjoy creating.’


The only woman who had power over notorious rake Robert Marlow was now walking away from him, again. He'd heard Sutton had died, and known Jane was free, but he'd always thought his desire would only be for revenge, not her. Yet here he was, unable to deny what he felt for her… what he’d never felt for any other woman…

****International giveaway**** - a first edition signed copy of The Illicit Love of a Courtesan plus a bag.


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  1. Loved reading your review Jess. You've made me want to read it :) I love historical romances.

    Thank you for taking part in Jane's tour.


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