The Illicit Love of a Courtesan by Jane Lark


 Trapped under the reign of a cruel keeper, Ellen Harding longs to be free. Under his oppression, her soul and conscience have died while her body lives on, fulfilling his dissolute desires. She is empty—a vessel—deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame.When her eyes are drawn to a beautiful man for no other reason than his looks, she imagines what it would be like to escape her chains for a night by giving her body to him.

But Edward Marlow is kind and gentle when he touches her, and her subconscious whispers, this man could be her salvation. Yet how can he help her when she has secrets which prevent her freedom?

Edward is restless, lonely, and a little angry with his lot in life—it is his only excuse for being drawn to another man’s mistress. The woman’s dark hair and pale eyes are striking, and he cannot take his gaze off her while she watches him over the top of a fan with an illicit intent in her eyes.

Once he’s known her, he cannot forget her, and once he’s seen the evidence of her supposed benefactor’s brutality, he wants to help her. But how can he when she will not run any more than she will speak of her past?

When a desperate Ellen finally relents and shocks Edward from his sleep, he doesn’t hesitate, he helps her flee. He
just doesn’t know he’s running headlong into the secrets of her past.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18486894-the-illicit-love-of-a-courtesan?ac=1
I am not a huge fan of historical novels but this one was a pleasant surprise.  There was enough drama and tension to keep me interested and it is full of twists and turns and a few surprises to the plot.  The writing style was very easy to follow for those of us who are not use to the language form back in the days of Lords and Dukes.  There wasn’t an overabundance of traditions and cultural situations that would throw us off track from the story.
Lord Gainsborough was an evil man who was blackmailing Ellen into being his courtesan.  He had a wife and children and grandchildren but he used Ellen to satisfy his needs and as payment for his debts.  After being found out as a cheat during a poker game, he paid the debt to Lord Edward by giving him two hours with Ellen.  Lord Edward could tell there was more behind that fake smile than others realized. Ellen was trapped though, she must protect her secret and she was so used to not knowing what pleasure was, how could she allow herself to dream of it, until Edward gave it to her on that night.
After saving her from Gainsborough the secrets started coming out and Edward was finally able to see that even Ellen’s father is an evil force in her life.  He was determined to help her reconnect with family members that would care for her and repair her broken heart.  Ellen isn’t certain that Edward’s family and friends won’t turn on them once they realize she is a whore, just a body that has been used by men of her past.  Her worry was put to rest when Gainborough decided to take back what was his and it became a bloody mess.
This was a wonderful love story with some modern day elements which gave this book an even balance and made it a
story I enjoyed.  The characters were easy to understand and connect with. The story flowed very well and I don’t really feel there was any time that the story was slow or I lost interest in it.  Jane Clark gave us a story of love, redemption and acceptance and I would recommend this book.
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