I can trace my enjoyment of the courtesan theme to my reading of Sleeping Beauty by Judith Ivory. In the hands of Judith Ivory, any theme, plot device, setting, or character seems fresh and new and believable, and she did an excellent job with Coco in Sleeping Beauty. She is such a well-crafted and interesting character, and not at all like the typical romance heroine who won't admit or go after what she wants, and half the time doesn't even know what she wants.
And that is the very reason that I like courtesan heroines. They are typically at little older, a little more mature, sexually experienced enough that their first orgasm is not the sole reason they fall in love. I feel like they are actually the hero's equal, whereas oftentimes in historical romances I don't feel like the hero and heroine are on equal footing. Quite frequently I feel like I am just watching a man fall in love with an almost-childlike woman who just wants to be protected and secure.
But not so with the courtesan, who typically has already managed to financially secure her own future, and who understands that the world isn't all roses, but that she can handle the things that are not rosy. She doesn't need a hero, she just needs love.
Here are a few new and upcoming books involving courtesans that I have found:
The Courtesan by Susan Carroll
Ballantine, 26 July 2005
Games of Pleasure by Julia Ross
Berkley, 1 November 2005
The Mysterious Miss M by Diane Gaston
Harlequin Historicals, 1 November 2005
The Courtesan by Julia Justiss
HQN, 1 December 2005
The Courtesan's Courtship by Gail Ranstrom
Harlequin, 1 January 2006
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Random House, 14 February 2006