Guest Post by Gabrielle Kimm + Giveaway of The Courtesan's Lover

Passages to the Past is pleased to welcome Gabrielle Kimm, author of The Courtesan's Lover to the blog today!  Gabrielle is here with a fabulous guest post and also a giveaway of her novel!


First of all – thank you so much for having me on your blog! 

I was talking to a student the other day – a twelve-year old – and was telling her that one way to improve her vocabulary was to make a deliberate decision to look up and learn three new words a week, and to make sure she found an opportunity to use them at least once during that week. ‘Like what?’ she said. ‘What sort of words?’ I racked my brains for an unusual word. ‘How about ‘serendipity’?’ I said. ‘Do you know what that one means? ‘No,’ she replied. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it means discovering something nice when you’re not looking for it.’ I have to admit that she seemed sadly unimpressed! Will she learn it and use it? Who knows? I hope so. 

The Collins On-Line English dictionary translates ‘serendipity’ thus: “the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident”. It’s a lovely idea, I think, and one which played an important part in the writing of ‘The Courtesan’s Lover’, as it happens. 

It was like this: 

I had a vague idea of the sort of circumstances in which my eponymous courtesan would be living, when I first started writing my new novel. She had run away from her life in Ferrara, and was in the process, I knew, of establishing herself as a courtesan in the far away city of Naples, well away from the Duke of Ferrara. 

Now, I knew embarrassingly little about courtesans when I started writing the book, and originally envisaged Francesca living in a house in Naples with her children, with probably a room elsewhere in the city where she would ply her trade. Early research, however, showed that the Renaissance courtesans were considerably more wealthy and opulent than I had imagined, and I realized that Francesca was going to need at least one servant, if not several. So, I duly expanded her property portfolio – I gave her two much larger houses – and I installed a couple of house servants where she lived with her daughters. 

It seemed to me that she would need some sort of manservant, to support her and protect her where she worked. I knew from research that the courtesans never worked for pimps: they chose their own patrons, whom they then retained or dismissed, and kept for themselves whatever money they earned (this was often a small fortune!), but it seemed to me that it would serve both character and plot for Francesca to have a manservant in her working establishment. 

And so Modesto came into the story. I wasn’t that bothered about him – he was, if you like, an ‘extra’. A bit-part player. There on the sidelines to provide a bit of realism, but not of any particular interest to me. He was going to have to be completely off-limits, too - I did not want him ending up in Francesca’s bed. 

In fact, I didn’t want there to be even the possibility in the reader’s mind of Francesca having any sort of physical relationship with Modesto – she was, if my plot unraveled itself as I hoped it would – going to be in enough of a mess emotionally, without her servant chipping in and causing her problems as well. 

It seemed to me that if I was going to keep him out from under my promiscuous courtesan’s skirts, I had two choices: either to make him homosexual or impotent. I had already decided that another significant character was going to be homosexual, so, not wanting to unbalance things, I decided sadly for this unfortunate servant, that I was going to have to resort to the imposition of impotence. It seemed a rather sadistic decision and I began to feel sorry for poor Modesto. 

Just to have him, by chance as it were, unable to function sexually, would not be either credible or interesting, I reckoned, so I spent a long time trying to find an authentically concrete reason why someone at that time in history might possibly have been unavoidably impotent. I was looking for illnesses – illnesses whose aftermath might have robbed someone of sexual function. 

And here’s where the serendipity comes in. There I was, looking for catastrophic illnesses, when I stumbled across something quite different. Something totally unexpected. The castrati

It was perfect. Horribly perfect. 

Open-mouthed with disbelief, I discovered that literally tens of thousands of small boys, across a couple of centuries, were castrated in the name of liturgical music, in order to retain their soprano voices. St Paul, in a letter to someone-or-other, a couple of millennia ago, made the pronouncement that ‘women should be silent in church’and so, needing long-lasting high voices to perform the great liturgical works, the church authorities came up with an … alternative solution. After reeling with shock, my mind began almost literally to bulge with the extraordinary possibilities of character development this discovery suggested. Modesto had been brought into being as a ‘side-kick’- someone dumped into the story simply because Francesca needed a bloke around the house. But, as I found out more and more about the castrati, the more Modesto simply refused to be bound by my original parameters; he broke out of where I had first determined to place him and demanded to become a more significant character in his own right. 

All at once, I understood him. I knew him. He had been a singer, I discovered: a castrato soprano who had lost his career after illness and had subsequently accepted the position of manservant/come pimp/come nursemaid/come bouncer to this beautiful courtesan. By nature a compassionate, intelligent and witty man, I realized that Modesto is also racked with a bitter hatred for the people who robbed him of his sexual potential, he is disgusted with what he describes as his ‘perception of his own ‘otherness’’ and, although he won’t ever admit it even to himself, he has long been utterly devoted to Francesca. He quickly became one of my very favourites of the characters I’ve created over the course of two-and-a-bit novels 

So much came from one unexpected discovery: a serendipitous discovery. Much of writing seems to be like this, I find – creating a novel seems to be a process far more of discovery than of invention. And the delight I take in unearthing the unexpected is probably one of the main reasons I keep on writing. 

I have to say … I really do love my job!

About The Courtesan's Lover

Publication Date:  May 1, 2012


Francesca Felizzi knows she wields an immense power over men. Her patrons see only a carefree courtesan, and they pay handsomely for the privilege of her time. Francesca never saw him coming, the man who cracked her heart open and ruined her for the job. But he's shown her what a gaudy facade she's built, and she doesn't know how to tear it down without taking her beloved daughters with her. The wrong move could plunge all of them into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began her perilous work all those years ago.

An exquisite tale that explores the intricate nature of a mother's heart. The Courtesan's Lover draws you close and whispers in your ear. In the tradition of Sarah Dunant and Marina Fiorato, a compelling and vibrant tale from an up-and-coming fresh voice that readers will want to savor.

For more information on Gabrielle Kimm and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.

Giveaway Information

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada ONLY.
- +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page.
- +3 additional entries follow me on Twitter.
- +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook or Google+.  You can use the SHARE buttons below.
- Giveaway ends on May 18th.


  1. Sounds like an amazing story!

    I also have castrati in my 6th c. novel, but just as bit players. Most people know about eunuchs, but not necessarily that some were castrated to preserve their voices. They're in interesting, if unfortunate, bunch to study.

  2. I follow PttP by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  3. I have joined the Passages to the Past FB Page: Carl Scott

  4. I do follow on Twitter: @carlrscott

  5. I tweeted this post:!/carlrscott/status/199383881013661696

  6. What an interesting post. Looks like a great book.

  7. I really enjoyed reading how this author developed her characters. You could almost see the wheels fall right into place. (Of course, she made it look really easy, but I know there was work behind it).
    I would love to read this book.

  8. +5 a follower of Passages to the Past.
    +3 member of Passages to the Past FB Page.
    +3 Twitter follower.
    +1 blogging contest
    +1 tweeted contest
    +1 posted contest on Facebook
    +1 posted contest on Google+.

    Thank you for the chance to win.
    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  9. I NEED to read this book. It's beyond want!
    I follow you on GFC, as well as twitter and I posted on my sidebar!

  10. This sounds like a great book. I'd love to win it.

  11. The life of a courtesan must has been very tenuous for women. If they pleased the men in power, they were safe. However, one wrong step and their lives could be in big danger. When things went well, I'm sure these women lived well. However, the fear of the consequences of a wrong move must have always hanging over their heads. For Francesca to lose her heart to a lover must have been so difficult for her. I enjoyed reading the synopsis and look forward to reading "The Courtesan's Lover."

    + 5 = Follower of PTTP
    + 3 = Follow PTTP on Facebook

  12. Sounds like a great book !
    Thanks for the contest. Lynda

  13. I was aware that young boys were castrated to preserve soprano vocal ranges...but never considered it in terms of a number. Truly disturbing. I'd love to read this novel.

    I'm a follower.

  14. What an interesting post!

    Google and FaceBook follower

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  15. Sounds like a fascinating read. I am a follower and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  16. The popularity of courtesans and boy sopranos were as fleeting as their good looks and voices. An interesting book!

    Jo Ann Butler

  17. I would love to read this! Here's hoping!

    -+5 follower of potp
    -+3 member of potp page
    -+1 tweeted
    -+1 shared on fb
    -+1 shared on google+


  18. This sounds like a wonderful book. And I loved the guest post, great job!! I love how you found your inspiration.

    +5, a follower of POTP
    +3, joined the FB page (group)
    +3 followed you on Twitter
    +1, shared on Google
    +1 RTd your Twitter post
    +1 sent a Tweet via share on blog
    +1 Shared to personal FB page

  19. Sounds like a intriguing story, I would love to score a copy.

    +5: Networked Blogs follower as Lilian Cheng

    +3: Joined FB page as Lilian Cheng

    +3: Followed on Twitter as @lilboxism

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

  20. Forgot my email:

    Erin Al-Mehairi

  21. Awesome! Count me in.

    sidhekist at gmail dot com

  22. This is an awesome book! This was an awesome guest post! Much love to Amy and Gabrielle!
    Oh, and will we be hearing from Francesca any more?

  23. Great guest post. I enjoyed hearing about the evolution of your character from minor to majorly interesting. I'm always fascinated by how the writing process takes on its own life and bosses we writers around as if our meager imaginations hadn't brought the ingrates into being in the first place. You are right, writing is the best career.

  24. already on my WishList!!
    congrats to Gabrielle!!!

    +5 follower of Passages to the Past: Cyn209
    +3 joined the Passages to the Past FB Page: Cyn209
    +1 shared giveaway on Facebook:

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  25. I am excited to read this book so would love to win a copy!

    I am a follower of Passages to the Past, belong to the FB group, and follow you on twitter!

    slkenn79 at gmail dot com

  26. I'm a follower- thanks for the giveaway!

  27. Would LOVE to read this!
    +5 I follow on GFC
    +3 I am in the facebook group
    +3 I follow on Twitter

  28. Courtesans always fascinate me because they are so learned and yet, part of their work usually requires sex. These women could become quite powerful too.
    Lovely guest post and thanks for the contest.


    +5 follower
    +3 Twitter stalker

  29. There are not enough courtesan novels out there - I can't wait for this book to come out!

    Love the cover art too!

    I am a GFC Follower

  30. I so want to meet Modesto now! Thanks to Gabrielle and Amy for this peek behind the scenes of the novel!

    Follow via FB and RSS

  31. Please enter me, I am already a follower! This book sounds fascinating!


  32. Can't wait to read Gabrielle Kimm's Courtesan's Lover, sounds great!
    +5 follower of PttP
    +3 joined PttP FB Page.
    +3 follower on Twitter.

  33. Wow...sounds like such an interesting read!!!
    +5 follower
    +3 twitter follower
    and I joined your fb page..

  34. I love serendipity - love the word and the occurance. The book sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway.

    +5 - Google follower


  35. Rena

    Sounds like a book I'd love to read. Please include me in this great giveaway.

    5 follower of PTTP
    3 follower of PTTPFBPage
    3 follower on twitter
    1 I tweeted and posted on my FB page about the giveaway.

  36. Thank you for this awesome giveaway.
    Sounds like a great read.
    :)Jeanne B.T.

  37. +5 Follower of Passages to the Past @Jeanne Bates Tennant
    :)Jeanne B.T.

  38. +3 Belong to the Passages to the Past FB page.
    :)Jeanne B.T.

  39. +3 Twitter follower @momma8385
    :)Jeanne B.T.

  40. Tweeted about giveaway @momma8385 -!/momma8385/status/203585077354053632
    :)Jeanne B.T.

  41. great guest post!
    love to be entered to win.
    -Kyrsta (
    * follower *


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