You must agree with me that "no" is the most important word in the English language. My name is Mia Castellano and, as the heroine of Mary Blayney's Courtesan's Kiss, I say "No!" as often as I have to in order to make my wishes known. Frankly I am tired of being seen as difficult when all I want is to be independent. I am seriously considering turning my back on polite society and becoming a courtesan. As a courtesan I will have the freedom I long for. Finally, I will be able to make my own choices from where I want to live to whom I count as friends and lovers.
With the end of my engagement to Viscount William Bendasbrook I am on the outs with the ton, not that London society has ever truly welcomed me. I am Italian and from a musical family, just respectable enough to be invited almost everywhere, but not well bred enough to be given vouchers to Almacks.
William and I might agree that we will both be happier as friends and not married to each other, but society is not nearly as kind. I had no more callers once word was out that our engagement had ended. Then Elena, my guardian, insisted I come visit her and her new husband, the Duke of Meryon. Really she just wants me away from gossip in hopes that people will forget that I was caught kissing a man I was not engaged to.
How many times do I have to tell her what William understood? What I did was a test of our love for each other. And we both failed. William and I have marvelous adventures together but there is none of the passion that will make a marriage work.
Now, if only I can survive this tedious trip to Pennford with the very difficult Lord David Pennistan as escort! Once I reach Pennford I will make it clear to Elena that the minute I turn twenty-one (only a little more than a year) I intend to claim my inheritance and set myself up in a house in Bath where I will invite all those who like music, regardless of their wealth or title. If I choose a lover from that gathering then I will have achieved what allows a woman total independence. I will be a courtesan.
Yes, of course, I feel terrible that it will break Elena's heart but by then she will be delivered of her first child (please God keep her healthy) and caught up in her role as the new Duchess of Meryon. She will not miss me nearly as much as I will miss her.
You see, that's the way it has been from my youngest years. When my Mama died before I ever knew her, Papa took me with him on his travels through Italy. The only people who were interested in me were the women who circled around the musicians looking for patrons and lovers. These Italian courtesans, a different group every time, fussed over me and cosseted me until finally Papa hired a governess and left me at home.
When Papa died, when I was twelve, I went to live with the great violinist Eduardo Verano, but a few years later he died quite suddenly and his wife, Elena, became my guardian.
Life in Italy as Verano's widow was untenable so Elena returned to her native England and I had no choice but to go with her. I was only seventeen.
So you see what my life has been like. Always an inconvenience. Please understand that I was never ever treated badly (except for that awful first governess) but I could tell that I have always been a burden. Becoming a courtesan will end their responsibility and give me freedom.
There are only two things that worry me. I do so regret hurting Elena and if being a courtesan is as easy as it seems why don't more women make the same choice?
But before I think about that I must deal with Lord David. His idea of comfortable travel is not at all compatible with mine. Unfortunately courtesy and kindness are words that are not in his vocabulary so a firm "no" is the only way to make my wants understood.
We cannot reach Pennford soon enough.
- Mia Castellano (from the pen of Mary Blayney)