Dain, Claudia. A Night at the Theater in Private Places. Also includes The Men and Women’s Club by Robin Schone, The Decidedly Devilish Duke by Allyson Jame’s and Hunter’s Mercy by Shiloh Walker. (New York: Berkley, 2008). ISBN – 9780425221723.
Main Characters: Zoe Auvray and the Duke of Aldreth; and Sophie Grey and the Earl of Dalby
Related Works: This is part of Claudia Dain’s The Courtesan series. The first book in the series is the Courtesan’s Daughter – the story of Caroline Dalby and the Earl of Ashdon. The Courtesan’s Secret is the second book. The third story in the series is the story A Night at the Theater in an anthology entitled Private Places. This story is a prequel and details the romance of Zoe Auvray and the Duke of Aldreth. Sophia meets her future husband, the Earl of Dalby. Lady Amelia Caversham’s story will be the fourth in the series, titled The Courtesan’s Wager (due out February 2009).
Description from the book:
Revenge is on the playbill for two young courtesans attending the theater in London. And far more entertaining than the play is the off-stage drama of a very public seduction or two . . .
I am really, really, really enjoying Claudia Dain’s Courtesan series. It is a fascinating look at the machinations of one woman’s life – Sophia Grey. Sophia is not your average historical romance heroine. She is a courtesan with a rather nebulous background about which people speculate. On top of everything else, she is absolutely in control of her life and everyone in it. This is what makes her so fascinating. A Night at the Theater is actually a prequel. In it, Sophia meets Lord Dalby, who will become her husband, for the first time. She has a plan to make Lord Dalby her husband. She seemingly chooses Dalby because of his dislike of Lord Westlin (Sophie’s former protector). While she is laying the foundation of her plan, she decides to help her fellow courtesan Zoe Auvray found her true love with the Duke of Aldreth.
Zoe is an interesting character who has lost her acting job. She needs to find some security and Sophie suggests that Zoe form an attachment with Aldreth. Aldreth, meanwhile, is having difficulty dealing with the fact that his wife barely survived the birth of their daughter and really shouldn’t have any more children. While I like both Zoe and Aldreth and enjoyed their interactions at the theater, I was a bit bothered by the constraints of their relationship. They do fall in love and presumably live HEA. However, they never marry. Aldreth and his wife do have another child – fortunately a male to secure the line. We learn in the epilogue that Zoe and Aldreth also have a son together. I found the description of their live together rather sad. I’m not sure that I could be happy in the situation that Zoe finds herself.
This sense of uneasiness was highlighted by a conversation between Sophie’s children and Zoe’s son, Jamie. In the conversation, Sophie’s son asks whether Jamie will inherit his father’s title. Dain writes “Zoe and Jamie nearly flinched.” While Sophie’s daughter somewhat eases the tension, I was left with a rather nasty feeling. I wasn’t exactly sure what the conversation was meant to convey. Zoe and Jamie’s lot seems a dreary one even with Aldreth’s love and affection. As I said, I was a bit disappointed in this ending. Fortunately, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story as a whole – especially since Sophie is the true heroine of this series. I can’t wait to learn more when the next book comes out in 2009. I’m assuming at some point we will find out more about so many other parts of Sophie’s life: the relationship between Sophie and Lord Westlin; Sophie’s childhood; how she became a courtesan; whether she finds love after Dalby; etc.
Read first August 2008