Claiming the Courtesan, Anna Campbell, Avon, 2007, cover artist unknown
Rating: 2 out of 5.
*** Spoiler alert ***
Although I’m not a fan of the execution of Claiming the Courtesan, I thought it was refreshing what Anna Campbell tried to accomplish in her first book. I categorize this style of romance as a neo-bodice ripper, in that it attempts to capture the sexual power struggles contained in those older books, but it’s very modern in its presentation.
The Plot: Something Old is New Again
I appreciated what Campbell wanted to create in Kylemore: a loathsome, detestable anti-hero who cared only for his spoiled, noble self. Initially, he drew my attention; however, what was produced on paper was mostly a bratty, uncharismatic, psycho-stalker.
We’ve discussed bodice-rippers before at Sweet Savage Flame. While many people still use the phrase bodice ripper as a catch-all term for historical romance or for the romance genre in general, the true definition is much more narrow. A bodice ripper is a specific type of historical romance that existed starting in 1972 and more or less came to a halt somewhere in the mid to late 1990s.
Julia Quinn does not write bodice rippers. Courtney Milan certainly does not. Neither does Tessa Dare, although she cheekily has bodices ripped in a few of her books. Almost every mainstream historical author writing today writes “modern” historical romance, a completely different animal.
Fifty Shades of Gray is closer in essence to what a bodice-ripper is. However, having a domineering “alpha” hero, a virginal heroine, and titillating sex scenes alone does not constitute a bodice ripper. Add a historical setting to those factors and you have an old-school historical romance. The power play dynamic between the two sexes is a paramount theme, yet that is not the only quality inherent in a ‘ripper. There are many tropes or plot points that they can include and bodice rippers can vary greatly.... Read more “Neo-Bodice Rippers”