100 books like In the Company of the Courtesan

By Sarah Dunant,

Here are 100 books that In the Company of the Courtesan fans have personally recommended if you like In the Company of the Courtesan. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Outlander

Patricia D'Arcy Laughlin Author Of Sacrifices for Kingdoms

From my list on women who confront societal norms.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived a long, richly varied, well-traveled, international life, and I can truly say my education has been worldly. Despite advancements in science and technology, two millennia of patriarchal religious brainwashing have prevented humanity from achieving gender balance in power and peace on earth. Today, more than ever, women who confront societal norms are essential to humanity’s progression and the preservation of our planet. People often open up to me about their most daring and dangerous experiences because they know I won’t judge. Their most intimate and romantic revelations have particularly inspired me, and I have namelessly infused many of them into my books, alongside my own. Empowerment begins with education.

Patricia's book list on women who confront societal norms

Patricia D'Arcy Laughlin Why did Patricia love this book?

I am in awe of Diana Gabaldon’s achievements as I relate to her writing while raising three children.

At first daunted by the 850-page length, once I started reading, I became enthralled with the fantasy of Claire’s time-traveling into the past and meeting the love of her life. I fell in love with the beautiful boy-man, Jamie. He reminded me of the love of my life. Gabaldon’s handling of the attraction between Claire and the Scottish highlander is beguiling, especially in the sexual scenes.

Weaving their love story into real history, her descriptions, plots, and prose are exquisitely compelling. I am committed to reading the entire series. In a word, Outlander is un-put-downable! 

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked Outlander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The first book in Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed Outlander saga, the basis for the Starz original series.

One of the top ten best-loved novels in America, as seen on PBS’s The Great American Read!
 
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and…


Book cover of Etiquette & Espionage

Susan Corso Author Of Jezebel Rising

From my list on subversive historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading historical fiction since childhood—it’s my preferred method for learning history. I want to know who people were in an everyday way, not as broad-brush reporting. My tastes are not limited to particular eras although I do my best to skip as much battle detail as I can. I like historical fiction that has character as its throughline. Who are these people? What do/did they want? How did they get it? I think my theatre background and training are what make me ask questions like these. What did they have for dinner? What did they talk about? Their excesses, their eccentricities, their excellences.

Susan's book list on subversive historical fiction

Susan Corso Why did Susan love this book?

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. A finishing school? Um, ye-ees. For spies. Spies? Uh-huh. On a dirigible. A—what? In a culture where vampires and werewolves are part of society. Wrapped in a huge steampunk bow. Etiquette and espionage. Curtsies and conspiracies. Waistcoats and weaponry. Manners and mutiny. What could possibly go wrong? (What can’t?) Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse is their entirely diabolically magical setting. Her writing is laugh-out-loud clever, witty as Noel Coward, deeply principled, and there are tons more. I started with the Alexia Tarabotti seven and read every single one. I’d do it again, too. Her heroines make my heart go pitter-pat. With glee.

By Gail Carriger,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Etiquette & Espionage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners-and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might…


Book cover of Murder on Astor Place

Susan Corso Author Of Jezebel Rising

From my list on subversive historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading historical fiction since childhood—it’s my preferred method for learning history. I want to know who people were in an everyday way, not as broad-brush reporting. My tastes are not limited to particular eras although I do my best to skip as much battle detail as I can. I like historical fiction that has character as its throughline. Who are these people? What do/did they want? How did they get it? I think my theatre background and training are what make me ask questions like these. What did they have for dinner? What did they talk about? Their excesses, their eccentricities, their excellences.

Susan's book list on subversive historical fiction

Susan Corso Why did Susan love this book?

Sarah Brandt is, in a squirmy twist for her upper-crust Knickerbocker New York City parents, a turn-of-the-century midwife, widowed and curious about everything. Women of her ilk don’t work. She meets Metropolitan Police Force detective Frank Malone and is his answer to prayer as well as his personal torment. The two meet each other uncannily all over town in this series from the Battery to the Bowery to the Bronx and back again; she, ever helpful, he, ever cynical, until their lives collide in a magically different, far more intimate way. The situations are always intriguing and built around impeccable Gilded Age research.

By Victoria Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Murder on Astor Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in the national bestselling Gaslight Mystery series introduces Sarah Brandt, a midwife in the turn-of-the-century tenements of Manhattan who refuses to turn a blind eye to the injustices of the crime-ridden city...

After a routine delivery, Sarah visits her patient in a rooming house-and discovers that another boarder, a young girl, has been killed. At the request of Sergeant Frank Malloy, she searches the girl's room. She discovers that the victim is from one of the most prominent families in New York-and the sister of an old friend. The powerful family, fearful of scandal, refuses to permit…


Book cover of Skye O'Malley

Susan Corso Author Of Jezebel Rising

From my list on subversive historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading historical fiction since childhood—it’s my preferred method for learning history. I want to know who people were in an everyday way, not as broad-brush reporting. My tastes are not limited to particular eras although I do my best to skip as much battle detail as I can. I like historical fiction that has character as its throughline. Who are these people? What do/did they want? How did they get it? I think my theatre background and training are what make me ask questions like these. What did they have for dinner? What did they talk about? Their excesses, their eccentricities, their excellences.

Susan's book list on subversive historical fiction

Susan Corso Why did Susan love this book?

Skye O’Malley is one of the first heroines I encountered who lived by her own code, a startling development in a romance. In addition, Bertrice Small was the first to bridge romance and steamy; our Skye is definitely that. She’s delightful, delicious, de-lovely, and I really admire her outré behavior with England’s capricious Elizabeth Regina. She ends up the head of a clan of brothers and a worldwide sea-faring enterprise as well as a lover, a mother, and a remarkable human being. In addition, there are six more about her next generation, Skye’s Legacy. Small’s research into the Far East is exemplary given a time long, long before Google.

By Bertrice Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skye O'Malley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the incomparable New York Times bestselling author Bertrice Small comes a heroine as breathtaking as she is legendary.

Indomitable and bold in an era of royalty and rogues, Skye O’Malley is a woman who embraces her unbridled sensuality as valiantly as she fights for her children, her lovers, her empire. A woman of justice and honor, she will match wits with and challenge the most dangerous and powerful woman of her time: Queen Elizabeth I.

Though Skye is the object of every man’s fantasy, only a handful have had the thrill of tasting her enticing passions–men whose own daring…


Book cover of Virgins of Venice: Broken Vows and Cloistered Lives in the Renaissance Convent

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

Mary Laven’s readable academic book Virgins of Venice is the definitive resource on the topic of nuns in Renaissance Venice. She explores every aspect of what it was like to be and live as a nun during a roughly two-hundred-year period, when most convents were filled with high-status women of no religious calling, forced to live there by their fathers and the strict social conventions of the time.

By Mary Laven,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Virgins of Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A portrait of 16th and 17th century Italian convent life, set in the vibrant culture of late Renaissance Venice. Early 16th century Venice had 50 convents and about 3000 nuns. Far from being places of religious devotion, the convents were often little more than dumping-grounds for unmarried women fron the upper ranks of Venetian society. Often entering a convent at seven years old, these young women remained emotionally and socially attached to their families and to their way of life outside the convent. Supported by their private incomes, the nuns ate, dressed and behaved as gentlewomen. In contravention of their…


Book cover of The Midwife of Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

This evocative novel tells the story of a Jewish midwife making her way in a very Christian Renaissance Venice. Along with all Jews confined to the ghetto at night by doge’s decree, Hannah is not permitted to help Christians with her medical knowledge. However, when her husband is taken to Malta and sold as a slave, Hannah finds that certain laws can be broken, for the right price.

By Roberta Rich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Midwife of Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth-century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is…


Book cover of Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

This accessible academic work brings to life the inner workings – and breakdowns – of marriages at a time when annulment was the only option. Through court and ecclesiastical proceedings and petitions written by both sexes, the lives of ordinary women – including sexual relations, domestic abuse, cheating, and financial problems are made even more real by the voices of friends, neighbors, and in-laws.

By Joanne M. Ferraro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on a fascinating body of previously unexamined archival material, this book brings to life the lost voices of ordinary Venetians during the age of Catholic revival. Looking at scripts that were brought to the city's ecclesiastical courts by spouses seeking to annul their marriage vows, this book opens up the emotional world of intimacy and conflict, sexuality, and living arrangments that did not fit normative models of marriage.


Book cover of Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

A beautiful little book that showcases the paintings of early Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, we see many women in his works. Some of saints, some bordering on the fantastical, a few quite realistic – all the women in Carpaccio’s art would have been inspired by real women living and working in Venice in the late 1400s and early 1500s.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the course of writing Venice, her 1961 classic, Jan Morris became fascinated by the historical presence of a sometimes-overlooked Venetian painter. Nowadays the name of Vittore Carpaccio (1460-1520) suggests raw beef, but to Morris it conveyed far more profound meanings. Thus began a lifelong infatuation, reaching across the centuries, between a renowned Welsh writer and a great and delightfully entertaining artist of the early Renaissance. Handsomely designed with more than seventy photographs throughout, Ciao,Carpaccio! is a happy caprice of affection. In illuminating the life of the artist and his paintings, Morris throws in digressions about Venetian animals, courtesans, babies,…


Book cover of The Lady Cornaro: Pride and Prodigy of Venice

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Author Of A Beautiful Woman in Venice

From my list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 1996 when my first trip to Venice rearranged my interior life, I have been visiting the city and learning everything I can about it. Most of my reading led me to men’s history, but with some digging, I uncovered the stories of Venice’s inspired, undaunted, hardworking women. Their proto-feminism motivated me to share their stories with others in an attempt to redefine beauty. I’ve also created videos showing sites connected to these women’s lives, and I’ve written four books about Venetians, including extensive research into Giacomo Casanova and two anthologies celebrating Venetian life. Reading and writing about Venice helps me connect more deeply with my favorite city.

Kathleen's book list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Why did Kathleen love this book?

Elena Cornaro Piscopia holds the title as the first woman in the world to earn a university degree. But she earned it at great cost, and her story breaks my heart every time I recount it to others.

Guernsey pulled me into Elena’s fraught life, from her early intellectual curiosity and prowess, to her self-flagellation after being paraded around as a prodigy. Elena loved learning but hated the spotlight. Her experiences encapsulate what many Early-Modern women had to offer—and had to endure—yet her fortitude ultimately spotlights her resilience and can inspire others.

By Jane Howard Guernsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lady Cornaro as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic and warmly human story of the first woman to earn a university degree


Book cover of Vivaldi's Virgins

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Author Of A Beautiful Woman in Venice

From my list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 1996 when my first trip to Venice rearranged my interior life, I have been visiting the city and learning everything I can about it. Most of my reading led me to men’s history, but with some digging, I uncovered the stories of Venice’s inspired, undaunted, hardworking women. Their proto-feminism motivated me to share their stories with others in an attempt to redefine beauty. I’ve also created videos showing sites connected to these women’s lives, and I’ve written four books about Venetians, including extensive research into Giacomo Casanova and two anthologies celebrating Venetian life. Reading and writing about Venice helps me connect more deeply with my favorite city.

Kathleen's book list on undaunted Italian women to inspire you

Kathleen Ann Gonzalez Why did Kathleen love this book?

This historical fiction novel formed Anna Maria dal Violin into a real person for me and inspired me to humanize every woman I wrote about in my own book.

Anna Maria was abandoned at the church of the Pieta in Venice where she was taught to sing and play numerous instruments. She became a violin virtuoso and a favorite of Vivaldi, who wrote pieces specifically to challenge her.

Barbara Quick takes this real story and makes both Anna Maria and Venice live brightly in eighteenth-century Venice.

By Barbara Quick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vivaldi's Virgins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fourteen-year-old Anna Maria, abandoned at the Ospedale della Pieta as an infant, is determined to find out who she is and where she came from. Her quest takes her beyond the cloister walls into the complex tapestry of Venetian society, from the impoverished alleyways of the Jewish Ghetto to a masked ball in the company of a king; from the passionate communal life of adolescent girls competing for their maestro's favor to the larger-than-life world of music and spectacle that kept the citizens of a dying republic in thrall. In this world, where for fully half the year the entire…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Venice, courtesans, and the Renaissance?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Venice, courtesans, and the Renaissance.

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