Sarah Dunant’s follow-up to her highly acclaimed historical novel The Birth of Venus is every bit as enjoyable, in my opinion. In the Company of the Courtesan tells the story of a Venetian courtesan of the sixteenth century, Fiammetta Bianchini, as told through the eyes of her male dwarf companion Bucino. I thought it was an intriguing and well-drawn glimpse into the world of that time and the lives of women who made their living at the upper-class end of the sex trade. The characters seemed a little distant at first, but as the story went on I realized I cared about them more than I’d thought I did. I was drawn gradually into the world of this story and of these characters. My favourite element is the relationship between Bucino and Fiammetta — a lifelong bond that is not sexual, but is incredibly intimate and loving. Since I’m fascinated by stories that explore the dynamics of friendship — which is to say, the dynamics of love that is not necessarily, or not primarily, erotic — I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel.