Next Tuesday, October 23rd, sees the first print publication of a novella I wrote back in 2008. The Secrets of a Courtesan has previously only been available as an e-book so it is very exciting finally to have a print copy! The story is the prequel to the Brides of Fortune series and like those books is set in the village of Fortune’s Folly in Yorkshire and features many of the same characters. It has as its heroine Eve Nightingale, a former courtesan who has made a new life for herself running a pawnbroker’s shop.
Pawnbroking is an ancient profession starting with the Chinese over 3000 years ago when Buddhist monks loaned money to farmers to help them develop their land. Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the Americas was largely funded by Queen Isabella of Spain pawning her jewellery. English Kings sometimes pawned their crown jewels to fund foreign wars. The modern profession has its roots in the Medici family of 15th century Italy. Half of the family pursued the banking profession, the other half pawnbroking. The pawnbroker’s symbol of the three gold balls is based on the Medici family coat of arms.
In Britain pawnbroking expanded during the latter part of the 18th century. William Hogarth’s sketch of 1751, Gin Lane, features a pawnbroker’s shop where gin addicts could borrow money to buy drink. In the Victorian and Edwardian era there were said to be almost as many pawnbrokers as public houses. They would lend money on anything from jewellery to clothes to household furnishings. In my story Eve’s generosity towards her customers has led to her becoming a valued friend to the community, someone who knows a lot about the people of Fortune’s Folly and who belongs there. I love writing stories set around a group of friends and a community and it’s been lovely to revisit Fortune’s Folly!