By Susan Griffin
Page-turner of the week
"My dear, you can really have him—on three conditions," the beautiful courtesan known as Lantelme said to her lover's jealous wife in 1906. "I want the pearl necklace you're wearing, 1 million francs—and you." Such startling vignettes appear throughout this peek at the high end of the world's oldest profession as practiced from 15th-century Rome to 20th-century Hollywood.
Courtesans—whose patrons kept them housed and bejeweled in exchange for sexual favors—turned beauty into power: King Louis XV's courtesan influenced his cabinet appointments. And these cheeky gals kept the columnists supplied with enough gossip to rival Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Madonna. Well, maybe not Madonna. (Broadway, $24.95)
Bottom Line: Naughty and nice