The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Shupe
Publisher & Release: Zebra, March 31, 2015
Time and setting: 1816, Italy, England
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Length: 353 pages
Heat Level: 3 Flames
Rating: 5 Gold Crowns
Can a bold-faced lie lead to everlasting love? One by one, the impetuous heroines in the Wicked Deceptions series intend to find out, each in her unique way. . .
How to seduce an estranged husband--and banish debt!--in four wickedly improper, shockingly pleasurable steps...
1. Learn the most intimate secrets of London's leading courtesan.
2. Pretend to be a courtesan yourself, using the name Juliet Leighton.
3. Travel to Venice and locate said husband.
4. Seduce husband, conceive an heir, and voila, your future is secure!
For Julia, the Duchess of Colton, such a ruse promises to be foolproof. After all, her husband has not bothered to lay eyes on her in eight years, since their hasty wedding day when she was only sixteen. But what begins as a tempestuous flirtation escalates into full-blown passion--and the feeling is mutual! Could the man the Courtesan Duchess married actually turn out to be the love of her life?
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This is the first book I have read by Joanna Shupe. I was drawn to The Courtesan Duchess because it was a finalist in the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence contest, the same contest my book, Lady Overton's Perilous Journey won. The premise sounded intriguing, and so I went ahead and downloaded it along with the Audio version. I’m so glad I decided to read/listen to this book! Now I know that the competition between the finalists was indeed very stiff.
Julia, the Duchess of Colton has a dilemma on her hands. Eight years before, at the tender age of sixteen, she married Nicholas Seaton and was immediately left at the altar, the marriage never consummated. Now, the duke’s second cousin threatening to lower her meager stipend yet again, leaving her and her aunt weighed down with debt. She is desperate to produce an heir to secure her livelihood.
She travels to Venice disguised as a courtesan to capture Nick’s attention. Her plan works beautifully until she starts to fall in love with her husband. She flees and returns to England, her goal accomplished, but at what cost?
When Nick follows her, she is devastated because he does not believe the child she carries is his. Is all lost, or will the passion that ignited between them open his heart when he realizes the child is his?
The Courtesan Duchess is a riveting read, holding me in its thrall from the startling first scene. It is a fast-paced romance with unforgettable characters. At first, I continued to read because I could not imagine how I could ever like the hero, but as the story unfolds, he won my heart. He is truly a tortured soul, a man who was manipulated by his late father and shunned by his mother.
Julia is a wonderful heroine. She is determined to save herself from the clutches of her husband’s second cousin and is willing to do whatever it takes. I loved her loyalty to her aunt. I always admire a heroine who feisty, yet feminine, one who is brave, even though she has great reason to live in fear.
Now, let’s talk about the sexual scenes. They practically set my ears on fire! The chemistry between Nick and Julia is intense from their first encounter and remains so until the end of the book. The scenes are emotionally-charged and very well-written.
I listened to the audio version narrated by Carmen Rose. Wow! She is excellent. Her ability to bring the characters to life allowed me to become totally engrossed in the story. She does an outstanding job of distinguishing the voices and her tone for the male characters is fantastic. I will definitely want to listen to other books performed by Ms. Rose. In fact, I have already downloaded the next book in this series, which is narrated by her.
If you enjoy a story with plenty of passion and an intriguing plot, along with complex characters with great depth, then you will love The Courtesan Duchess. This is a book you will either love or hate, but it will never be one that you will feel indifferent over. Happy reading!