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 voilà, 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?
Julia is married at 16 and deserted by her husband on their wedding night, leaving the marriage unconsummated. 8 years later, we find her on a gondola, having tracked her absent husband down to Venice. She aims to seduce her husband into getting her with child, in the hope that he will provide for the child and therefore rescue her from poverty. She pretends to be a courtesan, having learnt from one of the most famous consorts in London, and manages to get her way with a little help from her friend Simon, the Earl Of Winchester.
Unfortunately she has not factored in falling in love with her own husband, or that he is less than pleased in finding out he’s be conned – by his wife no less!
The rest of the book concerns her banishment to the family home, where neither she nor Nick are ever truly safe and threats come from the most unexpected areas. All the main characters have some damage somewhere in the past – Nick feeling guilt over his older brother’s apparent suicide, which lurched him into inheriting the Dukedom. Julia has been deserted by a man she never wanted to marry, and has been forced into debt by Nick’s vile family (mother and cousins included). Neither know the other, and they both have nearly a decade of hurt and resentment to get over.
Over the 8 months or so of Julia’s confinement at Seaton Hall, Nick thankfully comes to realise that perhaps he has done her a great disservice, but still doesn’t know how to ask for forgiveness. He finds that the feeble attempts he makes still aren’t good enough to win her back and it’s only the threat from outside the small family that makes things come together.
As seems to be the tradition with these new “historical romances” the sex is rampant and fairly explicit so not for the people who like their romances a little more take/traditional. We get the point of view from both main characters, some of the secondary characters are reasonably well rounded (such as the bit-of-an-alchie Theo, who has a thing for the sherry). Simon – Julia’s friend and protector earlier in the story, is the subject of the second book in the story The Harlot Countess (review will be published a few days after this one).
The book highlights the matter of how few rights and little power even titled women had at some point- Julia finds herself in a desperate means because a man has control over her money, and even her mother in law extracts what power she can, to the detriment of another woman. It is also not one of those romances that can be covered off in a day – with the multiple POVs, locations etc that make you have to pay attention.
So: Depending on what you want from your historical romances, will affect whether you love or hate this book (I’m falling on the love side!)
Award-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels.
In 2013 she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award for Best Historical.