Book Review: The Harlot Countess by Joanna Shupe

 the harlot countessLady Maggie Hawkins’s debut was something she’d rather forget–along with her first marriage. Today, the political cartoonist is a new woman. A thoroughly modern woman. So much so that her clamoring public believes she’s a man. . .
FACT: Drawing under a male pseudonym, Maggie is known as Lemarc. Her (his!) favorite object of ridicule: Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester. He’s a rising star in Parliament–and a former confidant and love interest of Maggie’s who believed a rumor that vexes her to this day.
FICTION: Maggie is the Half-Irish Harlot who seduced her best friend’s husband on the eve of their wedding. She is to be feared and loathed as she will lift her skirts for anything in breeches.

Still crushed by Simon’s betrayal, Maggie has no intention of letting the ton crush her as well. In fact, Lemarc’s cartoons have made Simon a laughingstock. . .but now it appears that Maggie may have been wrong about what happened years ago, and that Simon has been secretly yearning for her since. . .forever. Could it be that the heart is mightier than the pen and the sword after all?

From the publisher Kensington Books via Netgalley in exchange for a review

It’s 1809, Maggie’s debut season, and her reputation has been trashed by a rebuffed admirer. She attends a party with her mother and sister, only to realise how badly she has been ruined. She looks to be rescued by her friend Simon, the Earl of Winchester, only for him to turn his back on her.

Ten years later and Maggie is a different woman: She’s now a widow (married to an older man, who in the end preferred his mistress rather than his wife); her reputation has been developed into the Harlot Duchess, and she throws parties that often play up to this reputation – all bar the sex; She spent time in Paris, where she has developed some good friendships, and managed to fit in an affair with a French artist whilst she was there; She also has a job producing political cartoons that lampoons many of the current politicians, with Simon being a particular favourite target.

Back in England she and Simon accidentally meet and both realise that they are still attracted to each other. However Simon still believes the rumours, and Maggie refuses to let him close enough to break her heart again.  Realising her artistic talent, Simon hires Maggie to find the identity of Lemac, without realising that they are both and the same person!

It takes a long time for both characters to come to terms with 10 years of assumptions, heartbreak and secrets.   There’s also gambling, threats and blackmail coming from other sources which could affect both Simon’s career in Parliament and Maggie’s career in political cartooning.

This is the second in the Wicked Deceptions series, and some of the secondary characters appear in the first book (The Courtesan Duchess), so are kept fairly light in this one. There’s the occasional reference to something that you know happened in a different story, but this story suffers little for that.

It’s quite a complex story, and is not one of those “traditional” romances that can be easily consumed within the day. There are no “fade to black” on the sex scenes and these are fairly modern and explicit – therefore these books are not for those who like their romances a little more tame.

The ending keeps enough threads open to be continued in further stories, but the immediate issues are resolved to the reader’s satisfaction.

Author Info

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.

The book can be purchased over at Indiebound or BooksAMillion

 

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