THE COURTESAN DUCHESS – Joanna Shupe
Wicked Deceptions , Book 1
Venice, November 1816, and England
All his life, as second son of the Duke and Duchess of Colton, Nicholas Francis Seaton was ignored by his parents…when they weren't criticizing him, that is. Things got no better when his older brother Harry died, and Nick became the heir. The duke did pay enough attention to Nick, however, to force him into a marriage with the daughter of one of his cronies. Nick immediately left England after the ceremony to roam the continent and carry on his hedonistic life. When Nick inherited, he refused to go home, wanting nothing to do with the title or estates…or his mother. He became wildly known as the “Depraved Duke.”
But what about Julia, his duchess, who hadn't even had a wedding night? Only sixteen at the time, she expected her husband to come home one day. But eight years go by, and by this time she had lost all her family but her Aunt Theo. They lived frugally on a stipend administered by a distant cousin of the duke, one Lord Templeton. Templeton keeps lowering her income as his propositions become more and more lewd. She makes up her mind to act. She figures if she can seduce her husband into making her pregnant, she will have power. But how to do that? By this time, Nick is settled in Venice. Julia hires a popular courtesan to teach her the tricks of the trade. Then, after dying her hair a deep red, she and Theo use the last of their funds to dress themselves appropriately and prepare to travel to Italy with a long time friend as their escort. Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester is also one of the few friends Nick has left; he goes along with Julia's outlandish plan because he wants the best for both Nick and Julia. After planting rumors among the ton about a new courtesan named Mrs. Juliet Leighton, the three take ship for Venice.
Nick fails to recognize his wife, who was little more than a girl when he left her. He's much taken with his friend Simon's lady friend, however, and hopes Simon is not averse to sharing.
It was very easy to get caught up in this story and to care for the protagonists. The plot is complicated by several threads, both romantic and suspenseful, and the minor characters are also well done. We are sure to see more of some of them soon. THE COURTESAN DUCHESS will be followed by THE HARLOT COUNTESS in May and THE LADY HELLION in June. Make room for all three from this talented new author.