THE LADY HELLION – Joanna Shupe
Wicked Deceptions , Book 3
London in 1820
Lady Sophia Barnes has always been I bit headstrong, but her heart has always been a caring one. She was a young girl when she found her later calling. A housemaid was accused of stealing silverware, but Sophie investigated and proved it was not the maid but a groom. Later, heartbreak occurred during her come-out that left her feeling she could never marry. Now at seven and twenty, she devotes her days to helping the underdog…usually a female and often a lady of the night. No one else care about them, you see. Lady Sophia is tall and slender, and with the help of her loyal maid, Alice, has contrived to alter some of her half-brother's clothes so she can pass as gentleman. As Sir Stephen Radcliff , she frequents the underbelly of London seeking to find and rescue missing and abused women.
Sophia learns that Viscount Quint, a man she admires greatly and would have married if not for the incident , is near death after being wounded. She rushes to his side to find him unconscious and burning with fever from infection. She and Alice nurse him until he's close to cured…he's unaware of who saved him. (He lives alone except for a few servants.) The shot that almost killed Lord Quint had a dire side-effect. Even after he recovers, he won't leave the house; just stepping outside causes panic attacks. He secretly believes he has inherited madness from his father and has become a recluse. In those days, the treatments for madness were horrendous. He puts his analytical mind into finding less drastic cures than his father suffered in vain.
A couple of months after helping Quint, Sophia—as Sir Stephen—gets into trouble; “he” has been challenged to a duel. Who else to ask to be her second than Quint? She boldly goes to his house and bullies her way in.
Sophie and Quint were made for each other. Both are intelligent and unconventional, but because of her decision not to marry, they became estranged. Now that changes as Sophie is determined to help Quint by involving him in her work, and he's as sure that he's no good for her. It's a complicated relationship that can't be summed up here. Just know that prostitutes have been disappearing and washing up in the Thames, and Sophia goes right ahead investigating while Quint worries. Will he ever be able to overcome his phobias in time to save her?
These two characters and lesser ones are most interesting…very unusual. Friends, the protagonists from the two earlier books in the trilogy, THE COURTESAN DUCHESS and THE HARLOT COUNTESS, also appear later on. If you haven't read those, I suggest you do, though it's not absolutely necessary to enjoying THE LADY HELLION. You'll find originality, suspense, humor, and hot interludes in them all.