Review: The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Shupe

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Title: The Courtesan Duchess
Author: Joanna Shupe
Genre: romance, historical
Series: Wicked Deceptions #1
Pages: 352
Published: March 31, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5

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?

The first half of Shupe's novel is steamy and intriguing, with great chemistry and a different locale than usual. Which is why the second half was pretty disappointing.

Julia is a duchess only in name. Her husband left for the continent without consummating their marriage, leaving her alone with her scheming new in-laws. Over the last eight years, they've removed her from her rightful home, slashed her allowance to a pittance, and propositioned her like a whore. The only way to make things right is to produce an heir by Nick, the estranged duke. How does one do that from 1,000 miles away? By hiring the most expensive courtesan to train you in the womanly arts, of course.

Nick's an unwanted second son with a dark family secret. He's entered self-imposed exile after his brother's death rather than take his family's abuse. Unable to accept their money, he plays the "Depraved Duke", gambling his way across Europe.

The book opens with a lady of ill-repute fingerbanging herself on Nick's lap, bringing, (strongly,) to light that this is not a sweet romance. Which is good, because the book works best as a seduction. "Juliette"'s flirting is excellent and I found her and Nick's relationship to progress very naturally. In Venice, the sex scenes are varied and well written. There's a good deal of focus on mutual pleasure with foreplay, oral, and manual stimulation. The dreaded hymen issue does come up, which I found kind of odd as both Julia's mentor and her maiden aunt advised her that ladies her age probably didn't have one. (Horseback riding. It's a killer.) So when it becomes soooooo important to the big mis, I just wanted to roll my eyes. At least the author didn't confuse it for the cervix.

Unfortunately, I just didn't like the book once it returned to England. Nick is cruel, running hot and cold. While I don't blame him, it went on too long for my taste. Suspecting her motives might have been to hide infidelity, Julia is shipped off to a country estate until a birth date can prove who the father is. From there, the plot is pretty standard. They hate each other, but they come together because of an injury/illness. The hero realizes he's been a dunderhead and tries to woo the heroine from scratch. Big mis, kidnapping, etc.

I'm not unhappy with The Courtesan Duchess, and I will be continuing the series, I just with it had finished stronger.

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