(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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?
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
This was a book I requested as a guilty pleasure read that actually turned out to be quite a wonderful story that was not only well-written but emotionally resonant.
Julia has been neglected by her husband for eight years since her wedding at the age of 16 (which wasn’t even consummated). Now with no heir her inlaws are furious with her and the manager of the estate that her husband appointed is hinting that she may have to do more than beg to get even a livable allowance. With her husband ignoring any letters she sends pleading with him to rectify the situation, he leaves her with no choice but to resort to drastic measures: seduce him under an assumed name to become pregnant. She knows it’s wrong to dupe him and throughout the whole affair she feels incredibly guilty but justifies it to herself by remembering the circumstances in which he left her.
By the time Julia met her husband in Venice I was personally ready to strangle him for leaving her in such circumstances and not caring at all about her. But as Julia and Nick grow closer under the courtesan-patron relationship, they start to actually develop feelings for one another which leads to us readers learning a lot more about Nick. I don’t want to spoil too much if you do decide to read this book, but needless to say Nick had some genuine reasons for wanting nothing to do with Julia (none of which were her fault at all). What I loved about The Courtesan Duchess is that both characters are so well developed. They each have their own baggage from their childhoods and they have very interesting, unique personalities. And Joanna Shupe doesn’t go for a straightforward romance; she recognizes that love is way more complicated than that and throws many, many twists and turns into Julia and Nick’s relationship.
The romance in this book is absolutely sizzling and the sex scenes were actually sexy instead of absolutely ridiculous. Not only that, they actually advanced the plot, which was quite fast-paced for a romance. I honestly wanted to find out what happened next and instead of reading a few chapters ended up reading the whole book in a single sitting. Joanna Shupe’s writing style is very descriptive without being overly boring and she really makes you as a reader feel the emotions of her characters. When I read romance books I often can’t emotionally click with one or even both characters but that was definitely not the case here. I wanted Julia and Nick to hash out their problems and get back together! I wanted their love to be real and not just a fake fling in Venice that happened because of entirely selfish reasons on both their parts. It was quite a refreshing change.
As I’ve said previously, I’m not a huge romance reader but I can’t deny that I absolutely loved this book and want to read more of Joanna Shupe’s work. It’s both guilty pleasure and serious novel with a great mixture of romance, intrigue and three dimensional characters. Really, what more can you ask for?
I give this book 5/5 stars.