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Julia, Duchess of Colton, is desperate. Her funds are low and the man overseeing her husband's estate has just threatened to whittle her funds even more. Her mother-in-law, the Dowager Duchess, doesn't care about her, so she's left with a desperate plan: to find her husband in Venice, seduce him, and get herself with child. She hopes that carrying a potential heir would give her the leverage she needs to bargain for her future.
Joanna Shupe's debut novel offers an intriguing concept: a lady with one of the loftiest titles in society resorting to seducing her own husband using skills she learned from a courtesan.
Nick never wanted the title, or the wife, but both were forced upon him. He'd escaped to Venice, leaving the dukedom and his wife behind. For 8 years, he'd only had to consider himself and his own pleasures, but, when he met Juliet/Julia, Nick's perspective changed a bit.
There seems to be this invisible line between how husbands treat their wives and their mistresses. The prior with deference, respect, and esteem, and the latter with everything else. But, what if one's wife was one's mistress? It is a quandary that Nick, the Duke of Colton, finds himself in when he discovers his wife's plan. The internal debate that Nick engages in is compelling: how does he bridge the divide between lover/wife? It's difficult for him to reconcile that the woman he desires and the woman he ought to revere are one and the same.
It's also something that affects Julia. As Juliet Leighton, Julia enjoys the freedom of being able to speak her mind and express her desires. As Juliet, she's able to captivate her husband in a way she never did or could. Our heroine has walked through both worlds, and each one has it's own unique set of advantages -- but, given a choice, would she rather be Julia or Juliet?
The mention of the alcove was like a douse of cold water How many alcoves and how many women in his past? No doubt he'd trysted in buildings from Paris to Pisa.
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"Mrs. Leighton," Veronica began in a thick Venetian accent, 'have you made the friendship with Sarah Siddons? I hear many stories of her talent on the stage."
Julia coughed to cover a gasp. If she, a duchess, associated with an actress -- even the famously talented Sarah Siddons -- a horrific scandal would result. But she reminded herself that Juliet Leighton was not a duchess. She sipped her coffee and decided to answer diplomatically. "While we are not friends, I have seen her perform many times. She is truly talented."
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There's a lot happening in the story: there are the repeated attempts on Nick's life, there's Nick's past, and there's Nick and Julia. The wonderful thing about Shupe's storytelling is that it never feels jumbled or confusing. It's a really well-laid out story where the action and drama build up gradually.
The author also succeeds in establishing the series and the characters involved in the series. I loved Simon Winchester and I'm very interested to read his story. There's something about him being the quiet, supportive, and understanding best friend to both Nick and Julia that really appealed to me. I did cringe at how quickly and easily Juliet/Julia transferred from Simon to Nick -- but, in the greater plot of things, it would have affected the flow of the story had the author dwelled on that point.
Overall, a solid start to a promising series.
The Courtesan Duchess in the first book in Joanna Shupe's Wicked Deceptions series and her debut novel. It will be released on March 31, 2015. To find out more about Joanna Shupe and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this review copy via Netgalley. Thank you to Joanna Shupe and Zebra Books for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.