Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Release: The Courtesan Duchess (Wicked Deceptions #1) by Joanna Shupe


The Courtesan Duchess
Wicked Deceptions #1
By: Joanna Shupe
Releasing March 31, 2015

Buy Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Kensington



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?


A smart woman may transform herself into whatever
the situation requires.
—Miss Pearl Kelly to the Duchess of Colton

Venice, November 1816
    The first time the Duchess of Colton saw her husband since their hasty marriage, she found him seated at a card table with a buxom woman draped across his lap, her legs dangled over the side of his chair. Julia could see them both quite clearly from across the gaming room. The woman was . . . pleasuring herself while the duke had one hand inside the woman’s bodice, his fingers moving beneath the fabric to casually caress her breast. His other hand, along with his attention, remained on his cards.
    The display shocked Julia. Scandalous yet strangely alluring, the performance served as a reminder that her husband’s life was a world away from her own sheltered existence in London. But then, she reasoned, what else would one expect of a man dubbed the Depraved Duke? She swallowed her embarrassment and continued to watch the scene unfold.
He was handsome, she realized. Julia had seen him briefly during the wedding ceremony, but they’d both been younger, not to mention she’d been a shy and terrified sixteen-year-old. Now he appeared older and . . . much bigger. His black hair a bit long, it fell down around his collar to frame his perfect features: a straight nose, bold cheekbones, and a full mouth. He was truly breathtaking.
    Some women might be consumed with jealousy at catching their husband in such a fashion. Not Julia. The man was a stranger to her, and she felt nothing but a combination of anger and annoyance. Anger that Colton had ignored her for eight long years, and annoyance that she’d been forced to create such an elaborate ruse and travel across the Continent to carry it out.
    Julia watched as the trollop on his lap began gasping for breath. The woman closed her eyes and shivered from head to toe, her head thrown back in ecstasy. Colton’s expression revealed nothing about his companion or his cards, while the other players appeared nonplussed as they studied their own hands. Save Julia, no one else in the room paid a bit of attention to them. A woman was . . . finding release on his lap and no one even turned to stare. Was this a regular occurrence, then?
    Once the woman caught her breath, she leaned in to whisper in Colton’s ear. He smiled, politely assisted her off his lap, and gave her backside a small slap before dismissing her. His attention turned back to the game.
    Julia’s good friend, Simon Barrett, the Earl of Winchester, appeared by her side. “Are you certain about this? It’s not too late to back out, you know.”
    She shook her head. “No. I’ve come too far to stop now.”
    Simon was quite a handsome man in his own right, more so tonight with his fair hair and blue eyes contrasting nicely with his black evening clothes. He’d insisted on accompanying her to Venice, to pose as her current lover, allowing him to both escort her and protect her. Deep down, Julia was grateful for his help.
    She smiled at him. “And after what we’ve just seen, I’d say my plan is perfect.”
    “I was afraid you would say that.”
    She sobered. This wasn’t Simon’s battle, and it seemed only fair to offer him the same chance of escape. “Simon, as I’ve said many times, I can do this on my own. Your friendship with Colton need not suffer because of your participation.”
    Simon glanced across the room to the duke. “I have my own reasons for helping you. I’ll deal with Colt’s anger, if the time comes.”
    She leaned up on tiptoe and placed a kiss on his cheek. “You’re a good friend.” Her heels came back down to the floor as she gently reminded him, “Now, I’m the incomparable Mrs. Juliet Leighton, London’s most notorious courtesan.     Allow me a few moments with him but no more.”
    “Fine. I only hope I can recognize you.”
    Learning of her wayward husband’s preference for red-haired women, Julia had procured a dye to temporarily turn her light yellow locks to a fiery red. “What matters is catching Colton’s eye.”
     “Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that.” Simon held out his arm. “Shall we?”
    She nodded and accepted his escort. The card tables lined the back wall, so she and Simon were forced to amble through the clusters of guests and footmen passing glasses of champagne in order to reach their destination. Though Simon had warned her what to expect at a private party of loose morals, Julia had a hard time not staring at the goings-on around her. No wives were in attendance; instead, the women were mistresses, actresses, and prostitutes. And the men, mostly former members of the Venetian government or wealthy merchants, seemed eager to take advantage of the situation.     Couples openly kissed and touched one another boldly, the air thick with smoke, lust, and sweat.
    Her confidence grew as they crossed the room. No one they spoke with suspected her an imposter, and they treated her informally—as a courtesan, not a duchess.
    Despite her nerves, there really was no choice in the matter. This plan must succeed. If Colton’s odious cousin, Lord Templeton, followed through on his recent threat to further reduce her stipend, in a few months she wouldn’t have enough funds to pay the servants or the rent on their small house in Mayfair. Colton’s mother had made it clear Julia was unwelcome at any of the ducal properties. Which meant she and her aunt would be destitute.
    Julia needed a male child, a legitimate one, to serve as the heir to the Colton estate. Only then could she thwart Templeton’s designs on the dukedom.
    Her plan was foolproof. Six months ago, Julia had sold off all her remaining jewelry in order to secretly hire Pearl Kelly, London’s true reigning courtesan, to offer advice. Pearl had proved a veritable fount of information, telling Julia precisely how to dress, act, speak, and flirt like a Cyprian.
    Pearl had even helped design Julia’s gowns along with the courtesan’s own modiste. The resulting wardrobe was luxurious and elegant with sumptuous fabrics and daring necklines, such as the deep emerald green gown she wore tonight. The undergarments had been ordered from Paris, and they still made Julia blush. Her jewelry had posed a problem, since every good piece she’d owned had been sold off over the past two years. So Pearl had graciously loaned Julia several stunning sets, which included the expensive diamond and pearl necklace now around her neck.
    Julia had also learned how to use creams and paints to best enhance her features. Earlier, she’d applied a dusting of white pearl powder on her face, rose pink rouge on her lips and cheeks, and a light coating of lamp-black on her lashes and eyebrows. The enhancements combined with her red hair made her completely unrecognizable to anyone familiar with the blond and understated Duchess of Colton.
    They ventured near the duke. After a moment, Colton looked up and his face registered surprise.
“Winchester!” He threw his cards on the table and unfolded his lanky frame to stand before them. “I can scarcely believe it. Why didn’t you write to let me know you were coming?”
    Simon managed to look surprised, then slapped Colton on the back. “I’d heard a rumor you were still here, old man.”
     “I cannot find a reason to leave.” Colton turned to Julia, focusing on her with polite interest. “I see you are not alone. Pray introduce me.”
    “Of course. Colton, meet the inimitable Mrs. Juliet Leighton. Juliet, this wastrel is my oldest friend, the Duke of Colton.”

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Author Info

jsAward-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

Author Links:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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