ROMANCE

The Courtesan Duchess

Zebra: Kensington. (Wicked Deceptions, Bk. 1). Apr. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781420135527. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420135534. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
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Forced into an arranged marriage when she was only 16 and promptly deserted by the groom, Julia Seaton, Duchess of Colton, hasn't seen her libertine husband, Nicholas, in eight years. Now, shunned by his family and nearly destitute, Julia devises a daring scheme to become pregnant and secure her future by transforming herself into an irresistible courtesan (with the help of Pearl Kelly, one of London's best) and seducing her unwitting spouse. To Julia, it's the perfect plan! Then their emotions explode, the duke learns the truth, and everything begins to unravel. Explicit sex singes the pages, and real danger lurks in the shadows as Julia and Nick battle distrust and resentment as they try to forge a future in a lively story liberally enhanced by Miss Kelly's sage advice.
VERDICT A naïve, desperate heroine and a thoughtless, rakehell hero mature delightfully as they come into their own in this steamy debut that is the first of a back-to-back trilogy and skillfully sets the stage for the stories to come (The Harlot Countess in May and The Lady Hellion in June). Shupe lives in South Orange, NJ.

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