The Courtesan Duchess: Wicked Deceptions #1 by Joanna Shupe with Excerpt and Giveaway

In keeping with my obsession with all things historic, I couldn’t help but grab for this title. This new series from debut author Joanna Shupe promises wonderful things to come! Please read on for the review and excerpt, check out the other tour stops and don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway where you could win one of 3 Print Copies of The Courtesan Duchess.

The Courtesan Duchess

I love the title, so oxymoronic in the meaning and yet so wonderfully evocative. A premise of revenge and settling of old debts stars this story with a bang, in Venice.  Julia has established a life in Venice, purporting to be a famed courtesan. Her marriage eight years back was singularly unspectacular, and her husband, the Duke of Colton hasn’t bothered with her since.  There was a curious mix of naiveté and worldliness in Julia: she wants to tease and torment her husband, but she also hopes to find that sort of love she has dreamed of, whether or not with him.

Nick, the Duke was far less straightforward: while cavorting with everything in a skirt since he left his very young (just 16 years old) wife to fend for herself, he’s not met a moment of hypocrisy that he can’t fully get behind.  While he’s been playing the field with no compunctions, the mere suggestion of Julia being unfaithful is abhorrent. OK, so we are in titled relationships and the surety of the heir’s parentage is important, he’s got little wiggle room.  But, Nick does have his own reasons for his bad behavior that extend past selfishness, although none really feel entirely justified in my mind. He could be terrifically hateful, and his mouth often ran before his brain was engaged.

But – I digress:  Julia’s deception worked for her, she saw the kindly and often flirtatious Nick that was so long missing in her life. And he had moments that were sweet and showed his more vulnerable side. She’s heading for that happy ending, and Nick will follow if she has her way.

Secondary characters were lovely: the courtesan who helped Julia to navigate the life was particularly interesting, and glimpses of Nick’s devotion to his daughter also added to the story. Additionally, there are characters introduced that are sure to be stars of their own stories: all with a rather unusual pathway to their happy ending. This is a story full of sensuality and sexuality: while connections appear quickly they do not overwhelm the plotting or forward motion of the story.

The plot is fast-paced without overloading readers with details from the past that are superfluous in the present.  A few misses with the language use where Americanisms are used rather than British distract slightly but not overmuch, I’m just disappointed to see simple mistakes in what was otherwise a truly enjoyable and fun story.

The Courtesan Duchess: Wicked Deceptions #1 by Joanna Shupe with Excerpt and Giveaway

Title: The Courtesan Duchess
Author: Joanna Shupe
Series: Wicked Deceptions #1
Also in this series: The Harlot Countess, The Lady Hellion
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Zebra
ISBN: 142013552X
Published on: 31 March, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 352
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 39 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameOne FlameOne Flame

Get Your Copy: Amazon AllRomance Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo Downpour Book Depository GoogleAudible
See this Title on Goodreads

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?

See the Wicked Deceptions Series at GoodReads


A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Tasty Excerpt



A smart woman may transform herself into whatever

the situation requires.

—Miss Pearl Kelly to the Duchess of Colton


Venice, November 1816


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.”

She dropped into a deep curtsy and watched from under her lashes as her husband took in the shockingly low neckline of her gown, where her ample bosom threatened to make an appearance at any moment. “Mrs. Leighton, your reputation precedes you,” the duke said as she rose. “I’ve heard nothing but accolades to your beauty and wit. It is said you are the woman who holds all of London in the palm of her hand.”

Julia was relieved to hear the rumors they’d started had reached her husband’s ears. “Perhaps not all of London, Your Grace, but a fortunate few have indeed felt the palm of my hand.”

A black eyebrow shot up, and he gave a devilish grin that would surely melt the insides of a weaker woman. “Winchester, I am beginning to envy you,” Colton murmured, his smoky gray gaze never leaving hers.

“As you should. I am entirely at Mrs. Leighton’s whim.” Simon’s intimate smile left no doubt as to the nature of their relationship.

“You flatter me,” Julia said in her best coquettish voice. “Simon, darling, please leave His Grace and I alone for a few moments. Be a good lad and fetch me some champagne.”

Simon flashed her a besotted glance that would’ve had Julia laughing under any other circumstance. “Anything for you, love.” He walked away to leave Julia alone with the husband she hadn’t seen in eight years.

She should be tongue-tied, she thought, as she regarded the man who wielded enormous power over her, even from such a great distance. But considering the hot gleam of male interest in Colton’s eyes, the way he studied her carefully, Julia knew the control now lay in her own hands.

“Your Grace,” she started, then boldly moved closer and took his arm. “I feel as if we already know one another.” Julia led him toward the terrace doors.

“Do you?” He deftly maneuvered them around other couples and placed his large hand on the small of her back as they continued outside into the cool darkness. “If we had met, Mrs. Leighton, I am quite sure I would remember.”

“Oh, you must call me Juliet. All my good friends do.”

“Then, by all means, you must call me Nick. I’ve never been fond of my title.” Tall and lithe, he leaned casually against the terrace railing, the backdrop a surprisingly clean stretch of canal. He was even more handsome up close. His shoulders were broad, and power lurked beneath his finely tailored clothing. She suddenly felt so . . . alive and edgy in his wickedly alluring presence. Little wonder her husband had become such a rake and scoundrel.

“If you insist, Nick,” she drawled while noticing the way he studied her lips. “Are we to be friends, then?”

“I certainly hope so.” His face softened with a flirtatious smile and her knees went weak, the power of

that small gesture warming her down to her toes. “Are you enjoying Venice, Juliet?”

“It is a lovely place. This is my first trip, and I must confess it’s nothing as I imagined. The food is superb and they are passionate, friendly people. And you? Have you been here long?”

“About three years. Before that Vienna, Cologne, Paris. . . .”

“And do you plan to return to our fair England one day?”

His features tightened ever so slightly. “No. I have no plans to return. There is naught there for me now.”

Rage blossomed in her chest, hot and strong. How dare he. Naught there for him—even a wife? Although her hand itched to smack his cheek, Julia forced what she hoped was an intimate expression and dropped her voice to a husky purr. “My luck, then, in meeting you here.”

“Indeed. And just when I’d thought Venice had grown boring. Have you known Winchester long?”

“No, not long. Though he’s spoken of you. I understand you’ve been friends forever.”

“It’s true. Since Eton, actually. We—”

“Here you are, love.” Simon appeared with a glass of champagne.

“So, Winchester,” the duke began, “tell me how you’ve been getting on the last two years.”

Two years! Julia gasped and almost choked on a mouthful of champagne. Simon had seen her husband two years ago? If Colton weren’t standing here, she would give Simon a good kick in the leg for not telling her.

“I find myself remarkably well. And you?”

“I enjoy it here,” Colton responded lightly. “The Venetians are quite pleasant, despite the resentment of the Austrian presence. I had thought, however, to travel to St. Petersburg next year.”

“It’s been eight years. Do you not think enough time has passed—”

“Do not say it.” Colton’s voice took on an edge and his face darkened. “After our last row, I thought you agreed to cease hounding me to return.”

“But really, Colt. Your wife deserves—”

“Oh, you mean my father’s pawn?” He straightened to his full height. “Cease immediately. Do not make me regret keeping you informed of my whereabouts all these years.”

Pawn? What on earth? Julia could scarcely wait to get Simon alone in order to get answers.

Simon held up his hands in surrender. “I have no wish to quarrel with you. Especially in front of such a beautiful woman.” He slid his arm around Julia and gave her shoulders a reassuring squeeze.

Her face a mask of polite civility, she focused on the duke. “Your Grace, we plan to attend the performance of Tancredi at La Fenice the evening after tomorrow. Perhaps you would care to join us?”

“I had already planned to attend, in fact,” Colton replied, his posture once again relaxed. “I would be honored if you both would join the party in my box.”

Julia tried to look surprised though she’d already known his plans. Simon’s valet had convinced one of the duke’s maids to give them information on Colton’s daily social schedule. More chance meetings with Mrs. Leighton were in Colton’s future. “That would be lovely, Your Grace. I shall look forward to it.”






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About Joanna Shupe

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. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

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