I’d like to thank Tasty Book Tours for letting me participate in this tour event and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for an honest review. For all the blogs involved in this event, please click on the banner above, murr! =^.^=
Publisher: Zebra – Kensington
Date Released: April 28, 2015
Series: Wicked Deceptions #2
Lady Hawkins’s debut was something she’d rather forget—along with her first marriage. Today, the political cartoonist is a new woman. A thoroughly modern woman. So much so that her clamoring public believes she’s a man…
FACT: Drawing under a male pseudonym, Maggie is known as Lemarc. Her (his!) favorite object of ridicule: Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester. He’s a rising star in Parliament—and a former confidant and love interest of Maggie’s who believed a rumor that vexes her to this day.
FICTION: Maggie is the Half-Irish Harlot who seduced her best friend’s husband on the eve of their wedding. She is to be feared and loathed as she will lift her skirts for anything in breeches.
Still crushed by Simon’s betrayal, Maggie has no intention of letting the ton crush her as well. In fact, Lemarc’s cartoons have made Simon a laughingstock…but now it appears that Maggie may have been wrong about what happened years ago, and that Simon has been secretly yearning for her since…forever. Could it be that the heart is mightier than the pen and the sword after all?
I shall admit that I approached this book with just a tad of apprehension, especially after having been a bit dissatisfied with the first book in the series. As much as I knew I expected to end up enjoying Simon and Maggie’s story, I was worried that I would dislike them by the end as I did Nick and Julia. Thankfully that was not the case and I found myself liking this book and its characters greatly.
I adored Simon in Shupe’s first novel, so I was keen to read this book and find out what happens with him. I also wanted to see just how much he would change, if at all, between books and was happy to see that Simon is still in many aspects an intelligent, driven, caring individual who means well. However, he falls woefully short where Maggie is concerned and on that one point only was I annoyed with him. He so easily believes the words and “proof” of another man rather than seek out the truth from Maggie that I just wanted to smack him a few times. Yes, it is fair to say that his behavior in this isn’t all that different from what one would expect of the ton during the nineteenth century, but it irks me nonetheless. Still, at least he’s not the arrogant, pompous ass that Nick was in book one. I liked Simon just as much in this book as I did in the first one. Maggie’s a fun character no matter how you look at her. Strong, independent, stubborn at times, and not at all willing to let society continue to get her down, I greatly admired her determination to help those in the brothels and was rather amused by her poking fun at Simon and society in general through her artistic talents. The two work well together as a couple and I found myself rooting for them both as the story progressed. I really wanted them to find their happy ever after together.
Meanwhile I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my appreciation for Nick and Julia from the first book increased with this read. Shame that it took placing them in a supportive role rather than a lead for me to really start to like them both, especially Nick. It was fun to see their back and forth banter at play, and I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to seeing them both in the third book in the series. And I can’t wait to read Quint’s story! Out of the three main male characters, I’d say he’s my favorite, so I have great expectations where he is concerned. I was also greatly pleased to see the return of Pearl Kelly, though she wasn’t nearly as involved in this book as I would have liked. My only big disappointment was that Shupe didn’t bring Fitz and Aunt Theo into the mix outside of brief mentions. I’m still hoping that they will get their own story at some point, even if it is a novella.
As for Shupe’s writing, it continues to remain strong and solid. While there wasn’t as much mystery or suspense in this one as there was in the first book, I was still drawn in to the story and compelled to continue reading long past the time when I should have called it quits for the night. It really was a fun read and it made me anxious to start reading book three in the series.
Overall, I would say that this book lived up to the expectations that I have for the second book in a series. If you read and enjoyed The Courtesan Duchess, you’ll equally enjoy The Harlot Countess.
The long corridor outside the drawing room resembled a maze, with doors every which way. Picking a direction, Maggie searched for a footman. Perhaps he could draw her a detailed map on how to find the terrace.
From the shadow of an alcove, a figure stepped into her path. “Lady Hawkins.”
Simon. She started, pressed a hand to her chest. “You scared the life out of me. What are you doing out here?”
He folded his arms, the fine wool of his coat pulling taut across his broad shoulders. “I could ask you the same question—only I suspect the answer. Where did you have it planned?”
“Simon, I think you had better return to the dining room—”
“The music room? The conservatory?” he continued, steady steps bringing him closer. “I happen to know there are hundreds of little spots all over this house where one—or perhaps two—could hide for an extended period of time.”
She tried to make sense of his words over the thundering of her heart. Was he insinuating . . . ? Oh, for heaven’s sake. Did he always assume the worst of her? Feet planted, she stopped moving and lifted her chin. “Are you under the impression I’m engaging in some sort of a tryst? In the middle of a dinner party?” It was so absurd, she could hardly speak it.
His smirk confirmed it. “Convenient you and Markham both excused yourselves within moments of one another, wouldn’t you say? Let me give you a piece of advice for next time: It draws less attention if you sneak away once the gentlemen join the—”
She came forward to hiss, “You hypocritical horse’s arse. I stepped out for some air. Alone.”
He had the gall to snort. “Yes, I’m quite sure Markham would offer up a similar story if we were to ask him.”
Anger rushed through her veins, settling in her chest like a heavy mound of potter’s clay. Simon loomed over her, snarling down in self-righteous fury, and she discovered he’d backed her up against a wall. She knew in that moment he would never believe her denials; he’d formed his opinion of her ten years ago and there would be no changing his mind.
Fine, she could play the harlot for him. Maybe then he’d leave her alone—though she truly longed to crack him one across his closely shaven jaw.
She exhaled, forced her limbs to relax, and licked her lips. Predictably, his gaze locked on her mouth, so she rolled her bottom lip between her teeth. His chest continued to rise and fall, the harsh exhales filling the room, and his eyes darkened to sapphires. Oh yes, revenge could be sweet. Ever so slowly, she dragged one finger down the length of her bare collarbone. “Did you corner me in hopes of taking his place?” she asked, her voice low and intimate.
Simon shifted closer, the pure male, spicy scent of him filling her nose. She liked the way he smelled, orange and sandalwood with a hint of tobacco. The proximity of his frame distracted her as well. His evening clothes held no padding, and the well-tailored fit hugged him quite perfectly. She could see the outline—
“If I chose to take Markham’s place,” he started, placing his hands against the wall, one on either side of her head, to cage her in. He leaned in and for one terrifying, heart-stopping moment she thought he was going to kiss her, but he shifted just before their lips touched. The tip of his nose slid across her cheek, tiny puffs of breath heating her skin as he nuzzled her. Maggie’s breasts swelled, and her lids fell with the rush of pleasure that rippled the length of her body. “If I chose to take his place, it wouldn’t be here,” he whispered near her ear. “I’d take you to my bed at Barrett House and show you wickedness Markham could not even begin to imagine. But that is not why I cornered you.”
Close. He was much too close. Despite her desire to remain unaffected, her belly fluttered and warmth tingled between her legs. Why on earth had it only ever been this odious man to elicit such feelings? She swallowed. “Then why?”
He flicked her earbob with his tongue, then nipped the lobe with gentle teeth. She inhaled sharply. “What game are you playing at, Maggie?”
“I—” Her traitorous voice caught, so she cleared her throat. “There is no game, Simon.”
Her control began melting away. She longed to do every improper thing in the world to him—and for him to return them in kind. Odd since she hadn’t ever enjoyed intimacies with a man. Had hated it, actually. But somehow, this was different.
Why had she started this? Oh yes, she’d thought to teach him a lesson, make a fool of him. Have him panting with lust and then leave him begging—only this was turning into something else entirely.
“I like games,” he continued, his lips brushing over her throat in a seductive caress. “But I also like to win. I wonder, are you prepared to pay the price when you lose?”
She shivered. There wasn’t enough air in the damn room. “I never lose,” she rasped. “And you have more at stake.”
“Do I?” His nose slid along the sensitive line of her jaw, the skin prickling in his wake. “I think I could take you against this wall. Right now. Right here.” His hips pressed against hers, his erection stiff and unapologetic, and she sucked in a breath. Before she knew it, her hands clutched at his waist to hold him in place.
“But you should know,” he continued, his mouth hovering above her lips, “I only play games when there aren’t quite so many players. I do not care to be one of many.”
About the Author:
Award-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.
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