Betrayed by her fiancé and her best friend, Lady Diana Haversham's reputation is left in ruins, and she is unjustly cast out by her family. Left with little choice, she agrees to pretend to be a courtesan to protect her benefactor's secret. What she didn't count on was meeting temptation in the form of one Lord Lucas Blackthorn.
Lucas is fascinated by the shameless Diana, whom his friends claim is his perfect counterpart. He can't stop thinking about her sultry smile and captivating eyes, but what draws him most is the sharp mind she reveals—and the certainty she's hiding something.
When Lucas learns the scandalous truth, Diana will have to make a life-and-death choice.
Each book in the Once Wicked series is STANDALONE:
* To Love a Libertine
* Once a Courtesan
* A Wicked Reputation
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My life is over. Lady Diana's hand trembled as she handed the paper back to her furious uncle, Lord Bolingbroke. Her fiancé had disappeared last week and, according to this morning's Gazette, had yesterday returned from Gretna Green a married man. Lucille, her best friend — former best, she corrected herself — was now Lady Grenville.
Aunt Jane, her normally timid voice shrill, shattered the stifling silence. "I warned you what would happen if you lifted your skirts before his ring was on your finger!"
Diana's temper flared. "And I told you it's a lie! I never allowed —"
"Oh, stop it, girl!" snapped her aunt. "Everyone thinks you did, and that's what matters. That, and the fact that Grenville is now lost to us forever."
"I beg to differ," Diana shot back, folding her arms across her chest so they wouldn't see her shaking hands. "The facts matter a great deal. Aunt Jane, you've been with me to every ball, every party. When has there ever been an opportunity for me to behave in such a manner? You know it's not true! You can tell all those gossiping old —"
"Not every party," interjected her uncle. "Your aunt did not attend the Hancocks' party with you a fortnight ago. I did, and you were out of my sight for quite some time."
The insinuation elicited a pain in Diana's heart such as she'd not felt in years. She was accustomed to her uncle's hard ways, but this was too much. In spite of the rage and fear coursing through her, she kept her voice calm. "If you will remember, Uncle, you went to play cards in the library with the other gentlemen and I was not permitted to accompany you. But I remained in the ballroom the entire time, as you instructed. I did not even visit the powder —"
"It matters not where it happened," he said, cutting her off with a look of cool disdain. "Thanks to your imprudence, you've been painted in an ill light, and us along with you."
Her gasp was a sound halfway between laughter and horror. "What imprudence? I beg you tell me so I may know what lie dares threaten my good name."
"It is no lie," he replied, narrowing his eyes. "Grenville told everyone you invited him to take liberties with you, and I know it to be true. Your aunt told me you let him kiss you."
She let out an incredulous laugh. "I allowed him a chaste kiss the day I accepted his proposal. Nothing more! One simple kiss with one's fiancé surely cannot be equated with 'liberties'."
But his expression remained unmoving. "He intimated it was far more than 'one simple kiss,' which you should never have permitted in the first place. That ... among other things."
Heat crept into Diana's cheeks, and her heart began to pound anew. "It was once, Uncle, and only once. He'd only just asked for my hand, and you specifically ordered me not to discourage his affection for fear of endangering the match with — how did you put it? Ah, yes: 'female frigidity'."
Bolingbroke's beefy face darkened to an ugly purple. "Insolent harlot! You dare cast my own words back at me?"
"I am no harlot!" Diana shouted, past caring. "And you were the one to speak them. Do you deny them now?" She braced herself as he took a step toward her.
Aunt Jane stepped in, her cheeks as pale as parchment, and laid a restraining hand on his sleeve. "Arthur, please —"
"Enough!" shouted Bolingbroke, shaking himself loose with a growl. "I will not tolerate defiance in my household. Not from her, and certainly not from you," he rasped, shoving a fat finger in his wife's face and causing her to flinch. "There is more to this than one kiss. Grenville said he'd heard tales concerning her lack of propriety on other occasions from several different men."
Shock coursed through Diana, swiftly followed by anger. "What men? Who has spoken such lies?"
But her uncle ignored her outraged inquiry. "Being a gentleman, he had refused to believe them — until he'd witnessed it himself. It is an embarrassment not to be borne!"
"But she claims to be innocent," pleaded Aunt Jane in a small voice. "Surely there must be some way to prove —"
His eyes widened until the whites showed all around his small brown irises, and Diana shook her head slightly, willing her aunt to be silent.
Bolingbroke's voice was as cold as a cheerless winter's dawn. "You dare persist in pleading this creature's case when the stain of her scandal threatens to taint us all? Think of your own children, woman. People will talk of this for years to come. No matter what 'proof' is offered, there will always be the question. Even you confessed doubts as to her virtue."
It was all Diana could do to conceal how deeply this revelation wounded her.
"But she is our niece, Arthur. We cannot —"
"She's none of my blood!" he snarled, his mouth thinning to a bitter line.
Dread filled Diana, along with icy calm. She knew what was coming. Aunt Jane had been kind after her parents' deaths and had loved her as best she could, but Bolingbroke had never warmed toward his wife's orphaned niece. He'd tolerated her, but after assuming the title of viscount last year he'd become insufferable, always reminding her she lived as befitted a lady only because of his charity and sufferance.
Puffing out his chest, he continued, relentless. "I have a responsibility to this family, to my own good name, and I refuse to shirk it. You are to leave this house at once."
"Arthur!" gasped Aunt Jane. "You cannot cast her out into the street! Think of —"
"Silence!" he thundered, sending flecks of spittle flying. "I will not be prevailed upon to house a wanton trull under my own roof!"
Rejecting the sudden impulse to crumple to the floor, Diana squared her shoulders and stood her tallest. She'd rather die than beg this man for mercy, if such a thing even existed in his cold, empty heart. "I vow before God I'm innocent of any immorality," she said with quiet dignity. "You accuse me wrongly and will only add to the undeserved slurs against me by refusing to deny them."
Beneath her withering gaze, he shrank a little. But it wasn't enough. "I have little choice but to renounce you — for the sake of my own daughters," he countered, but his tone was less strident than before. It weakened further as she continued to stare him down. "I do it for my family!"
Unbidden, a strangled chuckle rose up in Diana's throat. "I realize you feel no personal obligation where I'm concerned, Uncle," she said, placing deliberate emphasis on the familial title, "but despite your fervent wishes otherwise, I am a member of your family."
Vicious glee kindled in his eyes. "Not anymore."
Again, Aunt Jane risked censure to do what Diana couldn't. "Arthur, I beg you to be sensible about this. If she is innocent ..." she trailed off, and for a moment Diana thought she'd fall silent rather than face his anger. But her aunt had more courage than she gave her credit for. "If that is not reason enough, think how others will view us. Remember that you are being considered for the Order of the Garter." This time when she rested a hand on his arm, Bolingbroke let it stay. "As such, it would be far better to be merciful and be looked upon as overly kind rather than cruel and unfeeling."
The silence stretched taut between them. Then: "Three days," he said at last. "I'll give her three days to settle herself elsewhere. Quietly." He turned to again address her. "You may take what came with you when you go, as well as your clothing. I want nothing of you to remain in this house."
"I assume that includes my dowry?" Diana heard herself ask mildly. It was almost as if someone else were forming the words with her lips. Satisfaction seeped into her, warming her as his face registered first surprise and then outrage. That's right, you greedy bastard! I've not forgotten. "My father's will made provision for seven thousand pounds for my dowry. You've held this in trust on my behalf. I am still unwed. As stipulated by the will, the moment you cease to be my guardian, it belongs to me."
The plum flush returned to his cheeks with alarming swiftness. "Ungrateful little bitch! I have put a roof over your head and food in your mouth for ten damned years!"
But his rage was no match for hers. Diana no longer felt any fear, for she had nothing to lose. What good were clothes and a few pieces of furniture when one had nowhere to put them and no means to feed oneself? "Perhaps I should seek an audience with the king? I'm certain His Majesty would see the daughter of his dear friend, the late Duke of Avondale," she reminded him. "Perhaps he would award you a fair portion to cover the expense of feeding and clothing a child for ten years — taking into account, of course, that the interest from my dower fund has been accumulating in your coffers for the entire duration — but I'm certain he would not ask me to forfeit the entire amount."
His lips went white, slowly followed by the rest of his face. Diana knew his accounts would not withstand close scrutiny by the Crown. Even so, the man quickly recovered his bluster. "Do you truly believe His Majesty would tolerate someone like you in his presence? You can be assured he will have heard of your downfall."
"Naturally, I shall request that the court physician examine me and attest to my innocence," she said lightly. "And once my name has been cleared of the slander that has besmirched it, I shall protest your undeservedly harsh treatment of me and beg His Majesty to make me a ward of the Crown."
"You would not dare!" he spluttered.
She smiled her sweetest smile. "In addition to reclaiming my entire dowry, the reinstatement of my good name would be well worth any embarrassment I might have to endure. You, on the other hand ..."
"This is extortion!" he shouted. "I should have you —"
"Arthur!" hissed Aunt Jane, tugging on his arm hard enough to jerk his attention away. Braving his wrath, she leaned close, and Diana heard her whisper urgently: "If she petitions the Crown, His Majesty will hear her — her rank guarantees it. And she will have the right of it. You yourself said Avondale's will ensured her dowry was well protected. And what if she should somehow manage to prove herself innocent? It would look very bad on you." Her voice lowered further. "You would have had to part with the money when she married."
Diana watched him struggle, his greed and loathing for her battling against prudence. His jaw worked, and the vein at his temple bulged as he tried to think of a way to rob her of her inheritance with impunity. She knew he'd never rescind his eviction — not that she'd stay now, even if he got down on his knees and begged her. His pride had suffered too much injury by her refusal to succumb to his bullying. "Aunt Jane is right," she said quietly. "If you give me what is mine, I'll have no legitimate grounds to petition the Crown. Or indeed to ever disturb you again," she added for good measure.
He leveled his index finger at her, his fierce gaze belied by its trembling, his voice low and savage. "Three thousand, and not a penny more."
It was more than she'd hoped for five minutes ago. She nodded acceptance, sending a silent prayer of thanks to God that he hadn't called her bluff. In truth, she had no idea how to gain an audience with the king. Her father's name might have held sway at court once upon a time, but ten long years had passed since his death.
"And another thing," her uncle added, raking her with mean eyes. "After you leave, you are to have no communication with anyone in this household ever again. Is that understood? No visits and no letters. This family cannot risk further association with such as you."
Though it pained her, she nodded again. Little Bellatrisse and Rowena were away visiting their grandmother and would not be back for a week. I won't even be allowed to say goodbye, even in a letter ... They were the closest things to sisters she'd ever had, and the thought of never seeing them again made her eyes smart. Steeling herself, she pushed her pain aside and focused on her outrage at his treatment of her.
"Well?" he demanded after a moment. "Will you not even thank me? I should think you'd be grateful for my generosity. A less kind man would have turned you out with nothing, regardless of your threats. I'd be well within my rights."
Diana bit her tongue so hard she tasted blood. How dare he expect my gratitude for casting me out with only a portion of that which is mine to begin with? Still, she could little afford to provoke him further. Lowering her eyes, she forced the bile back down enough to say in what she hoped sounded like a meek tone, "Thank you."
It seemed to mollify him somewhat. "That's better." He turned from her to face his wife. "A man ought to be more respected in his own household. I blame you for how this one turned out, Jane."
Aghast, Diana tore her gaze from the floor to stare at her white-faced aunt.
Bolingbroke continued to berate his wife. "Had you done a better job of teaching her the importance of propriety, this would not have happened. I shall expect you to look upon this incident as a lesson to be applied to our own daughters whereas it pertains to instilling a sense of proper decorum." He turned back to an infuriated Diana. "You've been bold here today, girl, but the world out there will teach you your place," he said, jerking a meaty thumb toward the window. "I suggest you make good use of the time I've granted you, for it won't be extended by so much as a minute."
Oh, how I hate him! How could he blame either of them for something that hadn't even happened? She wanted to rail at him, to claw at his eyes and tear the cruel smirk from his face. Instead, she stood in sullen silence, concentrating on the interminable ticking of the mantel clock, waiting to be dismissed.
"You may go," he finally grumbled.
Turning on her heel, Diana stalked out and mounted the stairs on trembling legs. Upon entering her room, she closed the door and leaned against it, willing herself not to cry.
There wasn't time to grieve. Three days. I have just three days to find a place to live and a means of supporting myself.
The money would be enough to rent rooms in a halfway decent part of Town and feed herself — if she were frugal — for a few years. And what good will that do? Cast out, my reputation in shreds, who will receive me? What man will consider marrying me? Without connections, how am I to make my way in the world?
Moving to the country was an alternative. The money would certainly last a lot longer there, but not indefinitely. And then what?
The question loomed before her like a great black cloud, obscuring all else. She could write and calculate sums, but neither of those skills would earn enough to support herself. No self-respecting mother would consider her for a governess once the tale of her "ruination" came to light. And none of the other feminine arts she'd learned at her aunt's knee would afford her a living beyond that of the meanest poverty.
Three days. What could she do in three days except pack her things and sink into despair? I might as well leave now. She cast about, looking at the familiar room and wishing it was anywhere but in Bolingbroke's house. Her newest ball gown hung on the wardrobe door, where her maid had left it to let out the wrinkles. She ran reverent fingers over the soft, petal-pink damask, noting how the diaphanous layer of fine gold silk covering the skirt panels made it look like a rose-tinted sunrise.
She was to have worn it to the Whitfield ball tonight.
Her aunt would have no choice but to sequester herself until the "harlot" had been ejected from their house, thereby restoring her to her proper place amongst the moral majority.
Why not go without her?
The rebellious thought was so ridiculous she almost laughed. But at the same time it was so utterly appealing that she was tempted. Sorely tempted. She'd give just about anything to be out of this room, away from this place. She eyed the gown again.
Why not? The invitation still stood, after all. No one knew her aunt and uncle were about to disown her. She'd wait until everyone had gone to bed, which ought to be soon, considering her aunt had already complained of a headache. Her uncle would likely closet himself in his library, nursing his beloved brandy, until the wee hours. Her hair was already done. All she had to do was put on that gown and get out unnoticed. The servants' stair would work. She could hire a carriage to take her to the ball, which would not end until dawn.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Wicked Reputation"
Copyright © 2019 Liana LeFey.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 STARS!!! Outstanding. The title is perfect for this book. It is an incredible journey of the rise and fall of an innocent Duke's daughter. The complicated intrigues are fascinating. There are unexpected twists and turns in this book guaranteed to keep you glued to each page. This is a well written story of different types of love (MM, MF), loyalty and friendship. The horror that our heroine suffers, I could not imagine anyone dealing with it better than her. The H/h and the supporting characters were well developed, have wonderful personalities and admirable traits. The romance in this book blew me away. It is sensual, seductive, erotic without being trashy. The loving sexual interactions between the H/h are truly a beautiful thing to read. Justice was served to those who dared sully and dishonor the heroine. The ending of the book ties up all the loose ends superbly. This is a must read. You will not be disappointed. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review.
I enjoyed this book, it was unbelievable what woman went thru back then, one lie and there life as they knew could be ruined. Lady Diane was betrayed by her fiance and best friend and found an ally in Harrow, he was so good to her and crazingly enough Harrow's wife was also not only accepting of the relationship that Harrow and Diana had, but had also become a very good or more like family. Lord Blackthorn comes back after being banished by his family for causing a scandal and you would think that he would stay far away from it, but not the case the minute that he sees Diana he wants her and he thinks that something is not right with her relationship with her protector and he sets out to find out what it is since he is determined to have her..wow, we have some twist and turns and eventually justice and redemption..Enjoy! Rcvd an ARC at no cost to author..(netgalley) Voluntarily reviewed with my own thoughts and opinions
I LOVED Diana and Lucas' story!! Watching these two come together was magical! The whole forbidden fruit, I'm sure is what lured in Lucas, but as he got to know Diana, he fell hard! I loved watching them overcome their hurdles and find their HEA! I'm hoping that LeFey is continuing with this series as I have throughly enjoyed it!!
This is the first book I read by Liana LeFey and the story was quite unusual but I did enjoy it! Lady Diana Haversham, daughter of a Duke, should have been the darling of the ton but instead she finds herself with her reputation in shambles, even though she's innocent. Thrown out by her uncle, she ends up agreeing to pretend to be a courtesan to protect her benefactor's secret. Lord Lucas Blackthorn arrives back in town and after taking one look at her, he decides he wants her as HIS mistress! I had a few giggles when Lucas has to pretend to come on to Diana's benefactor, Harrow:) It all becomes quite the tangled web before Diana and Lucas can have their HEA!! I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
A Wicked Reputation is the first book by Liana LeFey I've read and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. The story line is original and the characters engaging. If you're a fan of historical romance this is a solid read. I'll definitely keep my eye out for additional titles by the author.
A Wicked Reputation by Liana LeFey A Once Wicked Novel #3 Lady Diana Haversham is in a dire situation when her uncle tells her he is kicking her out of the house. What is she going to do? Well, she is going to find someone willing to take her in, give her the acting job of a century being his fake-courtesan and she is going to become bigger in society than she ever imagined. She has a plan and Harrow, the man “keeping” her, is helping her achieve it. Diana and Harrow develop a strong friendship over time both knowing it cannot last forever. When Lucas, Viscount Blackthorn arrives on the scene Diana’s days with Harrow are numbered. I enjoyed this story more on reflection than when actually reading it...not sure why but it is true. As I read it I had trouble believing it could happen as written...more than once. I found Diana to be stronger than most young women of that time period usually were which was great and yet had me asking...really? I found Harrow a delight and understood his wife, I could see where Diana was coming from, hated Diana’s uncle, found Lucas interesting if a bit immature in some ways, enjoyed some of the scenes that played out and rooted for a happily ever after for the fake courtesan and the rakish Lucas. Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled-Amara for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars ( )
I could not wait to read this book because I had read a previous story by this author and loved it. This one contained all the elements of a great regency romance with heartache, a woman betrayed and so many emotions that kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could. The dictates of the time and gossip could have a lady ruined even if she did nothing scandalous and that was the case with Diana. To make things worse her betrothed married her good friend and left her ruined with untruths. Living with her aunt and uncle, she was pushed out after they believed the rumors and she had to find a way to support herself. She finds a way by posing as a courtesan to a gentleman that would help him keep his secrets and give her money to survive. She learned all the ways of that scandalous title and was really good at playing her part. That is until she catches the eye of Lord Lucas Blackthorn who threatens to expose her lie. An exquisite romance with a strong heroine I could only cheer for and great characters that came to life. I cannot wait to read more by this author and encourage you not to miss this historical romance!! Plus don't you love the gorgeous cover? I read through NetGallery. Lori Dykes
What a great book. When Lady Diana Haversham is jilted by her betrothed and best friend, she is thrown out of her uncle's house. She must now find a way to survive. She meets Lord Harrow who becomes her protector. He has a wife and now Diana is his mistress. All is not as it seems. She goes to balls with Lord Harrow and shopping with his wife. Does she warm both of their beds? Everything is going along fine until Lucas, Lord Blackthorn comes into the picture. He wants her badly. There is a wager with Diana, the prize. When Lucas wins, he is very surprised by their night together. It's a great story with twists and turns that lead into a Happily Ever After. It is definitely worth a first and second read. I would absolutely recommend it as I couldn't put it down. I received this book from Net Galley and Entangled Publishing for a honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.