Once a Courtesan

Once a Courtesan

by Liana LeFey

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Overview

Once a Courtesan by Liana LeFey

Constable Will Danbury has infiltrated a school to investigate an alleged crime. What he finds is a deeper, darker mystery—and a potent attraction to the alluring headmistress, Jacqueline Trouvère. But a constable can't get romantically involved with a suspect; even one he thinks is innocent, without committing career suicide.

As headmistress of a school devoted to saving the innocent daughters of London's soiled doves, Jacqueline’s life is complicated. Will tempts her in ways she never thought to experience, but she believes no respectable gentleman could love a former courtesan.

Despite their best efforts to fight it, a romance blossoms. When danger jeopardizes the school, however, his deceptions and her omissions come to light, threatening to destroy their love. They must look beyond the past to save both their future together and the lives of those they’ve sworn to protect.

Each book in the Once Wicked series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Series Order:
Book #1 To Love a Libertine
Book #2 Once a Courtesan

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633758711
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 03/27/2017
Series: Once Wicked , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 386
Sales rank: 518,648
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Liana LeFey delights in crafting incendiary tales that capture the heart and the imagination, taking the reader out of the now and into another world. Liana lives in Central Texas with her dashing husband/hero, their beautiful daughter, and one spoiled rotten feline overlord. She’s been devouring romances since she was fourteen and is now thrilled to be writing them for fellow enthusiasts.

Read an Excerpt

Once a Courtesan

Once Wicked Series


By Liana LeFey, Erin Molta

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Liana LeFey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-871-1


CHAPTER 1

London, June 28, 1727


Raquel no longer exists. That woman is gone. I am Jacqueline Trouvère now.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Jacqueline concentrated on breathing evenly and slowing her racing pulse. Sweat cooled, making her nightgown cling unpleasantly to her skin.

No matter how different life was now, no matter how safe her immediate world, terror still lived in her dreams. Every night it stalked her, breathing down her neck, freezing her blood.

"Will I ever be free?" The dark swallowed her shaken whisper.

The dark. The lamp had gone out. She'd forgotten to adjust the wick before falling asleep, and now the only light in the room came from the dying embers in the grate.

Jacqueline swung her feet over the side of the bed. Grabbing the cold lamp from her bedside table, she took off the globe and carried it to the hearth.

Holding a tiny flame to the fresh wick, she watched it flare to life. The lamp once more cast its light like a shield against the night. Shadows fled, and she breathed again.

Adding a fresh scoop of coal to the fire, she poked and fanned it until it burned bright. The clock on the mantel told her only five hours had passed since she'd fallen asleep. Despite her fatigue, however, her rumpled bed held no appeal.

She removed her damp nightgown, drew on a robe, and slid her feet into worn slippers. Trudging to the washstand, she poured a little water into the basin and rinsed her face. The shock of the cold water against her skin stripped away the cobwebs from her mind, bringing her fully into the present.

As she patted her face dry, her stomach let out a mighty growl, completing the awakening process. A wry smile tugged at her mouth. Now she wished she'd done more than nibble at her dinner. Breakfast was still hours away.

It's that confounded builder's fault, putting me all in a furor and upsetting my appetite yesterday. Why does every male in London think me an empty-headed fool to be taken advantage of with impunity?

Going to her desk, she sat and took out a fresh sheet of stationery. Lord Tavistoke must be informed. She hated to bother him, but the situation required it.

London was a man's world. If a dispute between a man and a woman was brought before the magistrate, he tended to side with his fellow male, regardless of the evidence. Male solidarity had more pull than fairness. She had proof of the builder's fraudulence, but it was no guarantee she'd see justice served. Having Tavistoke quietly exert his influence on her behalf would.

Signing the letter with a flourish, she laid it aside on the blotter to dry. A splotch of ink on her hand caught her eye. In the dim light the dark fluid reminded her of blood. So much blood ... She rested a hand on her belly. So much has been lost.

Stop this. He's dead, and I'm free. The life I have now is of my own design. Determined to put the nasty business out of her mind, she moved on to the much happier task of reading an essay written in French by the first and oldest of her students, Honora.

Staying busy seemed the best way to keep the specter of her past at bay, and there was always work to be done here. A school this large didn't run itself. She served as headmistress, teacher, nurse — whatever was needed — and she was glad of the hard work and long hours.

Pride filled Jacqueline as she scanned the lines. Honora was a prime example of how the proverbial sow's ear could be transformed into a silk purse. If she could overcome her origins, anyone could. Just because a girl was born in the stews didn't mean she was without worth, and having a prostitute for a mother should never condemn a child to a life of the same.

The house was awake and stirring by the time Jacqueline went down to breakfast. Joy buoyed her spirit as she passed between trestle tables lined with little girls in gray woolen dresses and clean pinafores. Their cheerful greetings of "Good morning, madame" banished the last of her lingering malaise.

After breakfast, she went to her office to complete the supply orders for the coming month. To her surprise, Mrs. Farrow, the arithmetic teacher, was waiting by the door.

Her heart sank at the look on the woman's face. Not another one. This will be our second loss within six months. "Good morning, Mrs. Farrow. Is there something I may do for you?"

"Yes, Headmistress. I need to speak with you privately for a moment."

Unlocking the door, Jacqueline let her in. "Please, sit down." She opened the curtains to let in more light while she lit the lamp. "I can have tea brought in, if you like."

"No thank you, Headmistress." Mrs. Farrow perched on the seat's edge, as if prepared to flee at any moment. "I came because I've some news to share with you. News that, I fear, will not please you."

"You are leaving us to marry Dr. Whitehall." Jacqueline smiled as her colleague's eyes widened.

"You knew?"

"It was not hard to see how much you admired each other." The physician retained by the school to look after the children's health had taken an immediate and obvious liking to Mrs. Farrow. "When is the happy day?"

"September twenty-second."

She couldn't hide her dismay. "Such a short engagement, only three months?"

Mrs. Farrow blushed. "We would wait longer, but his mother's health is failing, and she would see her son married."

There was nothing to be done but accept it. "You must accompany Dr. Whitehall when he comes and take tea with us as often as possible."

A look of discomfort crossed Mrs. Farrow's face. "Actually, we'll be moving to Newcastle immediately following the wedding — he would have told you, but I asked him to let me speak to you first."

Two friends — and two vital employees — gone. It was a crushing blow. "I see."

"I can stay until the end of August, at the latest."

Breathe. "I shall advertise the position immediately. Is there anything else we need to discuss?"

"No, Headmistress. I'll leave you to your work and return to my duties." But she didn't rise. "I shall miss this place," continued the young woman, a quaver in her voice. "It has become my home. More than that, I shall miss those I've come to look upon as family here, including you. I don't know what I would have done if not for your kindness. I'm aware my leaving puts you in a difficult position, and it fills me with regret."

Jacqueline blinked back tears. "Don't allow regret to diminish your joy, Mrs. Farrow. You have repaid tenfold what was given to you, and I certainly don't begrudge you your good fortune. Few find love even once in their lifetime. That you have found it twice is a miracle."

The teacher bowed her head. "Thank you. I ..." She swallowed. "I would like to ask one final favor of you."

"You have but to name it."

"Will you stand in place of my parents at my wedding? Of all the people I've come to regard as my family here, you are the dearest."

Determined not to cry, Jacqueline nodded and kept her manner brisk. "It would be my honor." When Mrs. Farrow had gone, she shut the door and sank back into her chair.

Miracle, indeed. The kind of love that had driven Dr. Whitehall to propose to Mrs. Farrow was something straight out of a fairy tale. Such love is for other people — certainly not a barren former harlot covered with scars like me. That she'd come to bear such labels without her consent didn't matter in the least. No decent man would have her.

The muscles in her back twitched, and she stretched to ease them. As she did, the skin across her shoulder blades pulled taut in odd places. No. Not even the convenient lie of widowhood would be convincing enough. No man would ever look at her naked and think anything but the truth — that she'd been another man's ill-used plaything. Who would desire such a wife?

Stop this. Stop it this instant. Dwelling on the past and bemoaning a future she couldn't have did neither her nor anyone else any good. Hers was an enviable life now, and what she did mattered. Taking out another sheet of stationery, she focused on drafting the advertisement for Mrs. Farrow's position.


* * *

September 3

Jacqueline was contemplating her bed when there was a knock on her door.

It was Katie. "Apologies for disturbing you at this late hour, Headmistress, but he has come."

There was no need to ask who "he" was. "Is there anyone with him?" Jacqueline asked, taking up her shawl.

"Two girls. One looks to be about eight, the other is older. Fourteen maybe?"

Jacqueline sent Katie to the kitchen to fetch tea and a loaf for their guests, and hurried to the parlor.

Despite being fully aware of her past, the gentleman inside bowed as if she were royalty. "Madame Trouvère. My regrets for coming here so late, but I'm afraid it could not be avoided."

"You are always welcome here, my lord." Turning to the two girls, she smiled. "And you, as well. I am Madame Trouvère."

The children stared at her with unconcealed apprehension.

Jacqueline knelt, putting herself at eye level with the younger one. "You are safe here. You need not be afraid."

The older girl stepped between them. "'is Lordship says this is a school."

"It is indeed. A very special school."

Peeking out from behind her sister's skirts, the younger one piped, "We ain't never been to no school." She whinged in protest as her sibling shoved her back behind her.

"I told 'is Lordship I'd work to pay 'im what I owes," said the elder. "What do the likes of us need to go to school for?"

"So you can learn how to speak and behave properly," Jacqueline replied. "You will also learn to read and write and many other fine things."

"What good'll that do?"

"All the girls here learn such skills so that when they leave, they will be able to find work befitting a lady," Jacqueline explained patiently.

"Lady?" Rough laughter erupted from the child's mouth. "I ain't no lady."

"Perhaps not now, but if it is within my power to make it so, you will be."

"But school's for rich people, an' we ain't got no money." A decidedly grubby thumb jerked in Tavistoke's direction. "I told 'im so."

"You won't need any money here," Jacqueline assured her. "This gentleman has taken care of everything. All you need concern yourself with now is learning."

"Why would 'e do that?" The girl cast another nervous glance at Tavistoke. "You don't owe us nothin' — it's me as owes you."

Jacqueline stepped in before he could speak. "His Lordship is a good, kind man who has brought others like you here to safety. You will meet them tomorrow after you have rested."

"I don't want nothin' I cannot repay," insisted the girl. "I can earn me keep. I'll work — honest work, mind." Her voice wavered. "That other woman made me do bad things to earn me bread, but I ain't never doin' them again. You can starve or 'ang me, but I won't — an' I won't 'ave me sister do it none, neither."

Dear God ...

Her upset must have been apparent, because Tavistoke took over. "Madame Trouvère is not like the other woman."

Composing herself, Jacqueline took the girl's icy hands in her own. "No one here is going to make you do anything you don't wish to do, and you need not fear mistreatment. Will you give me a chance?"

"'ow do I know it ain't all some trick?" The girl shifted from foot to foot, clearly wanting to believe her but too suspicious to do so.

"Because I know something of what you've suffered." Jacqueline pushed up one sleeve, exposing a scarred wrist and holding it out for their perusal. Both girls' eyes widened at the sight of her pale, puckered flesh. "Like you, I was once forced to do things I did not want to do." She took a deep breath to steady herself. "But this gentleman" — she nodded at Tavistoke — "rescued me from that place. He's the reason I'm alive and the reason this school exists. I invite you to stay here with me and let me help you make a new life for yourselves."

Tavistoke again addressed the girls. "You'll both be safe here, I give you my word."

The girls' eyes searched Jacqueline's soul, stripping it bare.

These children desperately need someone to trust. "Will you let me help you?" she asked again. Breath returned as the older girl, at last, nodded. "Good." She smiled. "What are your names?"

"Me name's Fanny. Fanny Thatcher." She drew her sister out from behind her. "An' this is Abigail."

"You talk strange," the little one blurted.

"That is because I was born in France," Jacqueline answered. "How old are you?"

Again, the older one — Fanny — took over. "I'll be fourteen come spring. Abi don't look it, but she'll be ten at Michaelmas."

Anger burned through Jacqueline. So young! "You may call me Headmistress." Rising, she looked to Tavistoke, in whose eyes raged the same wrathful fire she now banked within herself. "I will see to their care and send word when they have settled in."

"I look forward to hearing of their progress." Turning, he bowed to the two girls, whose eyes again went wide. "Miss Fanny, Miss Abigail, I bid you farewell."

Jacqueline knew this was likely the last time they would ever see him. Tavistoke didn't come here often. When he did, it was in secret. She curtsied and watched with satisfaction as both girls attempted to imitate her. They will be good pupils. "May I speak with you privately for a moment before you leave?"

He nodded, and together they stepped out into the hall.

Closing the door, she braced herself and asked the question she couldn't ask in front of the girls. "I need to know the extent of the damage."

A muscle leaped in his jaw. "You heard the older one. The little one is frightened, but unharmed. We got her out before the buyer's arrival."

It was better than she'd expected. "And did you catch the ..." She swallowed past the knot in her throat and began again. "Did you catch him?"

"The buyer, yes. The seller, unfortunately, is nowhere to be found."

Katie arrived with the tea cart, and Jacqueline sent her in with instructions to feed the new students. Again, she addressed Tavistoke. "The one you caught is bound for Tyburn, I hope?"

A grim smile creased his lips. "No need. The fellow met with an unfortunate accident — trampled by a horse when he bolted into the street in front of an oncoming carriage."

"I wish you could have caught the seller, too. Fanny said it was a woman." Her gut knotted again. "Do you think it could be Boucher?"

"I don't know anything for certain, but I believe so. We'll keep looking." His lips thinned. "They are trying to keep it quiet, but you need to know there have been nearly a score of deaths in Covent Garden within the last two days, all from the same establishment these girls fled."

Jacqueline felt the blood leave her face.

"The girls don't know," he went on. "I did not have the heart to tell them everyone they knew had been murdered. I warned them to keep quiet regarding where they came from, but —"

"Children often forget, yes. I shall speak with them both and stress the importance of discretion."

He nodded. "As for their demeanor, I can say with confidence the younger one is unlikely to give you trouble, but the elder —"

"Is nothing I cannot manage," she said briskly. "Now that I know what I'm dealing with, it will be easier. She will do fine once she settles in and sees how good it is here."

"I'm sure she will. Have you found a replacement for Mrs. Farrow?"

A sigh of frustration escaped her. "I have not. I shall continue to post the position."

"Do what you must." He bowed. "Until next we meet."

Dropping a curtsy, she bid him good night and returned to the girls. "The hour is late, and tomorrow begins early," she said, giving them her gentlest smile and motioning for them to rise. "Come. Katie will show you to the bath and fetch you something clean to wear."

The younger one's eyes took on a rebellious light. "But I just 'ad a bath last —"

"Just do it, Abi," grumbled her sister, nudging her toward the door. "I 'ad to take one every few days while 'is Lordship looked for you. You'll be likin' it after a while."

As she watched them follow Katie out, Jacqueline's heart lightened despite her exhaustion.

Two more saved.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Once a Courtesan by Liana LeFey, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2017 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.

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Once a Courtesan 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Splendid story. I will look forward to reading more books by liane leafy.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story! I always love a good mystery thrown into any romances that I read and LeFey does a wonderful job of including both without one overshadowing the other. Jacqueline is not your typical heroine as she used to be a courtesan (as the title suggests). But she was forced into the situation and it was only with one man. Will is a constable, sent to investigate what is going on at Jacqueline's school for girls. He quickly ascertains that everything is on the up and up at the school, but learns that there is someone threatening the school and the children attending it. There is an instant attraction between Will and Jacqueline. Jacqueline is determined to deny the attraction because of her history with men. Will knows that if anyone finds out about Jacquline's history, his career is over. Of course, they find their way around both issues to find their happily ever after. Definitely one for the must read pile!
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story! I always love a good mystery thrown into any romances that I read and LeFey does a wonderful job of including both without one overshadowing the other. Jacqueline is not your typical heroine as she used to be a courtesan (as the title suggests). But she was forced into the situation and it was only with one man. Will is a constable, sent to investigate what is going on at Jacqueline's school for girls. He quickly ascertains that everything is on the up and up at the school, but learns that there is someone threatening the school and the children attending it. There is an instant attraction between Will and Jacqueline. Jacqueline is determined to deny the attraction because of her history with men. Will knows that if anyone finds out about Jacquline's history, his career is over. Of course, they find their way around both issues to find their happily ever after. Definitely one for the must read pile!
Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
Jacqueline had to overcome many obstacles in her past. She was born in France and after a terrible start in London she's now leading a happier life as the headmistress of a school for girls with troubled histories. The school has rich benefactors who wish to remain anonymous. Jacqueline knows how to keep a secret and she will do anything for her girls. She offers them a safe haven and a decent education. Will is her newest teacher. He's working for the police and after a tip about Jacqueline he's trying to find out if she's the head of a human trafficking network, which is the exact opposite of what her school is all about. Who has put him on Jacqueline's trail and with what purpose? Will is used to going undercover. He's effortlessly pretending to be the math teacher, and only man, at a school for girls. Jacqueline fascinates him and Will is instantly attracted to her. She's hiding something though and he needs to find out what it is. While Jacqueline and her school are under threat Will is falling for the headmistress. Fortunately he's at the right place at the right time, so he can help Jacqueline defend her innocent pupils. Will there be room for romance or are their lives so complicated that Will and Jacqueline don't have a chance together? Once a Courtesan is an action-packed love story. Jacqueline is incredibly strong. She can defend herself, she's standing up for others, she's fought her way out of a bad life and she's determined to give many abused girls a good and hopeful future. I admired her courage, her fierceness and her beautiful spirit. Will is just as protective and noble as Jacqueline and they do everything they can to keep others safe. They are an amazing match, they are both brave and have wonderful personalities. I loved their deep and real connection. I'm a big fan of stories about true love and Once a Courtesan is a great one. Liana LeFey knows how to build tension. Her story is gripping, fascinating and intriguing. She kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Once a Courtesan is a romantic adrenaline rush and I loved that combination. There are many surprising twists and turns and I found the story both thrilling and compelling. I was hooked from the start because of the intricate plot combined with a multilayered emotional background. What happened to Jacqueline moved me to tears and Liana LeFey writes about it in a sympathetic, but raw and honest way. She skillfully combines attraction with battles and does that with plenty of control and energy, which I found really fabulous. I absolutely loved Once a Courtesan and highly recommend this terrific story.
Jamie B More than 1 year ago
Once a Courtesan is the story of Jacqueline Trouvère, headmistress of a school that rescues young girls from brothels and educates them in the skills they need to start life anew. I knew that the story would be a bit different from the average historical romance, but what I ended up with was a daring romance about trauma and learning to trust and love again. Jacqueline is an unconventional heroine and I adored her. Jacquelinl was a courtesan forced into a brothel out of desperation and a victim of extreme violence and trauma. Despite her dark past, she holds her head high and has founded a new home where she helps children out of the same situation she was in, forming a new family from the ashes of tragedy. Each girl brought in is given a chance at a new life, a new identity, and become part of a tight-knit sisterhood of fellow survivors. Even some of the staff members are rescue cases, having escaped brothels or abusive families. The students are taught academics, manners, and all the other necessary skills they would need to go back into the world, doing honest work usually as hand maidens or maids. The entire staff save for the school doctor are all female, and the girl’s rehabilitation is handled with delicacy and confidentiality, safe from the outside world. I greatly admired the school, its staff and its students. With a charitable establishment protecting the most vulnerable in society, you wouldn’t think the place would come under suspicion. That’s where Constable Will comes in. After receiving a tip about a notorious crime syndicate of flesh peddlers. Will is sent undercover as a teacher to investigate the school, where he meets the alluring headmistress and encounters a wall of silence. I loved the mystery aspect of the story, the investigation of the crime syndicate and the mysterious Archangel attacking brothels dealing in darker merchandise. There was an extensive cast of characters introduced throughout the book, which made the school and the city feel alive and bustling. Many of the characters had distinct personalities and I found many of them charming. Jacqueline and Will were both diverse main characters and thankfully their romance was not a case of insta-love, as tends to be an issue in many romance novels. In fact, the two of them start the story off highly suspicious of the other, and their romance develops over time in a way I could believe. As the story carried on, there were certain points where plot points or a character’s actions did not make a lot of sense to me, such as when Will is caught sneaking around – I just expected Jacqueline to react a little more angrily. The development of the love story also takes place at a rather peculiar point in the story. While it unraveled in a satisfying way, it sort of takes place at a point of immense danger, and it just didn’t seem like the proper time to me. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will note that there were times that it felt like the story was going in a certain direction, such as a greater amount of betrayal in the school which is suddenly just dropped. In another instance, when Will sets up a ruse and the rest of his special unit are already in place there before he sent out letters seeking help, it all seemed too convenient. Instances like these created some minor plot holes, like there was more there but was either cut out or just never followed up on. Thankfully these minor holes for the most part could be shrugged off, as there was plenty goin
BookReview4you More than 1 year ago
'Once a Courtesan' by Liana LeFey is book Two in the "Once Wicked"series. This is the story of Jacqueline and Will. I have read the previous book but feel this can be a standalone book. Will is a Constable that is going undercover at Jacqueline school after rumor had broke that something was going on there. But what Will learned was the school was nothing that he thought it was. Will finds Jacqueline to have more to her than just the Head Mistress title. Jacqueline was forced into a physical and mentally abusive relationship that she is now out of but she is trying to save others. She has settled in the knowledge that she will never marry or have children due to her forced past history and the physical scars that show. Will is a honest man that starts to see that Jacqueline will do anything to help others. Jacqueline slowly starts to realize that Will is someone that she can put her life in his hands. Right from the start this was going to be a different type of romance story with Jacqueline as our leading lady. She wasn't innocent, she was strong, and just wanting to save young girls so they may have a better life. "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily
FizzaYounis More than 1 year ago
It's a historical crime thriller. The story touches dark side of London's life in 1700s. I find it quite interesting and enjoyed reading it. Jacqueline is a headmistress of a girl's charity school but she is hiding a tragic past, not only hers but of every girl in her school. She loves them dearly and would do anything to protect their future, even lie. This is her calling, she is meant to help these girls and make sure that they're well taken care of. Beyond that there is no purpose of her life. Will is a constable who is sent to investigate Jacqueline's school. Soon he realizes that there is some secret which every single person at the school is protecting. No matter how hard he tries, no one is willing to tell him anything. He must investigate and find out what is going on before it's too late. When someone threatens Jacqueline, Will is there to protect her and help her. He is learning so much about this woman and the more he learns the more he admires her. She truly is a strong woman, who is ready to take risk in order to protect those she loves.... but will they both be able to protect their loved one or will they end up worse off then before? It's a thrilling read, with lots of drama, and some romance. I loved both Jacqueline and Will. They are both good at their jobs and know how to fulfill their duties. I think it's a unique historical fiction in a way that it doesn't gloss over the plight of less fortunate people. Author has done justice to her characters and story, I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes to read historical fiction.