The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions Series #2)

The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions Series #2)

by Joanna Shupe

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420135541
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Series: Wicked Deceptions Series , #2
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 264,881
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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. Please visit Joanna at www.joannashupe.com or on Twitter @joannashupe.

Read an Excerpt

The Harlot Countess


By Joanna Shupe

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2015 Joanna Shupe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4201-3555-8


CHAPTER 1

Spring, 1809 London


Silence rippled throughout the ballroom the moment her slipper hit the top step.

Before Lady Margaret Neeley had a chance to comment on this odd reaction, her mother began tugging her down the stairs. Only then did the impending doom become apparent: the way each person avoided her gaze, the hushed tones sallied around the room, dancers paused mid-turn.

And she realized at once that they knew.

They knew.

Somehow, despite her best efforts, stories of what happened the night before had circulated through the streets of London this afternoon. On morning calls, rides in Hyde Park, and promenades down Rotten Row, the ton had spread the tale hither and yon.

With Maggie's younger sister ill today, Mama hadn't wanted to go on calls. Relieved, Maggie had spent the time drawing, grateful that they hadn't received any callers. Now it was clear why.

She hadn't done anything wrong, she wanted to shout. In fact, she had tried very hard during her debut to appear a proper English girl. With the black hair and fiery temper of her Irish father, it had been a constant battle. She neither looked nor acted like all the other girls, and the ton seemed to enjoy casting her in the role of outsider despite that she'd spent most of her life in London.

"Why has everyone gone quiet?" Mama hissed in her ear. "What have you done, Margaret?"

Of course Mama would pick up on the disquiet. Also unsurprising she would place the blame for the uneasiness squarely at Maggie's feet. Even still, Maggie couldn't answer. A lump had lodged in her throat and even breathing was a challenge.

Escape, her mind cried. Just run away and pretend this whole evening never happened. But she'd done nothing wrong. Surely someone would believe her. All she had to do was explain what had occurred in the Lockheed gardens.

Lifting her chin, she continued down toward the glittering candlelight. Stubbornness had forever been a defect in her character, so everyone said. Mama lamented that Maggie would argue long after the point had been made. So she would not turn tail and run, though her stomach had tied itself into knots. No, she would face them, if only to prove she could do it.

When they reached the bottom of the steps, the quiet was deafening. Their hosts did not bustle forth to greet them. Not one of her few friends rushed over to share gossip or compliment her dress. No young buck approached to request a spot on her dance card.

Instead, the crowd swelled backward as if an untamed beast had wandered inside and might run amok at any moment.

"Come," her mother ordered, taking Maggie's elbow. "Let us return home."

"No," Maggie whispered emphatically. What had happened was not her fault, and she would not allow anyone to bully her. Someone would believe—

A blur of blue silk sharpened into the flushed features of Lady Amelia. "I cannot believe you are so foolish as to show your face," the girl hissed.

Maggie straightened her shoulders and focused on her friend. "Whatever you have heard—"

"He told me. Did you think he would not? My betrothed confided in me of your ... your wickedness, Margaret. You tried to steal him from me, but you failed."

The entire room was now avidly watching and listening to this conversation. Even the orchestra had quieted. "Amelia, why would I—"

"You were always jealous. I've had three offers this Season and you haven't had a one. It comes as no surprise that you would try to steal Mr. Davenport for yourself." As the heir to Viscount Cranford, Mr. Davenport was widely considered the most eligible man in London. He had proposed to Amelia more than a month ago and Maggie had been nothing but pleased for the other girl.

So Maggie ignored her mother's gasp and kept her eyes trained on Amelia. "You are wrong."

"Amelia." Lady Rockland appeared and tugged on her daughter's arm. "Come away this instant. You will ruin yourself by even speaking to that ... She did not finish, did not add the hateful word before spinning away in a flurry of obvious revulsion. Maggie could well imagine what Lady Rockland had been about to say, however.

Whore. Harlot. Strumpet.

Is that what she'd become in their eyes? It seemed incomprehensible, especially since Mr. Davenport had lied. Maggie had agreed to meet him to, as he'd said, discuss Amelia. Yet once on the edge of the gardens, it had become apparent the young man had something else in mind. He'd grabbed her, tried to pull her close and put his mouth on her. He'd ripped her dress. Maggie had struck back in the one place it counted on a man and he'd released her. When she'd hurried back to the house, the couple arriving on the terrace must have drawn their own conclusions about her dishabille.

Mr. Davenport had tricked her. Attacked her. Then he'd compounded the sin by lying about it to Amelia, one of the few girls Maggie had befriended. The need to make everyone understand tore at her insides. Did no one care for the truth?

As she swept the room with her gaze, the hatred staring back at her made it undeniably clear that the truth did not matter. The ton had passed judgment. She wanted to scream with the unfairness of it. Would no one come to her aid? Surely one of the other unmarried young girls or the man she thought—

More than a little desperately, she searched the room, this time for a tall, blond-haired man. He had been her safe harbor this Season, the one person who truly knew her, who would believe she'd never do anything so reckless. Likely he'd heard what happened by now. So why had Simon not stepped forward to defend her?

There, in the back of the ballroom. Her eyes locked with the brilliant blue gaze she knew so well, a gaze that had sparkled down at her for more nights than she could count. His eyes were not sparkling now, however; they were flat, completely devoid of any emotion whatsoever. A flush slowly spread over his cheeks, almost as if he was ... angry or perhaps embarrassed—which made no sense at all.

She clasped her gloved hands together tightly, silently imploring him to rescue her. Yet he made no move to come closer. Holding her gaze, he raised his champagne glass and drained it.

Hope bloomed when Simon shifted—only to be quashed when she realized what had happened. He'd presented her with his back.

Simon had turned away.

No one stirred. No one spoke. It seemed as if they were all waiting to see what she would do. Hysteria bubbled up in Maggie's chest, a portentous weight crushing her lungs.

Dear God. What was to become of her?

CHAPTER 2

December 1819 London


A man's past could easily be forgotten—unless it hung in a shop window on the busiest stretch of St. James, of course.

Simon Barrett, the eighth Earl of Winchester, stood frozen in the cold winter air, staring at yet another shining reminder of his illustrious, drunken youth. Despite the frigid temperature, an uncomfortable heat crawled up his neck. Hell, he hadn't blushed since boyhood.

Still, he couldn't drag his eyes away from the drawing in the print shop window, a depiction of a man too soused to stand while a lady nearby was robbed of her jewels. There could be no doubt of the man's identity. As if the tall frame, blond hair, and bright blue eyes weren't enough, the artist had provided the character with a name: Lord Winejester.

Bloody hell.

"I'd almost forgotten that side of you, the rogue from our youth."

Simon glanced at his good friend Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint. "Rather the artist's point, I believe."

Simon wondered again why this artist, Lemarc, had fixated on him. Was one of his opponents accountable for the cartoons? One did not rise to the upper ranks of Parliament without stepping on some toes.

"What number is this? I daresay it's the fourth or fifth caricature of you in the last year. Lord Winejester is becoming quite popular. Mayhap you'll get a commemorative spoon or plate, like Rowlandson's Dr.

Syntax," Quint said, referring to the artist's popular fictitious character.

"Oh, to dream," Simon drawled.

Quint chuckled and nudged Simon's shoulder. "Come now. You have laughed off the others. Why so grim now?"

Not entirely true. Simon may have laughed publicly, but privately these cartoons worried him. He'd worked too hard building his reputation to allow it to be tarnished. His influence and prestige amongst his peers would suffer if he continued to be portrayed as a buffoon. Mayhap it was time to suggest a certain artist apply his skills elsewhere.

And if said suggestion was perceived as a threat, well then, so be it.

"Shall we go inside?"

A bell tinkled over the door as Simon entered, Quint on his heels. A spacious room, the shop had rows of windows set high, right up to the ceiling, allowing light to bounce off every available surface, even on a gray winter day such as this. Framed art crowded the walls—landscapes, portraits, fashion plates, and life scenes in all different shapes and sizes—while racks of unframed canvases rested in the far corner. Simon strode to the long counter along the back wall, where an older woman stood patiently waiting. From behind small, rounded spectacles, her eyes widened and darted to the front window before settling back on his face. Well, at least I wont need to introduce myself.

She dropped a curtsy. "Good afternoon, my lords."

Simon removed his hat and placed it on the counter. "Good afternoon. I should like to speak with the owner."

"I am Mrs. McGinnis, the owner. Would your lordship be interested in purchasing a print?"

"Not today. I am more interested in information." He gestured to the front window. "Can you tell me how I might find the artist Lemarc? I find his work ... interesting." Quint snickered, but Simon ignored him.

"I am afraid the artist wishes to remain anonymous, my lord."

This unsurprising response didn't deter him in the least. Over the past few weeks, he'd made some casual inquiries regarding the artist and learned Lemarc was a sobriquet. "What if I offer to pay you for the information? Say, ten pounds."

Her lips twitched and he got the distinct impression Mrs. McGinnis held back a smile. "My lord, I've had an offer as high as fifty pounds."

"What about one hundred pounds?"

"I must apologize, my lord, but my loyalties remain with the artist. It would not be proper for me to disregard his wishes."

Inwardly, he cursed the woman's stubbornness, though one had to admire her devotion to Lemarc. "I'd like to purchase his cartoon in the window, then."

Mrs. McGinnis shook her head. "I must apologize again to your lordship. That particular drawing is not for sale."

His jaw nearly dropped. "Not for sale? No matter the offer?"

"No matter what your lordship offers. The artist would prefer to keep the piece in his own private collection."

Damnation. Simon drummed his fingers on the counter, his mind spinning. He couldn't even buy the cartoons to get rid of them.

Quint leaned forward. "Are there any other Lemarc pieces for sale?"

"Why, yes, my lord," the shopkeeper quickly answered. "I have a collection of bird paintings done in watercolors by that particular artist, if your lordships would be interested to see them."

"He'll buy all of them." Quint pushed a thumb in Simon's direction. "Whatever you have."

"Birds?" Simon gave Quint a hard glare. "Birds, Quint?"

"Buy them, Winchester. Trust me."

Simon turned back to the shopkeeper. "How many?"

"Almost twenty, my lord. They're quite nice, all done within the last few years. Would your lordships care to see them?"

Quint answered, "No, that won't be—"

Simon gripped his friend's shoulder and began towing him toward the front door. "Excuse us a moment, won't you, Mrs. McGinnis?"

"Of course. Take all the time your lordship requires. I'll just be in the back." She disappeared into the recesses of the shop, leaving the two men alone.

Simon frowned at Quint. "Why the deuce am I purchasing almost twenty bird paintings? I loathe birds."

"Because some are regional, you oaf," Quint whispered. "We might be able to find a common thread in the types of birds drawn and narrow down a county where Lemarc resides. At least that will give you a location in which to begin your search."

Simon blinked. "Quint, that's ..."

"I know. Now buy the blasted pictures so we can get to the club. I'm starving."

He'd momentarily forgotten Quint's love of puzzles. "Fine. Consider this your project, then. Give me one of your cards." Quint produced a card, and Simon called for Mrs. McGinnis. "I'll take all the bird paintings," he told the shopkeeper when she returned, withdrawing a card from his breast pocket. "Send the bill to me, but deliver the pictures to this address." He handed over Quint's card.

"With pleasure, my lord. Would your lordship care to have them framed?"

Might as well, he thought. He'd find somewhere to use them. Shooting practice, perhaps. "Indeed. I bow to your expertise, Mrs. McGinnis. Choose whatever frames you deem appropriate. How long before they're ready?"

"I'll get my boy on it straightaway. I should have them to your lordship day after tomorrow."

At that moment the bell over the door clanged, and he turned to see a small figure burst into the shop. A lady, by the look of her fashionable bonnet and black pelisse. She seemed to freeze upon seeing them but then inclined her head. There was something oddly familiar—

"Lord Quint," he heard her say.

Quint bowed. "Lady Hawkins. How nice to see you again."

The room suddenly lost all its air. Or perhaps Simon's lungs refused to cooperate because a burn had sparked in his chest, a pressing heat as if the ceiling had collapsed on him. God's teeth, he hadn't expected to see her here. To see her anywhere, really. Ten years. It had been ten years since they'd last faced one another. He'd heard all about her, of course. From all accounts, the woman thrived on spectacle and notoriety—which struck him as odd, considering he remembered her as thoughtful and, well, shy.

But he'd never really known her at all, had he? The scandal when she was still Lady Margaret, along with the behavior she'd exhibited since the end of her mourning period, had certainly proven that.

Shock rendered him frozen, and the only thing he could do was stare. The years had certainly been kind to Lady Hawkins, if her appearance was any indication. Wisps of black hair fell out of her bonnet, her delicate features fairly glowing from the cold. She had creamy skin without a hint of imperfection, and green eyes that whispered of the Irish meadows of her ancestors. As he watched, her generous mouth twisted into a small smile. He remembered the simple beauty of that smile, the lengths he'd gone to in order to see it.

There had been a time he would have done anything to make her happy. Such a foolish, foolish boy he'd been. Anger simmered in his gut at her faithlessness—anger he forced away for its sheer ridiculousness. It had been a decade, after all.

"Lord Winchester, it has been a long time," he heard her say, her tone cool and quiet.

He bowed stiffly. "Lady Hawkins. How wonderful to see you." Even to his own ears, it sounded flat.

She didn't respond and an awkward silence fell. Devil take it, but he had no idea of what to say to her. Both his feet and tongue felt rooted to the floor.

Finally, Quint asked, "Are you purchasing a print?"

She stepped toward the counter, the top of her head barely reaching Simon's shoulder. "I did, last week. Now it's been framed and I've come to collect it. You?"

"Winchester's the one buying today," Quint said.

Lady Hawkins turned, her questioning gaze colliding with his. Hard to miss the intelligence—at once both familiar and mysterious—lurking there. He cleared his throat. "I'm purchasing a collection of bird paintings."

"Are you?"

"Indeed, my lady," the shopkeeper confirmed. "All nineteen pictures by Lemarc. His lordship bought every one."

"Ah. Have you discovered an interest in ornithology, sir?"

The sound of her voice, teasing him in that unique, husky way, prickled over his skin. He didn't intend the visceral response but found himself helpless to stop it. She'd teased him quite often over the months they'd spent together. She'd made him laugh, more than he'd ever thought possible, and it had not gone unnoticed when it had stopped.

Had she made the late Lord Hawkins laugh? And what of the other men in her past?

"That means birds," she said, drawing his attention back to the conversation. "I asked if you are interested in birds."

"More like ladybirds," Quint muttered, and Lady Hawkins chuckled.

"Yes, I'm aware what ornithology is," Simon answered.

"While I do not claim to be an expert on birds, I find myself suddenly fascinated by them. And you, madam?"

She turned away in order to stare at some bric-a-brac in the glass case. "Oh, no. I wouldn't know a partridge from a nuthatch, I'm afraid."

"Have you been to any of the other recent art exhibitions?" Quint asked her.

Other exhibitions? Simon wondered over that. Quint had definitely failed to mention bumping into Lady Hawkins. Odd, since Quint knew the history between her and Simon. Not that Simon cared, of course. He most definitely did not.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Harlot Countess by Joanna Shupe. Copyright © 2015 Joanna Shupe. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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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The Harlot Countess 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
rabidreaderSR More than 1 year ago
I read the first book in the series The Courtesan Duchess and I enjoyed it. I was eager to read Simon’s book as I thought he was dashing and handsome with the right amount of honor and roguish charm. I dived into The Lady Hellion with high expectations. I was satisfied yet I was not satisfied. It is very weird to feel like this about a book. I mean I loved it. Loved Miss Harlot, the way she thumbed her nose at Society after their terrible betrayal. Maggie was unconventional, strong, sassy, and a kind, gentle lady. Her character was wonderful and I loved her from the minute I met her. :) Yet I was baffled as to why Simon was the butt of her jokes in her controversial cartoons. Yes I understood he broke her heart, but the man more culpable for the ruination of her reputation was not even featured in one of her drawings, nor was he ever the target of her revenge. Errrm no! The bounder was not even on her radar until he tried to blackmail her. And I adored how she dealt with him, unflinching and courageous. Anyhoo, so Maggie directing her ire only on Simon baffled me, and there were several times I kept thinking if they had a serious conversation many issues would be solved. I feel as if there were important conflicts that needed discussion, such as to why he was in a brothel for three days after she wedded Lord Hawkins. I did understand the push and pull, the doubts and anger, so I understood why she didn’t just unburden to Simon, though it frustrated me. Simon also presented different in his own story. He had seemed so daring himself when he appeared in the first book, so understating and supportive of Julia, hence when he was so judgmental of Maggie and was not able to see behind her façade it threw me.  I thought he was ridiculous for the anger he felt at the man who tricked him into abandoning the woman he loved when society scorned her. Hello…you loved her so desperately but someone else was able to sway you. The only person to blame was his blasted self. And that is what is so wonderful about this book, it frustrated and captivated me in equal parts. Simon was still a scrumptious and wonderful hero, who loved Maggie so completely I felt it.  He was willing to give up so much for her, and it cannot get better than that. ;) The writing was delicious, the plot wonderful, and the characters enjoyable. I would recommend.  
perriknows 19 days ago
Simon, Lord Winchester or Winejester as he was satirized as, was sometimes less than kind. He felt his assent in Parliament was being made fun of by the male painter, Lemarc, who in fact is Maggie, Lady Hawkins aka the half Irish Harlot! After her debacle during a ball in her first season, she is ruined by her friend's fiancee. No one believes her, and Simon, who seemed to be courting her, turned his back on her. Now Maggie's satirized posters of Lord Winejester are her way of getting back at Simon for his choices of long ago. Being a widow, Maggie has much more freedom than other ladies at the time, and Simon believes all of the rumors of her sexual escapades! In reality her painting is what has saved her. Simon and Maggie begin a fabulous chase! While sometimes I felt that Simon was an idiot, he also had reflective moments. Having lived with her reputation for 10 years, Maggie still regrets, but has risen from the ashes to fulfill her destiny. This 'second chance at love' story is a powerful look at how society can ostracize someone with there being no truth to any of the rumors. I was happy with this book. Although, now that I've read some of the negative reviews on Amazon, I still have to say, I was happy with this book. Ms. Shupe has written a historically accurate book and we're trying to review it with our 21st Century sensibilities! Women were ostracized by society at that point in history for any number of infractions. A man's word was taken over any woman's every time! It was a complete double standard and very accurately portrayed by Ms. Shupe. That the heroine of this book rose above the marriage her parents forced her into with a much older gentleman, society continuing to call her the 'Half-Irish Harlot', her ability to function and in essence 'roll with it' when it would have been easier to stay out of society, throwing parties that were 'over the top', living a 'second life' as a political satirist, my goodness...she was pretty bada$$! There was no #MeToo movement in Regency England!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First half is good. Good character development, good plot development. Then it was if the author got lazy and lost creativity
SummerSnowFalls More than 1 year ago
Maggie, now Lady Hawkins, had what was possibly the worst come out in all of London's history - an unwanted attack in the gardens turned into a "lover's tryst" by the scheming knave branded Maggie as "The Half-Irish Harlot." And when her beau Simon Barrett believed the knave's lies and turned his back on Maggie, she flees into a loveless marriage with the first man who will marry her. Ten years later, the nickname still burns on society's tongue wherever Maggie goes. But now she embraces the freedom the nickname - and her widowhood - provide her and little does society know, but she is behind the infamous political cartoonist, Lemarc, poking fun at both society's hypocrisies and rising politicians like Simon. Maggie is one of the strongest heroines I've read. Despite years of cruel taunts, gossips, and not-so-subtle whispers, Maggie has held her head up high and presented the world with a brave face. She turns a spiteful joke into an infamous persona. Her intelligence, wit, and artistic talents earn her a very comfortable living at the expense of the very society who pretends to despise her. She is the very definition of courage and strength. Simon is the character with a true development arc in this novel. His love for Maggie ten years ago was weak and he believed the lies about her. But through actually talking to Maggie, learning her side of the story, and discovering the woman she has become, Simon's love for her grows and develops into full maturity. Simon is just as complicated a character as Maggie and shares her stubborn streak. But this makes for a fantastic read! Simon and Maggie's chemistry sparks off the page and some of their love scenes actually made me blush! And let me tell you, I read a lot of erotica and historical romance so that's really hard to do. I *loved* this book and immediately went out and bought the other two in the series, THE COURTESAN DUCHESS (book #1) and THE LADY HELLION (book #3). Reviews for those novels will be up soon too! Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com
def618 More than 1 year ago
Wow! I think I like this book better than the first in this series. Simon, who appeared to be a smart guy in the first book, is not so smart when it comes to Maggie. He fell for her in her first season, but something happened and he walked away while she was ostracized by society. Now she's having a little revenge until bad things start happening. No plot spoilers from me. I will say I like that the heroines in this series try to help less fortunate women. This was a fun, enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No shrinking wallflowers in this series!
LoriC5 More than 1 year ago
Another great historical romance by Joanna Shupe!  While this book can be read as a standalone, it is certainly a lot of fun to read the series.  We first met Simon in the Courtesan Duchess. He is honest, loyal, compassionate, and a little bit tortured by something in his past. In The Harlot Countess, the reader learns that Simon lost the love of his life to a scandal ten years before. And, while he believes that he was played the fool, he is not closed off to love and it speaks highly of his character that he appreciates and encourages it in the lives of his friends and family. He is witty, intelligent, incredibly handsome, and goes above and beyond to help the less fortunate. Not to mention the political capital he has built in parliament.  So what is wrong with him? When presented with evidence that the woman he loved had been having relationships with other men, he did not seek her out for an explanation, but rather he shunned her with the rest of society. Now, he is still bitter over what he perceived as being played the fool, however he is still very attracted to her. To make matters worse, he has been targeted by a cartoonist who is clearly determined to take away his credibility and make him a laughing stock. Maggie was completely shattered when Simon turned on her without giving her the opportunity to refute the claims against her. To save even the slightest bit of dignity and avoid completely tainting her family, she quickly married. Her marriage was empty and boring, but it gave her something she never would have had otherwise, freedom. She spent her years honing her craft as an artist, and creating a persona meant to show people that they cannot hurt her anymore.  Maggie is talented, sarcastic, funny, full of compassion, desperate to help the less fortunate, and yet so very bitter (not without cause). So when Simon enters her life again, she has no faith in him and is, in fact, the artist behind the derogatory cartoons. Finding their way back to each other is full of hurdles, the hurt and anger, the misunderstandings, and society in general are stacked against them. To top it off, there is a mad man to chase, keeping Maggie’s other identity a secret so that she doesn’t incur the wrath of the government, and a personal vendetta that is causing them problems. This story definitely keeps moving, there were no moments when I wished it would pick or where I was getting bored. The plot is wonderfully constructed, it’s easy to follow, but still full of surprises. It’s so easy to fall in love with Simon. SO EASY! He is adorable and a sexy alpha at the same time. Maggie’s bitterness gave me moments of annoyance, however it is well deserved, so it was fleeting. As characters, they are well developed and I felt like I really got to know them. Just as the previous book got interest piqued to read Simon’s story, this book has me very excited for Quint’s novel.  I really enjoyed this book and when I reached the ending, I shut the book with a smile on my face. This is worth the read!
gaele More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the debut offering from this author, so I was curious to see what she would do with The Harlot Countess book 2 in the Wicked Deceptions series from Joanna Shupe.   A knack for creating heroines that just dance with the common threads of bold and daring without falling into overly spoilt, shrewish or utter scatterbrains, Shupe has brought a new entrant into the world with Margaret.   Intelligent and a survivor, she is using her knowledge of the world and politics to express her opinions under a male pseudonym as a political cartoonist. Shrew, sharp and pointed, her cartoons are the talk of the town, skewering bad behavior and duplicity with equal measure.  In reality, Maggie buries the tender heart and hurt feelings beneath an icy façade, married to a much older man, with plenty of angst and drama, she doesn’t  believe that love (or even a relationship) is in her future.  Society is full of mean girls and opportunistic men, and nowhere is this more evident than in the cats that make up the Tonne. Rumors and scandals are attributed to Maggie, all of which she has risen above and done her  best to ignore, despite the hurt they cause. She’s done what many can understand- ignore the cats, work on  what pleases HER (her art) and why not fill expectations from her tattered reputation by attending parties  thought scandalous, even when she isn’t misbehaving in the least.   Simon and Maggie had been friends for years, until the scandal broke. At that point, Simon, being a clueless male and striving for his own position in society actually turned his back on Maggie, signifying his dismissal and  lack of support for her when she needed him most. I can’t completely see him as a total ass – she wouldn’t have  tolerated that for all those years – but he did make huge mistakes in forgetting what and who is truly important  to him.  Maggie’s ability to take out her anger in the pointed cartoons that attack his reputation are hitting the mark – and his request that she help unmask the artist behind the attack is a perfect opportunity for her to show  him just how awfully he had treated her.  Miscommunication and an utter unwillingness to actually communicate are at the heart of this story, after the despicable self-serving behaviors of Cranford ruin Maggie’s reputation. She could, quite easily, hope that her  friend Simon would hear the truth – but her plan to bring him to his senses with her own talents is a clever twist  that moves the story forward.  With plenty of steam, enough uber-alpha insecurities displayed by Simon and a  wonderful ‘aha’ moment when things come clear made this a story ripe for imagination and enjoyment. A lovely  installment to the series.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 2 in the Wicked Deceptions series. Having been ruined in the eyes of society during her debut, Maggie was quickly married off to the Lord Hawkins. Several years have passed and Maggie once again emerges into society but plays the part of the "Harlot Countess". What others don't know, is that she is the renown artist know as Lemarc who takes pleasure in ridiculing Simon Barrett, the Earl of Winchester for his part in her heart break. Simon is determined to find out who the artist know as Lemarc is. He is tired of being ridiculed by the man. He is desperate enough to go to his former love and get her expert opinion on the subject. Having his heart broken by Maggie once was hard enough, but can he allow his heart to suffer it again? What will Simon do when he finds out that the person he is hunting is none other than his former love? I really enjoyed this story! It is nice to get away from the "prim and proper" debutants that are normally in a historical romance. With Maggie, we get a girl who did the right thing and she was taken advantage of. She then decides to take her life into her own hands and do as she pleases. She isn't out to make anyone happy but herself. Of course, I would have loved to have seen Simon believe in his love for Maggie when they were younger and stick by her, but then there wouldn't be a story. I did like that he seemed to have been pining for her all this time, serves him right for turning his back on her! But Shupe did a wonderful job of bring him back into my good graces. I can't wait for the next book in the series, which comes out at the end of May. Thanks go out to Kensington via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
**I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review On the night of Maggie's debut, a huge scandal had spread like wildfire, destroying her reputation and essentially shunning her from society. Simon Barrett, the Earl of Winchester, was the one person she had prayed would take her side or at least ask her what happened. Instead he shunned her like everyone else. Desperate, Maggie leaves society and marries a much older man. 10 years later, Maggie, now Lady Hawkins, is widowed and back in London. This time she's determined to live up to her reputation as the Half-Irish Harlot. There's now an artist that is releasing cartoons of Simon, ridiculing him and his youthful exploits. When he runs into Maggie for the first time since that awful night, he can't get her out of his mind. Now he just has to get her to talk to him. Decides to ask her to help him track down the artist. Unbeknownst to him, Maggie is the artist, using the drawings as a way to vent her betrayal by him all those years ago. Many historical books tend to show the woman as the more emotionally vulnerable person or the understated wallflower. Not this story. Maggie is very much trying to live out loud in her reputation and enjoying freedom as best as a woman can in this time period. She still has a lot of anger and hurt from the past, but it was great watching her get through it. Right from the first re-meet, Simon is definitely the one that couldn't stay away from Maggie again. While his biggest faults are what he did (or didn't do when he was younger), his ultimate goal is to get Maggie to accept that they should be together, one way or another. I really enjoyed reading this book. One of the biggest problems I have with books is when the forgiveness comes too quickly, but I thought this author did a great job in sticking true to Maggie's pain and anger with everything she's been through and with the way Simon just doesn't get it.
LilMissBookmark More than 1 year ago
Lady Hawkins has a secret. Quite a few of them actually. She is an artist and a political cartoonist. But no one can know. Mostly because her favorite target is a highly influential man in Parliament and her first love. The Earl of Winchester is a man that she loves to hate and hates to love. Her secret has been kept under wraps for ages. At least until the Earl asks her to help find this mysterious cartoonist and Lady Hawkins is dead set in sending him on a wild goose chase. Once again, Joanna Shupe did not disappoint. I read the first novel in this series a few days ago and fell in love with Shupe's writing style, flair for dramatics and her spunky characters. I won't lie, I was a bit tentative about reading another in the series ... I loved the first one so much that I was afraid the second wouldn't be as good and it would mar my feelings of the first novel. But I was wrong (don't tell my husband, I've got him convinced that I'm never wrong). I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Actually, it would have been a 5 star book for me if I hadn't picked out the bad guy so early on. While knowing who is behind a big plot in the book is disappointing, the writing kept me interested and still dying to know how everything would play out. Is it fair that I took off a whole star just because I knew what was going to happen? Probably not, but when you're reading a book of this caliber and there are hardly any issues, you have to kind of nit-pick just to make it fair. Like I said, the characters were amazing, I absolutely adored Lady Hawkins right from the beginning. I loved reading about her spunk and backbone when women of that time period were mostly marionettes. And the Earl of Winchester ... I loved to hate that dude, just like Maggie. Ugh. He was such an ass. But watching his transformation was one of the best parts of the book. The story wasn't too heavy but at the same time, it wasn't weak either. I have to pick up and put down books all day because of things going on and not once did I forget what was going on or who was who but I did find myself carving out time to read when I really didn't have it just so I could see what was going on. Such a good storyline. Love! While you don't necessarily need to read these books in order, it wouldn't hurt to do so. There are a few jokes and situations that you get more insight into if you've read the first one. I'm super excited to see what number three has in store for readers. I'm pretty sure it's going to be spectacular. I'll be first in line to get that one, I'm sure.
JeneratedReviews More than 1 year ago
*I received this ARC via Netgalley* Author Joanna Shupe has maintained the high standard she set in her debut novel, The Courtesan Duchess, with the second book in her Wicked Deceptions series, The Harlot Countess. Deliciously captivating characters come to life in this sizzling tale and you will have no choice but to be pulled into their story. Full of breathtaking sexual tension entwined in page turning intrigue this is a work not to be missed.
celticmaggie More than 1 year ago
I discovered Joanna with the previous book being her first book. This one is just as good. She has given us a complicated story line. It was awesome. She has some of the toughest characters out there, especially Maggie. Maggie was set up in a scandal. She was given The Cut Direct by everyone. Simon was her love and walked away. Spoilers. Ten years later they meet again. They blame each other. She paints and designs cartoons of Simon. Spoilers. He has problems with his brother-in-law, Sir James. Cranford teases him about the Half Irish Harlot. There is a lot of story lines crossing back and forth over each other. Simon is a softy, as in coming to the aid of girls and women who need to change their lives. One is beaten so bad as to be almost dead. Maggie and Simon quarrel back and forth so she moves to France. Simple spoilers here. Now someone wants to blackmail Simon and Maggie. Here is where you need to read this book for yourself. It is a very contagious read! Be prepared and have tissues at hand. I really hope you decide to read this book. Try her first book and then after this one there is a third book. I can't wait! Enjoy reading this book! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
I am quickly becoming a fan of Joanna Shupe. I have only read two books of hers so far, The Courtesan Duchess and now The Harlot Countess. Ms. Shupe's brand of historical romance is funny, entertaining and at times in emotional. The Harlot Countess is the story of a young woman finding her footing in a society that blackballed her in the past and ruined her chances of finding a good match. Didn't help that the man she fell for betrayed her by having so little faith in her word of honor. Now she wants revenge. The Harlot Countess is a great read. Received an ARC of this book for an honest review. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a ok book...it was not as good as the first book..the first book had everything I loved, this book fell a little flatt ..it loved simon ' s character in the first book..he was fun..in this book he seems a little to series..i didn't really feel the chemistry between the two..it was lacking for me..i don't know....??? maybe it just so different from the first book, I was expecting it to be more like the first book (fun, with passion) not like a mystery... i also felt there were so many un- answered questions between them/ things not said/ more emotion's?? It also just ended with no answer to whom did the murder/ beatings...so that leads me to believe that will be in the next book..also I hate when book just ends..I love my epilogue's . I give this book more like a 3.5 .