The Harlot Countess

Written by Joanna Shupe

The second book in the Wicked Deceptions series describes how Lady Maggie Hawkins fights back against public disgrace after she is unjustly blamed for trying to seduce her friend’s fiancé. Now a widow, she deploys her considerable artistic talent under a pseudonym to draw cartoons of Simon, Earl of Winchester, her own prospective fiancé who failed to defend her. When they meet again, however, the powerful feelings between them reignite, and after numerous plot complications they dispatch the villains who threaten them both.

The focus of this Regency is upon the vulnerability of women in a society that applies a double standard of behavior, especially in sexual conduct, and Maggie’s spirited defiance of its censure is as heroic as Simon’s growing understanding of its injustices is commendable. Unfortunately, there is rather too much going on and not all the elements are satisfactorily integrated. Though the progress of the lovers’ relationship is involving, the graphic sexual encounters not only seem at odds with the central theme, but become repetitive; information on art is interesting, but steamers to America in 1819? This needed further editing, but is recommended nonetheless.