The Harlot Countess

The Harlot Countess by Joanna Shupe

the harlot countess

Overview by Amazon:

Maggie, Lady Hawkins, had a debut she’d rather forget–along with her first marriage. Today, the political cartoonist is a new woman. A thoroughly modern woman. So much so that her clamoring public believes she’s a man…

FACT:  Drawing under a male pseudonym, Maggie is known as Lemarc. Her (his!) favorite object of ridicule: Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester. He’s a rising star in Parliament–and a former confidant and love interest of Maggie’s who believed a rumor that vexes her to this day.

FICTION:  Maggie is the Half-Irish Harlot who seduced her best friend’s husband on the eve of their wedding. She is to be feared and loathed as she will lift her skirts for anything in breeches.

Still crushed by Simon’s betrayal, Maggie has no intention of letting the ton crush her as well. In fact, Lemarc’s cartoons have made Simon a laughingstock…but now it appears that Maggie may have been wrong about what happened years ago, and that Simon has been secretly yearning for her since…forever. Could it be that the heart is mightier than the pen and the sword after all?

I just finished The Courtesan Duchess, the first book in this series and I adored it!  When I saw this book on Netgalley, I had to grab it.  The third in the series is up on Netgalley now and I am desperately hoping to be approved for it!  The series centres around three friends.  We have already had Colton’s story, now it is Simon’s turn and the final book will be on Quint.

Maggie is one of those truly remarkable characters you read about.  I know NO ONE in real life like her, yet the author makes her not only believable, but likeable.  Maggie has been so wronged by men and society.  Cast out after being assaulted and labelled a harlot, she is wed to a man old enough to be her father.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the man she was in love with LITERALLY turned his back on her when she needed him.  The author makes you feel her desperation and heartbreak at the events – being betrayed, forced to marry another and despair for the love that was lost.  That is what makes this book so good – the writing.  Maggie could have been a cliché or overwhelming with all her baggage, but you consistently root for her as she is just such a fighter and so compassionate.

Simon was introduced in the first book, and I really liked him.  He seemed reasonable and likeable, yet in this book I kind of hated him for part of it.  He’s constantly saying the wrong thing and his views on women can be contradictory at times.  Simon has never gotten over Maggie, but he seems to want to possess her at times more than admire her.  It wasn’t until that changes and he realizes his own heart that I came around to liking him again.

Maggie’s nom de jour, the half-blood harlot, was actually not true.  She actually fears that she is frigid.  However she plays upon the ton’s expectation of her and throws scandalous parties.  But underneath that she is actually an artist, a political satirist and fighter for woman’s rights.  I was worried that all these parts of Maggie would be overwhelming and lose the focus of the character, but instead they add to the complexity of her.  This is a tricky task and one that Joanna Shupe handles really well.  Without her adept skill at writing complex characters, this would fall flat.

Simon is a contradiction as well.  He is well explored as the story develops.  He is really into Parliament.  It’s totally his passion.  Simon is an adept statesman and the satirist Lemarc has made him a laughing stock.  He wants to live up to the legacy of his family’s name in politics and has a bright future ahead of him.  This is where the author is so brilliant – Simon’s love of Maggie puts his reputation and future in politics in jeopardy.  If there was a CNN in Regency times, it would be following the exploits of these two twenty-four-seven.  You can’t help but how fraught and at times hopeless their love for each other is because of his career and her supposed reputation.  However, Simon isn’t a typical politician in that he doesn’t want to help others.  Like Maggie, women’s rights are very important to him and while the reader could construe this as convenient, it actually brings cohesiveness to their relationship.

Maggie has never known passion.  For one labelled a harlot, that’s somewhat humorous.  But with Simon, she discovers what she has been missing her whole life.  This book is steamy and hot!  The sex between the two has an urgency that burns up the pages.  I adored how Simon put Maggie’s satisfaction at the top of his list of things to do.  But that doesn’t mean it was all playtime for these two.  There was a lot of game playing and back and forth.  The truth trickles out slowly and sometimes it was frustrating.  I wanted Maggie to tell him the truth right away.  I wanted Simon to say the right things and beg her forgiveness and for her to accept it, but then what would be the fun in a plot like that?

This is a great addition to the series.  I liked that Colt and Julia are woven into the plot in a realistic method – not just put in there to satisfy reader desires.  Quint is highlighted as well and we get to know him better, which was great because I am so excited for his story now!

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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