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Monday, May 25, 2015

Feature and Giveaway: The Lady Hellion by Joanna Shupe

A Marquess’ daughter, Lady Sophia Barnes doesn’t take no for an answer. Especially when she’s roaming London’s seedy underground…dressed as a man.

A rabble rouser for justice, Sophie’s latest mission is to fight for the rights of the poor, the wretched—and the employees at Madame Hartley’s brothel. She’s not concerned about the criminals who will cross her path, for Sophie has mastered the art of deception—including the art of wearing trousers. Now her fate is in her own hands, along with a loaded gun. All she needs is instruction on how to shoot it. But only one person can help her: Lord Quint, the man who broke her heart years ago. The man she won’t let destroy her again…

The last thing Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint, needs is an intrusion on his privacy, especially from the beautiful, exasperating woman he’s never stopped wanting. A woman with a perilously absurd request, no less! For Damien is fighting a battle of his own, one he wishes to keep hidden—along with his feelings for Lady Sophia. Yet that fight is as hopeless as stopping her outlandish plan. Soon all Quint knows for certain is that he will die trying to protect her…

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“Does it feel better with your shoes off?”

He glanced down at his bare feet. Hard to say when it had started, this preference for the cold marble floor beneath his naked feet, but it helped him feel alive. A true gentleman would never be seen without shoes, yet Quint wasn’t about to put them back on. If she found it offensive, she was welcome to scuttle home. “It feels . . . bracing. As if the cold roots your legs to the floor. You should try it one day.”

She lifted her plain skirts to reveal brown half boots with black laces. Bending, she pulled the laces loose, then stood and started toeing off her shoes. Quint watched this with a mixture of fascination and horror. Was the woman truly going to remove her footwear? Propriety had never concerned him, but even he knew this was beyond the pale.

Two soft thuds and her stocking feet made an appearance. His heart kicked hard in his chest, and this time it had nothing to do with fear. Encased in thin stockings, her feet were small and delicate. She wriggled her toes and sighed, a sound that caused heat to unfurl in his groin.

Tools of bipedal locomotion, he told himself and snapped his gaze to the gardens. Nothing more. They were functional appendages that should in no way be tempting. He should not be thinking of running his tongue along the smooth instep . . . or wondering how the soft underside would feel as it slid along the backs of his thighs—

“I wish I could remove my stockings,” she murmured. “But even this feels heavenly.”

Quint swallowed hard and crossed his arms over his chest. The image of her sliding stockings down her bare legs was too erotic to dwell on—not if he didn’t want an obvious erection frightening her. “I am not surprised. Traipsing through the mews of Mayfair is exhausting business.”

“Indeed it is,” she returned cheerfully.

“Why have you returned, Sophie?”

She stared at her toes, moving them back and forth, clearly hesitating. No doubt attempting to fabricate a reason because she didn’t want to tell him the real one.

“The truth,” he said.

“It seemed a nice night for a stroll. You are generally up late, so I thought I’d see if you were still awake.”

He snorted. No lady strolled by herself in the middle of the night. “You are aware I live alone. That this is a bachelor’s residence?”

“Should I be worried? Are you planning to chain me to your bed and ravish me at your whim?”

He strove not to combine the words “ravish” and “Sophie” in his head; the idea only served to remind him of what he could never have. “Indeed. Merely allow me to remove the other woman there first.”

She chuckled. “That’s one thing hardly anyone realizes about you, how amusing you are.”

Only she would believe that. Amusing was not a word anyone had ever used to describe him. Odd, strange, and aloof were far more likely. “Not everyone appreciates my humor.”

“Admit you are fond of the dog, Quint.”

Never. “Did you know the Romans sent mastiffs into battle wearing armor in order to attack the enemy?”

She sighed, irritated with his evasion, and he hid a smile. “As always,” she said, dryly, “you are a wealth of information.”

“Actually, I find myself quite in the dark these days.”

Her eyebrow rose. “Oh? About what?”

“I cannot think of a single reason you should be sallying about London in the dead of night, dressed as a man, even if to visit the Thames Police Office. Would you care to enlighten me?”

“How . . .” She crossed her arms and thrust up her chin. “Are you having me followed?”

“Yes—and you should hardly be surprised. If any woman in the history of England ever needed constant supervision, you are she.”

“The driver. I should have known.” She rubbed her forehead. “I cannot fathom your audacity. You have no right to oversee my activities, and furthermore I am doing quite fine on my own.”

“Only because no one gets a good enough look at you. How anyone could mistake you for a man is beyond comprehension. You are a hair’s breadth away from the scandal of the decade, Sophie.”

“And you are wasting your time if you think to stop me.”

“I never said I wanted to stop you. If I did, I would write to your father and inform him of what I know.” He held up a hand as panic clouded her face. “I will not do so unless I feel you are in immediate danger. But that does not mean it’s wise for you to do this. Therefore, I’ve hired someone to drive you about and ensure your continued safety—no matter what you are wearing. But what I do not understand is why you are posing as Sir Stephen in the first place.”

He didn’t think she’d answer, the silence stretched so long. “You’ll laugh,” she said quietly.

“I sincerely doubt it. Tell me, Sophie.”

“I’ve fallen into a bit of a . . . diversion,” she explained with a wave of her hand. “I investigate things. For people—women—with no other resort. Prostitutes, servants, and the like. It started when my maid, Alice, her sister was accused of stealing the flatware in the house in which she worked. After I figured that one out, someone else came to ask for help and it kept going from there. We found I had an easier time dressed as a man, not to mention people took me more seriously.”

Though he wished such treatment were not the case, he did not doubt her. Women were not afforded the same accessibility as men in any culture. Still, this hardly set his mind at ease.

“Investigating. And here I thought you were not in immediate danger. It’s even worse than I feared.”

“It is not!” She stamped her foot. “I’m helping people. And I am careful.”

“Yes,” he scoffed. “Duels. Standing in as MacLean’s second. Visits to gaming hells.”

She pinned him with a hard look. “You are surprisingly well informed for a man who never leaves his house.”

“Shocking, is it not? Yet I remain current on all your antics. What do you think that means?”

“I could not begin to guess.”

“It means,” he said with all due seriousness, “that if I could learn of it, others could learn as well. Which is why I hired someone to protect you. God, Sophie. Do you know what could happen to you in a brothel? You could be dragged into any nook or empty room and be forced to do unspeakable things. Things a woman like you should never know about.”

“A woman like me.” She let out a brittle laugh, and he could see the flush of anger on her cheeks. “You have no idea what sort of a woman I am, what I know or do not know. And I do not require a guard. You are not my father, Quint, nor my husband.”

A well-placed blow, and he felt it keenly, his body tensing. He gave her a stiff nod. “Indeed, I am not. But that does not mean, as a friend, I do not feel responsible for your welfare.”


“Because if your repeated visits to my house are any indication, you seem to care for mine.”

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.

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