The Devious Debutante
Ursula LeCoeur, author
Fans of Ursula LeCoeur’s debut novel, The Willing Widow, will find familiar, fascinating characters in The Devious Debutante, a Victorian romance set in New Orleans in 1886—the Gilded Age. It immerses readers in Mardi Gras revelry as costumed and masked saints and sinners dance at formal balls and watch torch-lit parades wind from Bourbon Street to Canal Street to St. Charles Avenue. Beneath the glittering façade of historic mansions and gaslit restaurants, no one tells Maureen Collins what to do. Not her father. Not the old society families of New Orleans. Not even her dead mother, who chose her groom the day her daughter was born. Refusing the husband selected for her, this witty and headstrong heroine ventures into a world of lies, disguises and midnight rendezvous—to win the love of Ben Merritt, an intriguing stranger with something to hide. Merritt leads a double life. By day he’s a priggish attorney; when the moon rises, he prowls the docks tracking opium smugglers. When he meets Maureen, he suppresses his desire and thinks of her as a useful tool to aid his investigation of her father—his prime suspect. Each tries to make sense of the other’s peculiar behavior. Maureen concludes Merritt is an opium addict, while Merritt deduces that Maureen and her father are cohorts in a vast smuggling operation. As the deceptions multiply, the stakes grow higher. When Maureen’s desperate plan to learn the truth turns deadly, only one man can identify the threads of conspiracy to save her life.