Sunday, December 5, 2010
Mistress by Midnight
Merryn Fenner holds Garrick, Duke of Farne, responsible for her brother Stephen's death after Garrick shot him in a duel. Garrick's wife had been having an affair with Stephen and Merryn believes that in a fit of jealousy, Garrick shot him and then paid for a massive cover up. She works for Tom Bradshaw, a detective, and in her capacity as investigator she tries to dig up information about Garrick. Garrick has only recently returned to England after her inheriting the Dukedom and when he discovers that his father had bought up the Fenner estate once the line had died out. He is determined to make things as right as possible even though he doesn't expect his guilt over Stephen's death to heal itself. Merryn does not want to accept the money but her sisters, the wealthy widow Tess and Joanna Grant, agree to accept the money. Both of them were older and wiser when Stephen was killed and they don't harbor the same illusions and hero worship of him as Merryn does.
Garrick knows that Merryn is determined to bring him down but that does not stop him from being attracted to her or from feeling a deep connection between the two of them. And while Merryn wants to hate Garrick, she senses that he is truly honorable and begins to suspect that she may have misinterpreting things and that their is a deeper truth about the duel that no one has discovered. She is correct on this front as their indeed a secret about Stephen and Kitty and about the duel that resulted in Stephen's death and while Garrick thinks Merryn deserves to know he has been sworn to secrecy. One day the two are in the midst of an argument when a local brewing tank breaks and London is flooded, forcing the two of them into a derelict house for refuge. In the dark, alone for two days, Garrick and Merryn cannot maintain distance between them and by the time they are rescued they have no choice but to marry. While both admit they are in love with other to themselves, there are secrets to be revealed before either can trust the love they feel for each other.
As the completion of a series which I had heretofore loved I had high hopes for this novel, and while I did enjoy reading it, it did not live up to his predecessors. Merryn was far more irritating than either Joanna or Lottie and came across as remarkably immature in her hatred for Garrick and her inability to see anything bad about her older brother. She was also far too trusting and I found it her search for justice more rash than noble and her attempts to make things better often seemed to backfire in completely predictable ways. While I normally like bluestocking heroines as, let's be honest I would probably be one if I lived in those days, I felt like her intellectual capabilities were more for show than genuine interest and she went out of her way to be interested only in completely uninteresting topics. I did like that at the end she was wiling to use her sexuality to try to fix what she saw as problems in her relationship with Garrick and that when she did realize she loved him she wanted to get rid of any impediment in order to have a happily ever after with him.
Garrick was slightly more interesting, but still remained in my opinion, remarkably underdeveloped. He was a little too noble, a little too willing to keep his deep secret even when no one would have been hurt and so many would have benefited if he had simply told everyone. Far too much was made of this secret, and while it certainly was interesting, it spent far too long as an impediment to their relationship. As usual in books where the protagonists are feuding, I felt like these two did not spend enough time together where they were not arguing and really just talking in a congenial setting. There was quite a bit of sex throughout the book and it was very well written and very steamy and overall very obvious that these two connected on a very physical level. But it was also obvious that these two were connected on an emotional level as well and they both did want to have a healthy relationship. Joanna and Alex played an important role in this book, but it was nothing overwhelming.
Rating: Not quite as good as her previous two because Merryn was annoying, but still an interesting and worthwhile read.