Friday, July 8, 2011

The Perfect Mistress

The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander 703

The widowed Lady Julia Winterset is desperate for funds after her very kind husband left her nearly penniless and his very proper family cut off her allowance. Luckily her scandalous great- grandmother left her memoirs to Julia and, although they are old, there is still an interest in reading them because several of her lovers are still alive today. One of those ex-lovers is the father of the Harrison, the Earl of Montdale, and since scandal has never touched the family Harrison is determined to keep this memoirs from seeing the light of day. His sister-in-law (the wife of his deceased older half brother), Veronica, is close friends with Julia, along with fellow widow Portia, and she makes it clear that Julia is going to sell the novel and nothing will stop her. Harrison attempts to purchase the memoirs so he can destroy them, but Julia is having none of it and turns him down flat. He is infuriated and convinced that she is far more intelligent than any woman should ever be, and she is equally upset at his high-handed manner, and of course neither can get the other out of their mind.

Harrison enlists the help of Mr. Ellsworth, an author with quite the reputation with the ladies, to help him win the manuscript from Julia, but it is not long before he finds himself jealous of the man's headway with Julia and upset at the possibility that she could fall for his charm. Julia, meanwhile, is more convinced then ever to publish the manuscript because she wants the income and because her great-grandmother's ghost has taken to appearing in her bedroom every night. Julia possesses none of the qualities that Harrison wants in a wife, but he cannot get her out of his mind and he is very worried for her when she becomes the subject of vicious and scandalous gossip among the ton. He immediately goes to her rescue and to the realization that she is everything he needs in life; happy and carefree, willing to take risks, and far too smart to let him get away with anything. Just as Julia thinks she has found someone to bring excitement to her life, she discovers his agreement with Ellsworth and Harrison has to pull out all the stops, and risk quite the scandal, in order to win the woman he loves.

Julia was a likable heroine because she was forced to adapt to completely new circumstances; going from a wife in a very content marriage, with few worries, to a nearly broke widow. I thought she handled the situation with great aplomb- she did what she had to do, she thought through her actions, and she did it all while keeping true to herself and not compromising herself. Harrison was fit into one of the romance novel hero stereotypes; the oh-so-propor lord who had far too many standards and placed far too much emphasis on reputation. I do often like this romance novel staple, but I felt like there wasn't enough to distinguish him and I was terribly disappointed because something was revealed in the book that would have really shook up his world and made things very interesting, and yet it went nowhere. I had the same problem with both of them and that was that they did not connect; I felt like there was very little chemistry and so Alexander fell back on having them argue and spar constantly throughout the novel and somehow this was supposed to represent them falling in love.

I am not a fan of couples that connect over arguments because, while disagreements are healthy, I do find the idea of a marriage filled with verbal tongue twisters, romantic at all. I really did not get much progression of their romance at all and there were very few scenes where they were not arguing, but what there was was entertaining and I really wish there had been more. The best relationship(s) in the book was that between Julia and her two close friends because it really did seem like a genuine friendship where they supported and aided each other and I was impressed because most romance novel friendships are just blatant attempts to set up the next books in the series. The plot involving the memoirs was nice and served as an impetuous to get the two of them together without having the question of what would happen to them take over. However, there was a ghost. A ghost. I almost fell off my seat when the ghost appeared and I realized we were supposed to swallow this. I do not want ghosts in my romance novels and think it really should have been mentioned in the blurb.

Rating: An interesting story with so much potential and while I enjoyed reading it I wish there had been more of a relationship between the characters and that there had NOT been a ghost.

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