Monday, August 1, 2011
More Than a Mistress
Jocelyn Dudley, the Duke of Tresham, is fighting a duel with the husband of his alleged lover, when a female servant calls out and distracts him. Jocelyn ends up with a bullet in his leg and is furious with the dowdy woman and while yelling at her makes her late for her next job. Jane Ingleby is in London trying to disappear; her father's death left her under the guardianship of her uncle whose son attacked her one night and when she tried to defend herself he ended up unconscious and rumors abound that she killed him and there are Bow Street Runners after her. When she loses her job she shows up at the Tresham's house and demands an explanation, but he is so mad at her that instead he hires her as his nurse for 3 weeks, vowing to make her regret her actions. Jocelyn quickly notices that her drab clothing and maid's cab are hiding a gorgeous young woman and that her mannerism and accent are not those of the orphan she claims to be. Jane tries to keep out of sight of Jocelyn's guests, but he forces her to be present, and she gets to know his friends and family.
Their relationship changes when she overhears him practicing the piano and this opens up Jocelyn's heart and Jane is there for him as he reveals what his childhood was like and how much of himself he has hidden in an attempt to be as masculine as possible. Meanwhile the woman he allegedly had an affair with is causing trouble and her five brothers have vowed vengeance against the man who "ruined" their sister. Their actions take a near- tragic turn and then it is Jocelyn and his brother who are out for blood. When their weeks are over Jocelyn cannot bear to part from Jane so he offers her a position as his mistress and Jane cannot turn down the opportunity to spend more time with him, even while it is not the most respectable employment. But her uncle is in town looking for her and when Jocelyn discovers that she has omitted such a large part of her past he feels betrayed since he had opened up so much to her, and ashamed that he has ruined a lady. Their time together means much to both of them and they will both have to forgive and admit to themselves how much they need the other.
Balogh's books always have a slow, calming air about them, which I have come to enjoy on occasion because her books always develop well. This book was different because it was more exciting, it had more happening, and there was more sex than I am used to in Balogh books. Jane was really almost a boring character to me because she really did not display very many emotions or really do much of anything but what she felt she had to do. I wanted her to be something else- do something for herself and really let me get to know her, but I didn't. I don't see how she actually hit a man at all. I love that Jocelyn was tough and devil-may-care, but was hiding such an artistic side of himself from everyone because of some childhood trauma. His issues were dealt with well and really contributed to how he and Jane ended up falling in love and showing how great they were for each other. Like many Balogh characters he has a tendency to raise a quizzing glass to his eye, which is obnoxious and overbearing, and he spent a good portion of this book being completely unlikable in my opinion.
Their relationship developed slowly, as it does in Balogh books, they spent a lot of time together, which I liked, and I could see how they fell in love with each other because he trusted her enough to open up about his secrets and she felt safe with him and like she was getting to know another person from the inside. The progression from nurse to mistress was a little abrupt and was undertaken with surprisingly little angst on either of their parts and I was a little uncomfortable with her throwing away her future on a rake who did not really seem worthy of her at the time. The sex was steamier than anything I had read from Balogh before and there was certainly more of it, but it was really nothing spectacular or special. While Jocelyn's duel served as the catalyst for bringing them together I felt like the feud between him and his lover's family took up far too much of the book and I wanted it to be over because the book was already long enough without it. Another difference between this and her other books is I did not feel hit over the head with her previous pairings or her future couples, which I liked.
Rating: An enjoyable, if slow moving, book. Two interesting, if not completely likable or sympathetic, characters who had a well written romantic relationship.