Friday, October 31, 2008

More Than A Mistress by Mary Balogh *****

I'm always glad when I finish a book with a smile on my face and some amount of afterglow in the air - and More Than A Mistress did this for me today! It's an AAR Top 100 of 2007 (yay, another 1 checked off) and the first in a series of 2, followed by No Man's Mistress.

In this story, our heroine, Jane, rushes to stop a duel - and in the confusion, our hero, Jocelyn, Duke of Tresham, is sorta accidentally shot in the calf. Jane is subsequently hired on to be Tresham's nurse, and in the 3 weeks of his recovery, they develop a friendship of sorts. Tresham is prickly and quite full of himself, but Jane never lets him get the better of her - she is in all ways his match. At the end of the 3 weeks, not wanting to part from her, he convinces Jane to become his mistress - and she convinces him to create a contract for their "business" arrangement so that she is taken care of financially even after he tires of her company.

Tresham realizes, late, that Jane is not what she has portrayed herself as: she is not the product of a good orphanage where the children are given a good education. Jane is actually Lady Sara, daughter of a deceased earl, being hunted by her cousin, the current earl, as a murderer and a thief, and on the lam. Her service as Tresham's mistress allowed her to hide and still maintain a good life. The fact that a true relationship had grown while she was in his employ didn't diminish the fact that she was keeping secrets from him the entire time.

I enjoyed the story, and the slow revelation of their secrets. Over time, Jane helps Tresham realize his true inner self and to show more of his artistic side as a musician and painter. When he finally realizes she has gotten him to trust her and reveal his secrets to her while she apparently doesn't trust him enough to reveal her own, he is determined to make her rue the day they met - and the true challenge is on.

It was fun to see the two of them match wits, although I must say I agreed with Tresham that Jane was hypocritical, urging him to show his own true nature while withholding her own. She did plan to tell him, at some point, but she waited too late!

The secondary characters were interesting and fully fleshed out - Tresham's 2 buddies especially - and the villain (the cousin) got his comeuppance in the end, well, as much as an earl can, in any case. Even the Bow Street Runner, who was, after all, only doing his job, was a likeable enough character.

The very end had a little surprise that I found fun and romantic, too. I enjoyed the story - 5 stars.

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