Saturday, November 1, 2008

No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh ***

This is the sequel to More Than A Mistress and the hero is Tresham's younger brother Ferdinand. While the story is not the usual virginal heroine and rakish hero, it's not entirely unique either, and frankly the heroine annoyed the hell out of me most of the book.

In fact, shocking revelation, Ferdinand is not only not a rake - he's, well, I'll just say inexperienced. However, Miss Viola Thornhill, the pretty young thing he finds living in a country manor he won at cards from the current Earl of Bamber, is quite the opposite, as it turns out. And she's convinced the manor is hers - willed to her by the late Duke of Bamber, even though Ferdinand had his lawyers research the issue and determined that will provision did not exist.

Viola used a conceit I recall from perhaps a Jo Goodman book - she went out of her way to make sure Ferdinand hated living in the country, engaging the servants and the neighbors in her tricks. Unfortunately for Viola, not only does Ferdinand figure it out and take it as a challenge, he decides country squiring might be his true calling. He teaches the local children Latin and cricket, and joins the church choir. Subjects she thought would bore him he finds fascinating - and he joins the ladies' sewing circle meeting and reads them Pride and Prejudice while they sew. Reads it well, I might add.

And Viola's reaction? She hates him for thwarting her. Go figure.

She has a major secret or two - and it enters spoiler territory to reveal them here. Suffice it to say, she challenges Ferdie to a bet with the manor as the prize - and wins. But does she stay there and live in the manor after winning? Nooooo, she's too proud to do that. So off to London she goes, partly because she learns her sister is about to enter into a bargain with the devil and she must stop her.

Oh, whatever. The story was fun, and I myself was totally besotted with Ferdinand, even if Viola was too full of herself to see his charm. It was Viola and her complete wrong-headedness about everything that made this book a chore. Was there ever any heroine so unlovable? Maybe - but keep them out of my books, please!!

3 stars for the agony of putting up with a too-proud-to-live heroine.

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