Lady Mistress
by Anne Laurence, historical (2000)
Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6621-X

Lady Mistress should be called Lady Vapid. Or maybe Lady Inane. I am only glad I didn't burst a coronary reading Lady Mistress, because it is not only full of illogical plot twists, it has a hero I would love to get my hands on - and strangle him silly - and a heroine who redefines the term Clueless Bimbo. All in all, this book is a walking time-bomb for people with high blood pressure.

Tressa Devlin is living in fear. She witnessed her uncle murder her father once upon a time, and the uncle, instead of exiling her to Timbuktu with his newfound monies, hires a rough thug to watch over her instead. Our heroine spends her time trying to emulate The Poor Little Match Girl, weeping and sighing every time she tries not to take action to overcome her misery. Finally, Evil Uncle has run through the family fortune and Tressa has to be an old lady's companion to support herself. When a maid wants to elope with a highborn brother of a Marquess, Tressa decides to run along with them.

Okay, so she decides to try being an initiative girl, I thought. About time.

Then they have to call themselves Mrs Dearie-Dear (Tressa), Ms Sweet-As-Pie (the maid), and Mr Wrong (the hubby-to-be of the maid). Oh boy, someone please call the folks at Bedlam.

And they go hide in the very house of the Marquess. What are they thinking?!!

Needless to say, Hannibal the Marquess finds them and is very against the match of his brother with the maid. He also wants Tressa to be his mistress, he mistaken her for a lowly commoner. Tressa demures, but since she believes that she can never marry (Uncle may kill her hubby), she decides to comply. One orgasm to last her a lifetime, that sort of nonsense.

They boinked, Hannibal realizes that she is a virgin, and Tressa starts her I must protect Hannibal from my Uncle charade. The latter is the worst part - Tressa is obviously an incompetent Barbie doll, unable to lie or anything. She therefore botches up the whole story, plunging it into some melodrama of misunderstandings and bickerings. If Hanny is so powerful, how come it never enters her head that he can stand up to her Uncle? Or am I supposed to see such stupidity-passed-off-as-romantic-sacrifice as a touching gesture? Tressa is such an airhead that were she my daughter, I'd be calling the therapist by now.

Hannibal is also a complete donkey-orifice who comes off as a total jerk. He bullies everyone so that he can have sex with Tressa. Mean, rude, obnoxious, and Neanderthal in nature, he treats the maid in contempt, bullies his brother, and practically swamps the spineless personality of Tressa. Since the author rarely allows me a glimpse in this buffalo's head (maybe that's an act of mercy), I have no idea if there is any depth beyond the giant walking, throbbing erection that is Hannibal. Hannibal's motto in life seems to be I Want To Boink And I Will Crush Whoever That Stands In The Way Of My Jollie-Wollies!

And I'm terrified that he will snap Tressa in two, the fragile waif the latter is, during their first boinking.

It is so irritating to read about Tressa's mental hysteria and how she seems unable to form a single decision in her life. Hannibal's obnoxious He-Man caveman antics doesn't make Lady Mistress any more interesting. Then when the singularly evil Uncle appears, I roll up my eyes. Finally, when Tressa starts lying - unnecessarily and ineptly - to the hero, all for his own good and other rot, I give up.

One thing I must say though - really great love scenes. Gardening and fluffing the bedsheets will never be the same again.

Rating: 26

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