Midnight Mistress
by Ruth Owen, historical (2000)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-57746-8

For a book that revolves around the dreaded Big Misunderstanding theme, Midnight Mistress is surprisingly easy to enjoy. There's great seafaring adventure, two people who are just right for each other, and some great historical backdrop. All in all, great properties of a Read Again When In Need Of Great Reads material.

Six years ago Juliana Dare witnesses her first love Connor Reed (an orphan taken in by her father) being accused by her father for his role in some sort of embezzlement scheme. She is horrified to see him calmly accepting the blame, and worse, later she sees him in the arms of another woman right before he disappears from her life! Ooh, that lout!

Now, it's 1812 and Juliana is the toast of the Season. She meets this intriguing "Archangel", the most daring privateer to roam the seas, but to her outrage, it's no other than that scum Connor Reed! This is unbearable - she is determined to expose this fraud to Society at once. Connor however kisses (among other more interesting actions) her senseless.

Then, she realizes she needs his help in managing her father's shipping company. He, in turn, has some Dark, Dangerous Secrets that may jeopardize Juliana's safety.

Let me say that I really enjoyed this story. It's fun. Juliana and Connor are really perfect together, as they rely on each other's strengths to make up for what each lacks. For her, Connor become her catalyst for independence and courage, while Connor loves her for her will and passion. There is also a grand mix of excitement and chemistry.

My enjoyment is diluted somewhat by the fact that these two also find it oh-so-easy to think the worst of each other. Connor wants to push Julianna away for the usual reasons (safety, she deserves better, etc), but acts most offended when he succeeds. Juliana thinks every woman who even talks to Connor as his mistress, and she misinterprets everything he says. He replies in kind. And the whole misunderstanding is dragged out until the last few chapters, where everything is cleared up in between bedroom marathons even rabbits would envy.

Hence I'm torn. On one hand, I have a great time laughing and sighing in misty wistfulness at the grand passionate affair between these two people. On the other, I wonder how these two are going to be in say, five years' time, when they can so easily see each other in the worst light possible in face of the flimsiest of evidences. What to do?

I'll go with my instincts. I like this book, so I'll keep it. So there!

Rating: 87

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