An Innocent Mistress
by Rebecca Wade, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81619-9

Rebecca Wade has come a long way since her - let's be nice and call her debut An Unlikely Outlaw "forgettable", since she has more than redeemed herself to me with her next book A Wanted Woman and this, her new one, An Innocent Mistress. AIM is part for a quartet called Four Brides For Four Brothers (hmm, she should've negotiated for seven instead of four - maybe it's time for a new agent?).

Sophia LaRue is a Secret Service investigator. She doesn't do the actual pugilism stuff, she just investigates, spies on bad guys from afar, sort of like a field scout. Trouble comes in the form of Jarrod Stone when she has his brother Holden thrown in jail for aiding and abetting some outlaws. Jarrod believes her to be the mistress of the agent "Twilight's Ghost" and kidnaps her and coops her in his luxurious house, hoping this Ghost fellow would show up. Thing is, Sophia is the Ghost. What to do now?

By default, the premise alone should endear me to this story. I love romances that center around masquerades, deceptions, and espionage. But the author just couldn't sustain the tension.

Sophia starts out an intelligent, resourceful heroine, but as the story progresses, she loses all her brain cells and becomes Jarrod's yes-woman. Jarrod's the worse - he acts as if he's the feudal lord who has the right to Sophia's body and affections. And of course he has to be right and Holden is innocent, because he says so! And everything he does and says is right, even if he acts like a domineering control-freak sad ass, because he knows he is right. Dumb ass.

It gets to a point where I really wish Dumbass' brother is a guilty shady bastard, just to make Dumbass fall heavily on his dumbass butt and do some serious groveling and repentance. But turns out that Holden is a nice guy (hey, remember, there're four brothers in this series waiting to be shackled, so waste not even one brother, you know?), so Dumbass' jerk-mule-ass behavior is vindicated.

You know, if the author isn't as enamored and in awe with her hero as Sophia is, AIM would have been a much better book. It's very readable, and Sophia is a great heroine if she isn't nodding to everything Jarrod says and does like a silly doll. But instead of dueling wills and tension, Ms Wade chooses to make the heroine wrong, wrong, wrong and the Dumbass so, so right. And there is nothing more irritating than to see a Mr Dumbass being right all the time. Hopefully Dumbass' brothers have inherited better genes from their parents.

Rating: 69

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