Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1708-0
Historical Romance, 2012 (Reissue)
Lady Veronica Smithson has everything planned. Okay, there are some details that she is certain would work themselves out in time, but nothing’s perfect. A widow, she realizes that she loves the independence she has discovered now that her husband’s carcass is out of the way. She also misses having someone to share the good time with, however, but there’s no reason why she can’t have both her independence and someone in her bed. She can be somebody’s mistress! What she has in mind is a long-term arrangement that both parties would enjoy, sort of like a marriage but without the baggage that comes with it.
Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater has a plan too. He’s sure the details would work themselves out in time too. He used to go round the world, chronicling his exploits in books that capture London’s imagination. Now, however, he is feeling a little more mellow. Maybe he’d strike out again one day, but as of now, coming home and reconnecting with a family he has deliberately keep a distance from has its appeal. He is even thinking of settling down with the right woman. After playing the field for so long, a “proper” marriage seems like just the thing. He has to love the wife, of course, and he’d know love when it hits him.
His Mistress by Christmas is what happens when Veronica meets Sebastian. When they both discover that the other person’s intention is 180 from theirs, they decide on another tact. On her part, okay, she’d maybe agree to be his fiancée but seduce him so that he’d have to agree with her that friends with benefits are the best thing since sliced bread. On his part, he’d bring her to his family home for Christmas, let her decorate things, and give her a taste of the wonderful ways she can boss everyone around if she agrees to be his wife. What they both do not count on is his family members unexpectedly showing up to force these two into a farce from which they would probably never recover from. At least without getting married.
Veronica and Sebastian are really cute together. I know, I’ve been repeating myself all this while when it comes to the author’s books, but it looks like she has found some kind of formula that wins me over. They can be both adorably childish and unexpectedly romantic, and while much of their relationship arc follows a familiar path, the author uses humor and the occasional twisting of old tropes to keep things interesting. It is a hoot to see these two develop an attraction and, so confident are they in the other person’s attraction to them, their hubris train just has to come to a screeching halt when they discover what the other person really wants. The rest of the story could have been tedious, as this is, after all, another tale where the heroine keeps refusing to marry the hero, but the author manages to keep things fun and even different from the same old formula.
The secondary characters actually add to the charm of this story, and one thing I am really impressed with the author here is that every secondary character feels like he or she has a place in this story. There are no bit players that feel like they are included here just because the author wants to promote her other books. They are all amusing to no end, and even if they do fit the otherwise annoying matchmaking character archetypes sometimes, I just adore every one of them. I actually want to buy their books because I really like them and I want to spend time with them a little longer.
Things start to sag a bit towards the end, when the author seems to be grasping at things to keep the story going a bit longer, but who cares? I’ve had fun, so I’m perfectly fine and cheery at the end of the day.