Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1705-9
Historical Romance, 2011
It is almost a relief to find that The Perfect Mistress is a tough read, as the last few reviews of the author’s books were uniformly favorable. Almost, that is, since I paid $7.99 for this book, and I’d prefer being entertained by the book.
The premise is promising. Lady Julia Winterset, a widow, is having money problems, and the solution to her problems could very well be the scandalous tell-all memoir left by her late great-grandmother Lady Hermoine Middlebury. Society loves a scandalous read, after all, and the people involved are all dead, so what harm could there be in offering the memoir to the publisher with the highest bid? Harrison Landingham, the Earl of Mountdale, is not amused. The very proper and very responsible fellow works hard to keep things in order while the rest of his family lead an easy-going carefree existence, and when he learns that a member of the family – a dead one, but still – is featured in the memoir, he wants that book out of view and out of mind.
I always like a romance story with a premise all about the hero and the heroine trying to outdo one another. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Julia and Harrison. The problem is evident when Julia, despite having money problems, can’t make a decision to save her life. Does she want to accept Harrison’s money for the book? No! But will she then accept that publisher’s offer? Hmm, she can’t decide – oh, what to do! Harrison is hot! Does she like him? No! Well, maybe she does. No! Wait, maybe? No! Maybe! No! Maybe!
If eye-rolling is a superpower, she’d probably be dead at least five times over, incinerated by me, by the time this book hits the midway point.
Harrison can be quite the dork at times, and his relationship with his family members can be quite adorable. But my goodness, this guy’s brain cavity must be filled with sawdust. His bright idea to get the book from Julia is by persuading a writer, Ellsworth who is also a co-owner of a publishing house as well as one of the men Julia is friendly with, to convince Julia to sell the book to that man. He tells Ellsworth to inform Julia that Ellsworth wants to write a book based on Lady Hermoine’s escapades, an idea that Harrison convinces Ellsworth would be believable because such a book would sell like hot cakes. Of course, the real plan is that Ellsworth would then sell the book back to Harrison.
Ellsworth is enthralled with the idea – yes, you guess it, he really likes the part where he writes a best-selling book, especially after his last few books were met with a tepid reception. What can go wrong with this plan, huh? And it is only later that Harrison realizes that Ellsworth may try to seduce Julia into giving him the book. Surely Ellsworth won’t do that, right? Harrison really wants to believe that the man won’t. Clearly, it is only a matter of time before Harrison wins some kind of award for his intelligence and cunning.
The romance is uninteresting because the two main characters tend to go round in circles. Worse, there isn’t much development in the romance front, as the main characters are attracted from the get go and then spend the rest of the story stuck in this rut. I know they are in love because Hermoine’s ghost – yes, there are ghosts, plural, in this story – insists repeatedly from early on that Julia must marry Harrison because he’s so hot and ghosts know these things. Yes, dear, I know – it’s a given that the man and the woman named in the synopsis of the back cover are going to get hitched by the last page. There’s no need for an annoying ghost to keep beating me in the head with her “insight” on this.
The Perfect Mistress has many filler scenes – some amusing, some tedious – which only serve to drive home just how little progression there is in the main characters’ romance. Secondary characters don’t just steal the scene, they run away with the props and the wallpaper too. All in all, there are many things happening here, but so few happenings are of much substance or significance that I’ve lost count of how many times I got bored while reading this book and put it aside.