His Mistress by Morning
His Mistress by Morning had an interesting premise: what if you made a wish that would alter your entire life and woke up the next morning to find it had come true? While this unique premise made for a pleasant read, it was not exploited to its full potential.
Charlotte Wilmont is the mousey, poor, spinster daughter of a lowly knight, who, along with her mother, has been reduced to living with her dried-up prune Cousin Finella. It is a small, confined life, but she has big wishes. She has been in love with her best friend’s brother, Sebastian Marlowe, Viscount Trent, for years. Sebastian is the only sensible member of his scandal-prone and eccentric family. He’s so sensible that he is in danger of being a bit of a stick. His family doesn’t have a whole lot more money than Charlotte does, and he is working up the gumption to propose to the Season’s Diamond and heiress, Miss Burke.
Charlotte inherits a ring from a great-aunt and, while watching Sebastian leave to call upon the bossy, manipulative Miss Burke, wistfully wishes that she could be the woman Sebastian loved. She wakes up the next morning to find herself in a strange, luxurious house and in bed with a very naked, very amorous Sebastian. The ring is a magical wishing ring and Charlotte now has her wish, though things aren’t quite the way she’d hoped they would be. She is an infamous London courtesan called “Lottie Townsend”…and Sebastian’s mistress.
Much of the book then follows Charlotte as she adjusts to her new life, and though she finds much of it scandalous, she also finds it liberating. She now has the freedom to say and do what she likes, to come out from her dull, quiet shell and discover the flirtatious and sensual being that has always lurked beneath. And she revels in the fact that Sebastian loves her.
There’s a real It’s a Wonderful Life vibe to the story, for Charlotte is not the only person who has changed: the steady Sebastian is now reckless and rakish, the vibrant Marlowe women are now rigid prudes, her mother is addicted to gambling, her moralizing Cousin Finella is a former courtesan and Lottie’s advocate and guide in the demimonde. Charlotte comes to realize, as did George Bailey, that a person’s life touches many others; if your life changes, the lives of all you touch change as well. And, though Charlotte is happy with Sebastian, can that love be sustained through scandal and is her happiness worth the loss of so many others’ happiness?
As interesting as the premise is, though, its execution is flawed. I never felt much of a connection with Charlotte and never felt really emotionally involved with her as she tried to find her footing in her new life. This is all the more surprising to me because the book, until very close to the end, is told entirely from her point of view. And, because Charlotte comes into her new life to find that Sebastian already loves her, we don’t get to see them falling in love, to see their relationship develop. And because we never get to hear his unspoken thoughts and feelings until very late in the book, he remained a bit of a cipher to me and I had a hard time really buying in to his devotion to her.
I also had some problems with the last quarter of the book, but can’t get into specifics without spoilers, other than to say that Charlotte’s behavior felt overdone and a bit too much to believe given her professed beliefs and desires up until that point.
His Mistress by Morning is a pleasant enough read, with an interesting premise and some insightful moments, but ultimately, the lack of emotional connection with and between the characters made this an only average read for me.