My Fair Mistress
Two of my least favorite historical romance themes are “the martyr” and the cross-class romance. However, Tracy Anne Warren’s storytelling may cause me to rethink my likes and dislikes because, despite these cliched ideas, I found My Fair Mistress to be an intriguing story.
Lady Julianna Hawthorne’s younger brother has gambled away the family fortune and he now finds himself in debt to notorious Rafe Pendragon, renowned financier and loan shark to the wealthy. To save the family holdings and see her younger sister suitably wed, the widowed Julianna decides to bargain with Rafe. She will give him her body for a period of six months provided that her brother’s debts are wiped clean.
Rafe, also know as Dragon because of his financial ruthlessness, has no intention of bargaining with Lady Hawthorne as she attempts to negotiate for her brother. To get rid of her, he puts forward an idea he knows she will never consider – that she become his mistress, for a period of six months. Needless to say, he’s surprised, yet delighted, when she accepts his proposition.
As the months of the arrangement pass, Julianna and Rafe develop feelings for one another. Julianna discovers a whole new world of sexuality of which she was unaware in her marriage and Rafe experiences contentment that he denied himself while secretly seeking revenge against enemies who years ago destroyed his life. However, both begin to feel too deeply, yet they are stubborn and won’t honestly admit their feelings – in short, they behave in ways that are predictable for romance heroes and heroines. Also predictable is Rafe’s reaction when he begins to realize that his connection to Julianna might endanger her.
I enjoyed the flow and depth of Warren’s writing and her ability to give old themes a fresh appeal. Julianna’s character, while fitting the role of the martyr, didn’t act like one – she enjoyed herself instead. Her hurt and resentment after Rafe “saves” her from him are believable. I found Rafe’s character quite romantic and enjoyed his spurts of insecurity or jealousy as a result of the class differences between himself and Julianna. I admit, however, that my one real complaint with the novel, came because I felt the author took the easy way out with regards to the disparities in their stations.
While the premiss of My Fair Mistress is nothing new, it’s one of the better historicals I’ve read in quite some time. Warren’s writing kept even some of the most cliched ideas interesting.