Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid
I think that it’s harder for me to review a C book than one that is higher or lower than an average grade. There are things to like about Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid, but it misses the mark for me. There are B rated books and even B- books that I would read again. I am a great re-reader of books. Re-reading for me is like visiting friends: Some are close acquaintances and some are dear friends. I did not hate this book at all, but I would never think of visiting this book again, and despite glimpses of a possible friendship in the future, I would prefer to wait before furthering this acquaintance.
Miss Jane Wetherby wants to be a surgeon more than anything else. So much that she is willing to defy her titled grandfather (the Earl of Huntington) who holds the strings to her inheritance. While visiting in Belgium just before the Battle of Waterloo, she sneaks away from her chaperones to tend to the sick and dying soldiers. It is in the aftermath of a battle preceding Waterloo that she meets the wounded Lord Edward Kellington (Ned). After sewing up his injured leg, they proceed to engage in one night of passion, but when Ned wakes up the next morning, his angel of mercy has flown the coop. He was so enthralled with his encounter with the virgin Iris Johnson (aka Jane), that he searches for her for months after he is released from the Army. But Iris Johnson is nowhere to be found.
Seven years pass before the couple meets again and a lot has happened in those seven years. When he travels to Marston Vale to get out of a betrothal agreement made by his father, the deceased Duke of Lynwood, Ned discovers his Iris is actually Jane Weatherby and the largest revelation is that Ned Kellington is a father.
Jane is a likeable character but one of those who is just too good to be true. She is beautiful, skilled as a “surgeon,” and a tireless mother who also takes care of all of the poor in her village while inured in poverty herself. I think that there are two types of heroines that just do not work for me: The too stupid to live and the characters who are practically perfect in every way. Jane fits into the latter category. The only fault one can attribute to Jane is her failure to notify Ned about their daughter.
Ned is a bit more difficult to pin down. He was a disciplined soldier under Wellington who cared enough about “Iris” to send out messengers in an attempt to discover her whereabouts. On the other hand, he has an unofficial betrothal agreement with Lady Madeline, the daughter of Lord Barrington of Marston Vale who he conveniently has put from his mind for years. However, once he gets to Marston Vale with the intention of breaking the betrothal agreement, he hems and haws and waffles. There is a laziness about him once he reaches Marston Vale that does not seem to jive with his military personality.
There are numerous problems with this book, the perfection of Jane and schizophrenic character of Ned notwithstanding. There are issues with modern terminology and ideas permeating the narrative. A surgeon in the 1820s would have been primarily concerned with cutting and stitching. Jane does treat wounds, but she primarily treats diseases with potions. That would make her more of a physician than surgeon. Ms. Driscoll also uses anachronistic language in her dialogue. “Okay” is used repeatedly by the heroine throughout the book. I might have given her a pass on this one if it had English origins, but the saying is American and was not in common usage even in the USA at the time. There are two villains in this story and both of them are either evil or mean to the core. While caricatures are can be useful, when an author has more than one it seems a bit like taking the easy way out with characterization.
The good news for this book is that for the most part I really like Maureen Driscoll’s writing style. For a self-published book (by a newbie), Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid is remarkably free of grammatical and spelling errors. The pacing is very good, and she does evoke a sense of place and time. I believe that with a good editor to help flesh out her characters and keep her historically accurate, this author will have a place at the historical romance table.