The Mistress Memoirs
The Mistress Memoirs is the tenth book in Jillian Hunter’s Bocastle Family series. One does not have to have read all of the books in this series to enjoy The Mistress Memoirs, but not having read all of them may have affected the grade I gave this particular book.
Colin Bocastle has been on a mission for thirteen years to confront the man he believes to be responsible for his father’s death. When that man dies before Colin can confront him, our hero hears of new evidence that might implicate the suspected murderer’s son Mr. Mason Earling. So Colin travels to a small town in the southeast of England and instead of finding his prey, he discovers a house under attack by the local villagers.
Miss Kate Walcott is a governess to the three children of famed courtesan Georgette Lawson. At the beginning of the book, all of the children are suffering from minor illnesses. A local apothecary’s assistant is supposed to meet Kate in the garden to deliver some medicine for the children. Their meeting is interrupted by the appearance of Colin Bocastle who arrives almost simultaneously with a group of malcontents in the town bent on driving the courtesan Georgette Lawson out of town. Amidst flaming arrows, the gardens within the walled estate are in an uproar as Colin, the estate servants, and Kate attempt to battle the mob. Mistaking Kate for her courtesan employer, Colin kisses her during the melee. You see, Colin Bocastle was the man who ruined Georgette Lawson and cast her on the road to becoming a courtesan. There are plots within plots in this book.
The Kate is mostly well drawn and a very likeable heroine. She has been the governess for Georgette for ten years when the book opens and the only member of the household who can maintain order. How she became that governess speaks to the loyalty she owes the courtesan. At the age of 18 while working as a governess to a powerful family in London, she is attacked by her employer and almost raped. When she runs from the house after the attack, she is rescued by Georgette Lawson. So she is willing to forgive her the fact that Georgette is a courtesan, a helpless disciplinarian when it comes to her children and a languid personality who uses laudanum to sleep each night. When the fiery attack comes, Georgette watches it safety unfold from the window. She also sees who she thinks might be Colin in the garden. The same Colin that Kate has heard quite a bit about as he features prominently in the memoirs Kate is transcribing for the illiterate Georgette.
Georgette is very much aware of why Colin has arrived. Mason Earling is terrified of him and has run off to London to escape any confrontation (leaving the supposed love of his life there to fend for herself). Therefore when he makes it clear he is going to stay in their household while Georgette lures Mason back from London, Georgette agrees.
Colin is a complex character. One minute he is full of Irish charm and the next he is all grim determination. The Irish charm shows us how Georgette fell in love with him in the first place and was willing to forgive his abandonment. It also makes the love story between Colin and Kate ring true. It is the grim determination that both defines his life but also casts a small shadow on the believability of his character. Overall though, his good points overcame his bad points and I liked the hero very much.
I think a book is similar to a very large puzzle. The author frames the work with the edge pieces and then fills in the middle to create the completed picture. In the case of The Mistress Memoirs, I felt like one puzzle piece was missing and the other was malformed. In the case of Colin, his puzzle piece was malformed, and try as we might we cannot get that puzzle piece to fit. For 13 years he has traveled all over Europe chasing the purported murderer of his father. He cuts off his family (except for one brother who he later tricks into leaving) and pursues his quarry alone. For a family that is supposed to be very close, why would one brother go on such a lengthy and solo journey with no contact with his family and why would that family let him? Then after thirteen years of not taking his eyes off of the prize, he suddenly changes tactics after one kiss? Admittedly, more of Colin’s backstory may have been shared in previous books, which might make his actions more believable.
Kate’s missing puzzle piece is less vexing, but still rankles. Everyone’s back story is filled in including the secondary characters, but Kate appeared to poof into existence when she was attacked at age 18.All through the book, I kept waiting to hear about her parents, her siblings, the town she was born in, etc. When I closed the book after the final page, I realized this information was never revealed. In a jigsaw puzzle numbering thousands of pieces, these two small parts of that puzzle do not prevent the reader from viewing the overall picture and admiring the artistry. However, it makes one want to take some scissors to the malformed piece and shake the box to find the missing one.
While these two issues did rankle for me, they only rankled a little. Overall I really did enjoy the book. Jillian Hunter allowed the relationship to evolve in a very believable way and I longed to see the Kate and Colin’s HEA. I also want to point out that if these issues had been resolved to my satisfaction as a reader, this book might well have attained DIK status for me. At any rate, The Mistress Memoirs is well worth the time.