The Perfect Mistress
With few exceptions, I don’t like ghosts as characters in novels, and The Perfect Mistress features one fairly prominently. At first I wasn’t happy a bit, but as the story continued I thawed out and found myself charmed by the characters and the story.
When Lady Julia Winterset’s husband died, she discovered that he left her in dire financial straits. She has an aged grandmother to support and only one item of value – the memoirs left by her late great-grandmother Lady Hermione Middlebury. Lady Hermione had lived a full (and scandalous) life, being infamous for her many, many love affairs. Julia hopes the memoirs will be a big seller and bring her some much needed money.
When Julia shares some of the contents of the memoirs with her friends, one of them tells her brother-in-law Harrison Landingham, Earl of Montdale, all about it. Harrison (who is a soul of rectitude) is horrified. His father had been one of Lady Hermione’s loves and he has spent his life trying to avoid any hint of scandal. Harrison blusters in, offering Julia a large amount of money for the manuscript and is amazed when she refuses. Julia has come to admire her grandmother’s wit and independent spirit. (Hermione’s ghost visits and talks to her at night). Julia doesn’t want Harrison to destroy the memoir and she is certain she can get more in royalties if the book is a big seller. Faced with Julia’s refusal, Harrison decides to forgo the bluster and turn on the charm. After all, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
Harrison is a bit of a prig. He has a plan for his life and it involves a sweet compliant wife, a life free from scenes and above all – NO SCANDAL! He’s actually more dashing than he realizes and he has a bit of a devious streak about him that causes some friction between him and Julia.
Julia was rather a proto-feminist and initially, Harrison rubs her the wrong way. Harrison has a tendency to barge in and take charge – he’s the man don’t you know – and that did not set well with Julia who has grown accustomed to a widow’s independence. The more he blustered, the more she dug in her heels, but it doesn’t take too long for the hostility between them to thaw. The banter between Julia and Harrison was one of the best parts of the book and it showed their growing respect and affection. The romance was a bit tepid, and I could have done without ghostly Hermione, but that’s a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like ghosts in romances, but Hermione was not annoying.
If you like historical romances that are light, The Perfect Mistress is just what you need. It’s light, all right, but it isn’t silly and it doesn’t insult your intelligence. I tend to prefer my historical romances a bit more gritty, but this one made me smile more than once.