For July’s TBR Challenge read, I had to dip into the spicy stuff. I have more then a few Blazes lying around and several Megan Hart novels, but I was craving a historical. What to do? Then I remembered The Moonlight Mistress by Victoria Janssen. This World War I story has plenty of steam and romance, unusual characters, and all kinds of things that appealed to me. The execution could have been a little smoother, but I still enjoyed reading it. Were it a review book, it would probably go in the B- range.
The book opens with the lead couple, Lucilla Daglish and Pascal Fournier. They are in Germany on the eve of World War I and Lucilla has learned that her train to Paris via Strasbourg has been cancelled. Many are trying to flee and with the city’s hotels full, Lucilla faces the prospect of sleeping on the streets. A chemist, Lucilla has been working at a place called the Institute, and when she turns there in hope of at least finding a roof over her head, the gates are locked. At this point, French scientist Pascal discovers her and tells her that the foreign scientists have all been locked out of the Institute.
Pascal convinces Lucilla to share his hotel room. They then pass a very steamy evening together before setting off to escape Germany. It is a rather romantic adventure that takes them to France where Pascal puts Lucilla on a boat back to her native England, vowing they will find each other again. And then the war intervenes. Lucilla becomes a nurse while Pascal serves as an officer in the French army.
While we wait for Lucilla and Pascal to find their way back to one another, various other plotlines crisscross through the book. Lucilla’s brother Crispin is in the military and we see parts of the war through his eyes and those of his companions. And then there are the werewolves. Yes, you read that right. At the very beginning of the book, a rogue scientist at the Institute is mentioned in connection with a werewolf fascination. Tannaken Claes, a female werewolf, had been his prisoner and her escape and subsequent encounter with Pascal during the war figures into the story.
At this point, it might seem as though one cannot be sure whether one is reading an erotic romance, a war adventure or a very strange werewolf tale. The Moonlight Mistress is all of these, and the author pulls the threads together surprisingly well considering the number of plotlines and characters she has to deal with. Even so, there are still a few bobbles. The werewolf plot at times almost felt tacked on to the rest of the story. It’s interesting, but it just felt like a little too much piled into all the rest of the maze of story. After all, Lucinda, Pascal and the Great War give the reader plenty to mull over. In addition, the rogue scientist, Herr Kauz, looms over the story periodically, but mentions of him appear throughout the book and often feel awkward and unnatural.
However, I still enjoyed the book far more than not. Lucilla and Pascal are 42 and around 30, respectively, and they are an interesting and self-assured couple. Their love scenes start off in the semi-tame range and increase in intensity as one moves through the story. This mirrors the change in their relationship from basically a random hook-up to the deeper love that later develops. In addition, I loved the setting. Both the time period and the fact that much of the story took place in continental Europe greatly appealed to me and I appreciated that Janssen wove the war in and out of the story so that the tale felt very much a part of its time.
Though not specifically mentioned on the cover, readers should also be aware that Lucilla and Pascal are not the only lovers in this book. Not by a long shot. The Moonlight Mistress was quite a steamy read as we followed the main relationship as well as Lucilla’s brother finding not only friendship but romance among his fellow soldiers. There are couples and threesomes and all kinds of steamy goings on, so this is definitely not a book for the prudish. However, if you are looking for something a little different from the norm, it’s a pretty fun read.
– Lynn Spencer