Friday, January 20, 2006
More than a Mistress by Mary Balogh
Jane Ingleby is on her way to her third day of work at a milliners shop, walking across Hyde Park, when she sees two men who are about to take part in a duel. She screams and tries to stop the duel, causing one of the men to lose concentration, and he is shot in the leg. As she is late for work on only her third day, she loses her job. Her boss says that if she can get a letter confirming that she was delayed by the unlikely events that she used as her excuse (I mean, everyone knows that no one duels in Hyde Park anymore!) she will not be able to get her job back...and Jane really needs to earn some money!
Never one to hold back, Jane makes her way to the home of Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, the man injured in the duel. Tresham is none too happy. How dare an impudent working class girl interrupt his duel, causing him to be injured. When Jane asks him for a letter so that she can get her job back, he refuses, instead giving her employment for three weeks as his nurse, including a place to live. Jane needs to be earning money and therefore agrees.
Tresham is a cold, domineering man, who very few people will stand up to, but Jane has no fear. Indeed Jane isn't quite what she seems. For that matter neither is Tresham. As they get to know one another we find out that Tresham is in fact a very artistic man, whose abilities were quashed by the former duke, his father.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot, right up until the ending. The scenes where the delightfully impudent Jane stood up to the moody and imperious Duke were very entertaining, the changes in the relationship between Jane and Jocelyn were very tender, and very well written, as you would expect from Mary Balogh. There was enough backstory to keep things interesting, without using one of the standard storylines that you see in Regency romances, for example spies.
And yet, at the end of the book I was left feeling that this book just didn't quite hit the mark. A really major event happens off page just before the end, and I can't help but feel that as a reader, I wanted to be there for it, not told about it later. There was probably more to it than that as well, but I guess that was enough of a flaw in the book for me for it to affect the rating.
Having read and enjoyed numerous Mary Balogh books, I can say that she normally writes at a consistently high standard. There is a sequel to this book called No Man's Mistress which features Ferdinand Dudley, the brother of our hero in this book. I will be looking out for it to see whether I can be more satisfied with the next book.
As I enjoyed most of the book, the rating is still relatively high, but with a better ending it could have been higher.