Before getting to the review though, I want to ask... Anyone think this blurb sounds familiar?!? I have a nagging feeling that perhaps this book was meant to be published by Avon a few years back, but they decided not to? Ah well, it could just be me :)
One last thing... Wow, looking at this book, I swear it looks like a book published by Avon. The texture of the cover (mat instead of glossy), the inside flap with the couple embracing on a couch... I wonder if it's Kensington's new strategy to attract more readership to their historicals?
Okay, the review now :)
The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington Zebra in January 2011
A dazzling new romance in which one otherwise proper lady discovers the passion that is her legacy...Genre: Historical romance
Widowed Julia, Lady Winterset, has inherited a book—a very shocking book—that every gentleman in London seems to want. For a charismatic businessman, it’s a chance to build an empire. For a dashing novelist, it could guarantee fame. But to a proud, domineering earl, it means everything...
Harrison Landingham, Earl of Mountdale, can’t let the obstinate Julia release the shameless memoir that could ruin his family’s name. But the only way to stop her may be equally sordid—if far more pleasurable. For his rivals are intent on seducing the captivating woman to acquire the book. And Harrison isn’t the sort to back away from a competition with the stakes this high. Now the winner will claim both the scandalous memoirs and the heart of their lovely owner...
The Story: I think the blurb is being overly dramatic ^_^; Julia, Lady Winterset, has been widowed for three years and has financial troubles. She has recently inherited "The Perfect Mistress," her great-grandmother's memoirs. Indeed, Lady Hermione was quite scandalous back in her lifetime, becoming a widow at a young age and deciding to live her life as she wanted. These memoirs seem to be Julia's solution to her problems, as it is a well known fact that scandal sells.
However, Harrison Landingham, Earl of Mountdale, is not enthusiastic at the idea since his father is a chapter in the memoirs. Harrison has worked hard to keep his family scandal-free and he intends to keep it that way, which means acquiring the memoirs and destroying it. Not unsurprisingly, Harrison's offer is refused after he was an ill-mannered boor and thus, he has to come up with a different plan...
My Opinion: Let's jump right into the review :) The biggest problem with this book was the H/H and their romance. To put it plainly: the characters were boring ^_^; Harrison was too pompous and stuffy. In this kind of storyline, you expect the hero to change, that his dynamics with the heroine will bring out the more boyish or relaxed side of him... Open his eyes to his life and what it could be and usually, this is all done through fun stuff. However, it wasn't the case in The Perfect Mistress. There were many mentions about how Harrison changed, how his behaviors were surprising... but I don't think it was change in his personality, it wasn't Harrison being less pompous and stuffy ^_^ If it was, he wouldn't have blundered every time he opened his mouth. Yes, he was acting out of the ordinary for him, most probably because he was attracted to Julia, but that doesn't mean it was a permanent change in his personality. As for Julia, I just didn't connect with her and thought she was boring. Yes, she was smart and striving to be more independent - no real choice given her situation, but it didn't make her interesting. Actually, it is exactly as one of the character said:
"Lady Winterset (Julia) is perhaps as intelligent as Lady Smithson although I don't think she completely trusts that intelligence. She has been taken care of, you see, proper marriage and all that. I think she is still realizing she can indeed take care of herself although I'm not sure she wants to."This passage describes Julia to a T. I think what makes Julia uninteresting is her indecisiveness - not really knowing what she wants (except solving her financial trouble) and where she's going. Have she known or at least been a bit more confident, she would have been a better heroine.
As for the romance, my biggest problem is that the characters "fell in love" too quickly. See, I'm not convinced it was love. Yes, there was something between them from the beginning - they annoyed each other. Sure, they rubbed each other wrong and that could be due to attraction... but after a few meetings, to say that it was love? Not buying it, because they really didn't know each other well enough for it. Also, I didn't feel the chemistry. It's fun sometimes to see characters argue, best each other with words... but in this case, it was mostly Harrison saying the wrong thing... and may I say, stupid thing ^_^; So yeah, the romance didn't work for me... and that's a big problem when reading romance ^_^;
The rest of the book though was great. The writing was actually excellent ^_^; and I enjoyed the secondary characters a lot. I wouldn't mind if Ms Alexander was planning books for Portia and Veronica, I'm actually hoping for it, because Julia's two friends had something about them. A vivacity that Julia was lacking. The storyline was interesting and could have been better with different H/H. My favorite parts of the book though were definitively the interactions between Harrison and his father. It's rare in historical romances that the hero's father is still alive (because otherwise, how would he have a title?) and most of the time, the relationship is not good. In this case, even though Harrison and Lord Kingsbury are complete opposite, they respect and love each other. It was great to read about a sane father/son relationship :) It was also fun to hear Lord Kingsbury's input about Harrison's life :)
My Grade: C-. It was hard choosing my grade for The Perfect Mistress, because my first reaction was that this book was okay only, therefore a D. However, I think that if I had the chance to read it in one sitting instead of a few pages here and there, I do think I would have enjoyed this book more. Also, despite the fact that the characterization and romance, two major components, were weak, the writing was great and I love all the rest :P Plus, I'm still looking forward to Ms Alexander next book :) So I think C- is a good grade :)