Reviewed: June 17, 2010
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: N/A ~ (Non-Series / Stand-Alone)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Length: 352 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
I have freely admitted in past reviews of books of this genre that I'm not the biggest fan of historical romance. I am, however, a fan of reading and good storytelling and I've read many historical romances that work quite well for me, books that I've even loved, either because the characters stood out or the story was compelling, or any combination of the two. Unfortunately, Mistress by Mistake isn't one of those.
Charlotte Fallon is a spinster at the age of thirty and lives a quiet, drab little life until a summons from her younger courtesan sister pulls Charlotte out of her safe little world and deposits her, thanks to a disturbing case of mistaken identity, at the mercy of Sir Michael Xavier Bayard. And Bay's convinced that Charlie is a party to the deceit of his erstwhile courtesan and the theft of a family heirloom. His rage at the deception and collusion leads Bay into treating Charlie like the courtesan he'd lost until his jewels have been returned.
While that sounds tantalizing, the execution of it suffered from a very unlikeable female lead and a plot that had good intentions but failed to flow with any sort of fluidity, ending up seeming muddy and overreaching. I did like Bay, and there were parts of the story that I enjoyed, so I didn't totally dislike the book, but I realized at one point I was skimming through some chapters towards the middle as I was reading and that's never a good sign.
I think the book tried to accomplish too much with the plot and not enough with the characters, what with the mistaken identity, Charlie's attempts to flee Bay, Bay's ex-wife...so to speak...going off the deep end and committing an atrocity that I'll address in a minute, the stolen necklace, the ladies of Jane street (one of which, the Lady Christie, I found to be the most interesting of all the characters beyond Bay and would love to see her given her own book, as she stole the few scenes she was in), all the sexual congress, the romance (anorexic as that was), and the HEA. All of that could have worked had those plot threads been blended together a bit better and used to enhance the definition of the characters or their relationship. Instead the book read like it was in a couple different pieces as each major plot thread was worked out and it felt more like the characters were placed into scenes and pushed around like chess pieces instead of there being an organic evolution of the plot around the characters.
Neither was there time given to add depth to the characters, fleshing them out for the reader. I'm all for enticing sex scenes in books, but Bay and Charlie's relationship was no deeper than their many many tups, so I was a mite confused when the lust-a-thon turned towards romance. I wasn't sure where the emotion came from on either of their parts. And I at no point liked Charlie. I found her a bit dim, prissy, hypocritical, and weak. There was a small redemption towards the end...right up until she fainted. I admit, it's a personal preference and one of the reasons I don't read a lot of historical romance, but I like my female heroines to be strong, independent, and free spirited. Charlie just came off as a shrewish harpy.
There were moments that pleased, though, I have to admit. I really did enjoy Bay and his teasing of Charlie's provincial hometown, calling it everything but the correct name and insulting it every time. I thought that was kind of cute. And I also enjoyed the last quarter of the book far more than the first. For the most part.
Let me tell you want I didn't enjoy, however, and lend a warning to readers. This book puts Bay into a situation that ends with his rape at the hands of a woman. Rape isn't funny, it sure as hell isn't romantic, and while this particular assault was written as an assault in the book, the severity of the crime was glossed over and the consequences for the perpetrator are so heinously unsatisfying that I was utterly disgusted by that part of the book. Just because the victim is male doesn't mean it's not just as inherently violating as it is for a woman. Of course I've seen sexual assault in other books, some handled well given the parameters of the stories they're in, some not. I don't think it was addressed or handled at all well in Mistress by Mistake.
Unfortunately, not a whole lot else was, either.
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