Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's Not The Winchester Mystery House! "The Mistress' House" by Leigh Michaels

First in a smart, sexy, Regency romance series intertwining three love stories from an awardwinning, bestselling author.

A rakish Earl buys a love nest and winds up falling madly in love with and marrying the lady he installs there. Because of its proximity to the Earl, and his rakish reputation, the next two ladies who move into the house after that can't avoid a scandal, but each one is on her way to true love...

He's a rake, alright. In fact, he is such a libertine that he is often referred to as a rakeshell. He has money, position, time, opportunity, and he has no plans to marry any time soon. Yes, he must do so eventually, but like so many in the English aristocracy, marriage is for the purpose of producing a legitimate heir, while before marriage a man could indulge all his urges freely without social restraint or condemnation (within certain boundaries, of course). It is to the Earl of Hawthorne that his "man of business" comes with the suggestion that a small but very proper house should be acquired close by the Earl's principle residence, so as to allow the Earl to flit back and forth between his home and that of his mistress with far greater ease and freedom from being witnessed by the London gossips. Capitol idea!! (as the British would say.)

Thus No. 5, Upper Seymour Street becomes the Earl's property and the future home of his mistresses. This story is, in my opinion, beautifully crafted to almost make The House the center of the novel because it is one of the most important factors binding all three of these women in this book. The novel is not really a single story. Rather it is the continuing story of the house, the three women who come to live there for varying reasons, and how their personal stories unfold. All are connected with the Earl in some fashion. And in stories 2 and 3, it is somewhat comical that the Earl is relatively unaware of what is going on right under his nose.

This story really highlights the inequity in Regency society between women and men, the loose interpretation of the social rules that is allowed for men, and the lengths to which some women must go in order to claim their right for a certain level of independence. Going behind the scenes, manipulating and conniving, all are the actions of a social group who is not given freedom to interpret the social rules--the psychologists call that illegitimate behavior. And Regency England was rife with it. In fact, it was considered humorous, those who practiced it best were congratulated, and it was expected by those (the men) who ruled society. They may refer to the old dowagers as "queens of the ballroom," but we know who was really in charge in that male-dominated society. Thus these three women were reduced to scheming and plotting in order to have some semblance of living according to their own dictates. Perhaps that is why, even though there is a part of me that deplores their need to do so, I was delighted to see the ways these three women went about setting up their "challenges" to society in order to gain a life they wanted, especially relationships that were based on love and not money or social ambition.

All social comment aside, this is a fun novel, one that will be a joy for lovers of historical romance, and written by an award-winning author who has an impressive writing and publishing history and who really knows how to tell a good story. I especially appreciate the good use of language, good editing, good grammar and sentence construction. I recently read a book that was a very good story, but what a pain to have such poor editing and publishing handling of that manuscript. Not so here, and Sourcebooks has done a wonderful job in producing a fine piece of romance fiction. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

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