His Mistress By Morning
by Elizabeth Boyle, historical (2006)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-078402-4


On the bright side, Elizabeth Boyle's His Mistress By Morning is not going to be similar to too many other Avon historical romances out there. This story is a "What if?" story.

Our shy heroine Charlotte Wilmont unknowingly comes into possession of a ring that grants its wearer a single wish. She has been infatuated with Sebastian Marlowe, Viscount Trent, for a long time now so when he decides to press his attentions on one Miss Lavinia Burke, she ends up wishing that she can be the woman he loves. When she wakes up next morning, she's horrified to realize that somehow (she doesn't know of the ring she is wearing yet) she's now Lottie Townsend, a member of the demimondaine who's currently hot property in town and who's currently also naked in bed with the equally naked Sebastian.

Also in this alternate world, Lottie realizes that while she is still herself, her proper cousin Finella Uppington-Higgins is now Lottie's not-at-all proper companion and agony aunt of sorts to Lottie. Her acquaintances now refuse dramatically to even look at her. Charlotte is nearly hysterical over the fact that she's now ruined and what-not that I wonder whether she is considered "shy" because "idiot" is too unkind a word to be used to describe such an obviously not-really-there person. But once she realizes that Sebastian really loves her and - this seems to be the deal-breaker - once he gives her plenty of the O's, she decides that being his mistress isn't so bad after all. But ah, being only his mistress has its limitations and love cannot conquer everything, so what can Lottie do now to rectify the situation?

It takes me awhile to really get into this book because Charlotte spends so much time at first wringing her hands and acting like it's the end of the world, I find myself wondering whether Ms Boyle is overdoing the whole fish out of water situation since poor Lottie seems more traumatized than confused. I also scratch my head when Charlotte magically decides that being Sebastian's mistress is fine because he loves her - this coincides with the magical moment when he really gets into her, if you know what I mean - so after all that screeching about her "Oh no, I am ruined! Forever!" condition, I don't know whether to be dismayed or bemused that all it takes to calm Charlotte down is to get her laid. Charlotte is so adorable in a Jo Beverley heroine way: all that drama just to get shagged silly by a hot guy. Shouldn't there be a less painful and more peaceful manner to go about doing this?

Soon Charlotte realizes that she can flirt and be seductive like Lottie because she is Lottie and that's when the fun starts in this book. The new and improved Charlotte comes out of her shell and starts delivering smackdowns to bitter debutantes and their nasty mothers when she's not skanking things up with Sebastian. I just adore her and I want to give her a standing ovation. Unfortunately, Ms Boyle never quite succeeds in creating a smooth personality growth arc in this story. Charlotte is shy - bam! - Charlotte is hysterical - bam! - Charlotte gets laid and realizes that sex is the same thing as love - bam! - Charlotte embraces her inner harlot and is a smart heroine now. Charlotte seems to change as a person abruptly as if a switch in her has been turned off or on.

Also, the romance between Charlotte and Sebastian is presented as an established fact. She just loves him, that's all. I have no idea why she loves him. She just does in this story.

These problems, I believe, are due to the length of the story. This story needs another two hundred or so pages to fully develop Charlotte. This story takes place in three different "worlds", first in the real world, then in the alternate world, and finally back in the real world. In the alternate world and the real world, Lottie has to work from scratch to win Sebastian's love. There are too many things that take place in this story and not enough pages to accommodate them. The third act of the story is especially very rushed.

However, uneven execution aside, I like His Mistress By Morning because of one overwhelming factor in its favor: Ms Boyle succeeds in presenting a fairytale-like story where a heroine manages to brave the odds, discovers strengths she never knew she has, and grabs the guy as well as anything else she has ever wanted. Even if Charlotte could have been developed better as a character, I find that I like her a lot by the last page, even that silly Charlotte that reacted towards a naked hunk in her bed like he's a skunk when she's not running around acting like a dazed and confused cow. I can see why Sebastian is smitten with the new and improved Charlotte. Generally, I do enjoy what Ms Boyle is trying to do in this story and there is enough coherence in this obviously rushed work to give me a semblance of effective build-up of the plot and an exciting finish.

His Mistress By Morning is, like Tori Amos would sing, a sorta fairytale. Ms Boyle loses me at times during the story but at the end of the day, I like what is in this story. Can this book be better? Oh definitely, especially with a hundred or so more pages for Ms Boyle to develop her story without rushing so frantically here and there. But I'm more than happy to take it as it is. It is, after all, a sorta fairytale. A pretty good one too.

Rating: 84


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