by Tamara Lejeune, historical (2008)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0129-4
I want Tamara Lejeune to write faster but I believe I have to qualify that maybe she should slow down a little if Rules For Being A Mistress is going to be a typical example of the author's book from now. I love the previous two books in the Wayborn family trilogy, but this book is a frantic mess from both technical and storyline standpoints.
The technical aspect of this story that I find very problematic is the constant head-hopping. There is head-hopping at a dizzying rate on every single page that I actually feel somewhat seasick by the time I reach the last page of this story. There is head-hopping from paragraph to paragraph. There is even head-hopping within a paragraph.
Allie collapsed into giggles. Benedict, being under the impression that all young women giggle almost unceasingly and without provocation, saw nothing amiss. Determined to keep him in ignorance, Cosima said simply, "Yes; very new. But I'm not squeezing up in a chair with you," she added belligerently. "I'll walk."
Who edited this thing? I can only suspect that the editor passed out from the pain or something while attempting to read through the first draft of the story and subsequently pretended that she had done her job because she was too embarrassed to admit her weakness.
Oh yes, I've nearly forgotten to mention the story. In this one, Sir Benedict Wayborn, the serious eldest sibling of the Wayborn family, will fall in love with penniless Miss Cosima Vaughn when the two meet in Bath. The "plot" of the story is pretty much a series of foolish adventures initiated mostly by Cosy as she goes on a bloody broad-behaving-badly rampage across Bath and beyond, with Benedict trying to catch up in the process.
Benedict is, like Ms Lejeune's other heroes, not exactly your typical rake. He is not even a rake, given that he believes that having sexual intercourse with prostitutes will give him all kinds of disease. A childhood encounter with a dog resulted in his lower right arm being amputated. That and the scars on his face cause him to be considered ugly by debutantes and put a serious crimp on him having an active social life. These debutantes also consider him too old to be a catch (he's 38). Were not for his title, these young ladies' mothers would agree with them completely. Also, Benedict has a rather swarthy body and his front resembles a rug, a fact that initially puts off Cosy from finding him completely sexy.
Benedict saves this story for me because the man is outrageously funny without meaning to be. He believes himself to be the epitome of a proper gentleman, but the man is often so befuddled here that he leaves me laughing out loud. For example, it is so amusing when he realizes just how old he really is the moment he discovers that his valet has been dying Benedict's prematurely graying hair without his knowledge for almost ten years.
"Pickering, I could kill you!"
"You will thank me for this when you are married, Sir Benedict. Ladies always say nay to Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray, go away, they say. Come back, Mr. Black."
Benedict also has a deliciously dry wit and he is a master of putting fools in his place. An adorable mix of amusing crankiness and impeccable sarcasm, Benedict makes this story a laugh-a-minute read. I find him too cute for words. He and Lord Swale should start a stand-up routine or something.
Cosima, on the other hand, is hideous. Her behavior in this story makes no sense at all. For example, she will sneak into Benedict's house for who knows what reason and then get offended when he tries to cop a feel. What does she expect when she wears a nightie and approaches a man like that? I don't know whether she's just naïve or stupid beyond repair, but she spends the entire story behaving like a spoiled petulant brat. This won't be so bad if she isn't always completely wrong at the same time. As funny as Benedict is, Cosy turns this story into an excruciating ordeal as she is the kind of heroine who needs to be babysat or bad things will happen to everybody.
Cosima and the dizzying head-hopping make Rules For Being A Mistress a most painful read. However, there are many scenes here that make me laugh until my sides ache and Benedict is simply one of the most unusual yet memorable heroes I've come across. It is the abundant and oh-so-entertaining comedy that salvages this book and prevents me from completely shredding this book into pieces. Rules For Being A Mistress is simultaneously one of the funniest and one of the worst-written books I've come across in a while. I know, I'm still somewhat unsure of how that can come to be, but I can only say that, in the future, should I pick up this book again, I will only be rereading some of the funniest scenes in this book instead of trying to read the entire book from start to finish. Once is enough, thank you very much. Cosima... eeuw.
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