The Mistress
by Susan Wiggs, historical (2000)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-610-3


The Mistress is the second book in a trilogy, the first book being The Hostage. Like The Hostage, The Mistress needs another 200 pages to work, this time crucially so because the hero's redemption is such that he needs time, a long begging and groveling session, and finally, redemption. Not the tacked-on way in this novel. As a result, there's something unsatisfactory about seeing Kathleen O'Leary forgiving Dylan Kennedy so soon.

Kathleen is masquerading as an heiress in a party when the whole Chicago goes up in flames. Thinking that tonight is her last night on Earth, she allows herself to be swept off her feet and to the altar by American tycoon Dylan Kennedy. They make love, oh glorious love, and half the book has passed before the deception falls apart.

She isn't an heiress. He married her because he thinks she is an heiress ripe for fleecing. She is actually a ladies' maid and he a hustler who has been cheating married women out of their money since he was thirteen. So what will happen now?

Well, there are scoundrels, there are likeable scoundrels, and there are oily scoundrels. Dylan falls into the last category. His predictable reaction to Kate's deception aside, this man takes too long to come to his senses. Even then, I'm not sure why he comes to his senses. There are some allusions to him liking her, him feeling bad about his treatment of her, but I don't see any sparking bloomin' passion at all. Most disappointing is the way all the emotional baggage is swept under the carpet. I'm not going to reveal the disappointing instant-redemption of Dylan, but I must say I am reminded of this tune:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that every child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good! ...

Rating: 66

PS: Words from Gee, Officer Krupke written by Stephen Sondheim, taken from West Side Story


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