More Than A Mistress
by Mary Balogh, historical (2001)
Dell, $4.99, ISBN 0-440-22601-5

What would you do if you are, say, on your way to work one early morning and you see a group of shadowy men lurking around with guns, looking as if they are about to shoot each other down? Run? Scream? For our heroine Jane Ingleby, she dashes towards them like a courageous heroine - "STOOOOOPPPP!" she screams. And thus, distracted, hero Jocelyn Dudley gets shot by his duel opponent.

Well, as far as Regency romances go, this is one of the smarter plots around. It's sad, I know, but hey, Regency heroines. What can I say? Must be the corset.

As a result of her courageous (snort) act, our heroine is late for work and is dismissed. Ouch. Unless she can come back with a note from Jocelyn - okay, that's it, I'll just call him Joe from now on - Joe telling Madame Employer that this Jane really did try to poke her nose where it doesn't belong and stop a duel. Joe is still mad at Jane, however, and since Jane is now without a job, he has an idea for punishment. No, not hot seedy mistress sex - we're talking about a hero named Jocelyn here, people - but employment. Jane works for him, and he will make her pay, heh heh heh.

Of course, Jane soon turns out to be the one single soul who could see through his mocking exterior into the real lonely man inside, and all that. And they fall in love. But Jane has a secret involving Murder and Death - oh, the perils of being a Regency heroine.

Less emotionally intricate than Mary Balogh's Dell debut One Night For Love, I am hard-pressed to admit that I like More Than A Mistress more. (After all, me, liking a more conventional story over a more complex one? Uhm...) This one is more conventional, formulaic, and "happy" than One Night For Love ever could be, but on the other hand, at least Jane and Joe are more or less equal in this relationship and hence they are far more satisfying to read about. Joe is at first a standard character, but there are glimpses of more depths as the story progresses. Jane - er, she's the heroine, what can I say? She does everything according to the script perfectly, including taking the blame for everything and anything et cetera, just like a good, docile heroine should. But her interaction with Joe feels right, there's chemistry, and there is even some genuine moments of poignancy.

Hence, More Than A Mistress is a good read. Not great, because there's always a comfy deja vu feel to it, but for $4.99, well, if you ask me whether you should get this one, I'd say it's $4.99. What do you have to lose? And it's a good story. Seriously.

Rating: 88

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