No Man's Mistress, by Mary Balogh

>> Wednesday, February 16, 2005

No Man's Mistress, is the sequel to Mary Balogh's More Than a Mistress. It's hero is the youngest Dudley, brother, Ferdinand.

Lord Ferdinand Dudley lives passionately, recklessly. And he is accustomed to getting what he wants...that is, until he appears at the door of Pinewood Manor, attempting to claim his rightful estate, and is met by the bewitching fury of Viola Thornhill. She refuses to cede him the home she calls her own. He refuses to leave. So the contest begins between these two foes to force one to acknowledge the other's claim. Nor will they acknowledge the passion brewing between them. But Viola knows it is a game she cannot afford to lose. Marriage is out of the question and she will be no man's mistress.
On the whole, this book pissed me off, because it was just so, so close to something I've always wanted to read. My grade would be a C.

I've long wanted to read a romance between an experienced courtesan and an inexperienced man. This book was exactly that, yes, but while I really liked Ferdinand, Viola drove me crazy. She was so stupid, so completely determined to prostitute herself, whether there was a better option or not.

I didn't mind the fact that she had been a courtesan and had, at her own admission, slept with so many men that she had lost count. What I did mind was that I never bought that this really had been a last resort. Hmmm, no, that's not exactly right, either. If she had simply decided that she prefered to be a courtesan (one who worked one night a month, apparently) instead of going to work as, I don't know, a scullery maid or a lady's companion or something, that wouldn't have been a last resort either, but I would have been ok with it.

What bothered me was that for her, working as a courtesan had been really awful, she would have preferred any of those other jobs, but she allowed herself to be bullied and manipulated and forced into prostitution. And that is what I didn't buy, that she had had no recourse but to give in to those manipulations and bullying. I truly believe she could have fought the bastard who wanted to "manage" her career. But, oh, no, she couldn't ask her family for help, she had to sacrifice! That's not being a good person, that's being an idiot.

And she was even more of an idiot late in the book when yet again, she allowed herself to be forced into taking up her career again (don't worry, she was saved in time). In this case, she had even more options, even more ways of staying out of this. She finally did something, but it was too little, too late for me, she was already forever an idiot for me.

And then there was the ending, with the entire ton accepting Viola into its fold, even with everyone knowing about her past. Yeah, right.

It's a shame, really, because this could have been a lovely story. Some things were wonderful, like Ferdinand's total devotion to Viola, no matter what she has done in her past. And of course, it was well written. But this story made me think of one of the entries in the Purple Prose Parody at All About Romance, one which ended up winning one year, if I'm not mistaken. The heroine tearfully confesses to the hero that she has been forced to sell herself to pay for the butcher's bill, or something like that. It then turns out that the hero would have returned in two days time, that the butcher would have been perfectly happy to wait a while for his money, that all manner of people would have lent her the money. While I read No Man's Mistress, I couldn't help but hear in my mind the voice of the hero in the parody "I. Was. Coming. Home. Thursday!!!"


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