Hello all! Yes this review is late, and I'm embarrassed that this is only my second review. But I am going to try to have my third one up tomorrow. I'm nearly done with my third book. Anyway. For my second book I ended up reading His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls. I was playing with my new ipod touch and downloaded the Borders ereading app (full disclosure I am a bookseller there). I had downloaded a free Harlequin romance novel onto the app on my laptop a month or so earlier so I was ecstatic that the stupid thing actually syncs. The books that I had downloaded appeared on my ipod.
Unfortunately that meant that this piece of tripe appeared. Bleeeech! This thing was a piece of shit, it's no wonder it was free! FUCK ALL! I am a romance novel fan, but I don't place them in very high esteem. Which means I end up yelling at the book I'm reading. But I'll keep reading it. Don't ask. I have a weird relationship with romance novels. It comes from being a cynical romantic. Either way this book had a way of sucking me in. I never really cared much about the characters but they both just seemed so bad for each other I had to find out how they get together. Yes this review is tl;dr so dr.
The book opens with the Autumn of 1817 our heroine Verity Scott watching gruff working men carrying a body out to the cemetery. Verity (who is 15 that is important) follows them about their grisly business. We learn that this is Verity's father who has, gasp! Killed himself! So he doesn't get a proper burial and Verity has followed them out there to plant bluebells on his grave because she can't leave a cross but maybe they won't notice if there are flowers. So she goes to plant them when A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER is there paying his respects to the suicide! They pray over his body then the stranger takes her into his “strong arms [and] held her as she stumbled and then lifted her to lie cradled against [his] broad chest.” Yeah. It's going to be like that. He introduces himself as Max and that Verity's father was his superior in the war. Blah blah sad face. He takes her home to her crappy cottage and lights a fire to dry her clothing, makes her food and puts her to bed. Basically acting as a father figure (He calls her “little one” like 100 times). He is also impressed with her spirit for going out there or something. Then he leaves before she can wake up but gets her food for breakfast. Which is when she realizes “she had one friend. Even if she never saw him again, somewhere in the world was Max. Someone she could love” And that is the end of the fucking prologue.
In the next chapter it is Late Summer 1822. 5 years later -- that is important. Verity is now 20 and her name is now Selina Dering. She had to move in with her Aunt and Uncle who are minor royalty. Like they have some money and the title but they really need their daughter to marry rich. Verity/Selina is working basically as a servant. Her Aunt Lady Faringdon is constantly yelling at her and her cousin Celia treats her like shit. It's just Cinderella. But dumber and with more sexin'. Lord Blakehurst is coming to stay with the Faringdons and they think he wants to marry Celia and he's Mr. Moneybags so everyone is kissing his ass. Celia is trying to nab him while he's staying there and très scandal! It's MAX omg I'm sure you didn't see that coming, the rich eligible bachelor is the love interest, fuck all and eye roll. Max is there to find Verity; he cares so much for her that it took him five fucking years to look in on her. He asks her uncle where she is and the uncle tells Max that she's dead. We the reader know she's not so this is a clue that the Uncle is BAD. Thank you book. Right after Max finds out that she is “dead” he is walking through the halls and runs into her. He doesn't recognize her, even though its only been five fucking years and you really don't change THAT much between 15 and 20. As she was walking through the halls she ran into him because she was trying to avoid the unwanted advances of her creepy d-bag cousin Godfrey. Just in case you hadn't noticed, all the Faringdon's are EVIL and the son is an INCESTUAL RAPIST OH NOES! POOR VERITY or Selina or whatever her name is. She also doesn't tell him who she is because . . . that really isn't made clear except that she is afraid of her aunt.
Back to the review Max gets an instant boner for her 'cause that's what happens in romance novels. No that was not sarcasm “His whole body hardened as he walked on slowly, suggesting all manner of things that they could do for each other.” He flirts with her over a few days and makes a proposition --- Leave this terrible place and be my mistress so I can bone you night and day and give you some monies! At first she demurs and resists. But he pursues her and I like that he wants her to agree to a relationship with him. He isn't going to pressure her. He has a yes means yes, no means no attitude which is nice, but I think that it's to create a obvious contrast to Godfrey, who FYI is evil. She keeps saying no but on his last night at the aunt and uncle's house she gets all sorts of horny and her cousin is really mean to her and calls her a whore. Verity/Selina cuts of the cousin's hair (yea fucking awesome) and then thinks, everyone thinks I'm a ho I might as well gtfo, get some dick, and get paid. So she goes and has sex with Max. Remember earlier when I thought he was kind of being a feminist? Well he then makes her strip for him, and is all “I won't force you, you have to come to me” which sounds like weird power games so I revoke my voucher for him.
The next morning Max wakes up and finds blood on the sheets cause she was a virgin! Then his valet finds out that Selina is actually Verity DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!! Does this make him happy? No this sets up the major conflict of the next 12 chapters. “He'd taken the bait, hook, line and several pounds' worth of sinker. Caught by the oldest trick known to woman.” Yes he now believes that she lied to him so that she could trap him into a marriage. *eye roll* This couldn't be farther from the truth because like all romance heroines she is a pure as the freshly fallen snow, and unspoiled and innocent and needs protection, selfless etc. Max storms in all pissed at her when he finds out and her conclusion is “she hadn't satisfied him. But, now he knew the truth, she had disgusted him with her wanton behavior.” My favorite part about this sentence is how pitiful it makes her sound and the ridi circular logic. Either she is a whore, or she isn't. I don't understand how she can be a super sexual whore and leave him unsatisfied. She's bad in the sack but she does it all the time? I guess that would just make her bad at her job. Me, personally, at all of my jobs I pick up tricks that make it easier and learn important job skills. You'd think it would work for whores too. (side note: I am not trying to disparage sex workers in any fashion I'm referring to the abstract whore image that this book is referencing as truth because this book has no basis in reality and relies on false stereotypes of the dumbest variety)
Now here is where the plot thickens and gets ridiculous. He marries her! Forces her even! He thought he has been trapped and even though he doesn't want to marry her, and even though she protests whenever she can he still makes her marry him because he “[has] enough respect for [her] father's memory to make [her his] wife rather than [his] whore.” Please tell me that is not the stupidest plot bunny ever designed. I should have stopped reading here, but managed to get sucked in like an idiot.
He takes her to his Aunt Almeria, basically the evilest old lady ever. She has to teach Verity to be a proper lady or whatever. Basically Almeria treats her like garbage for the rest of the book. Max gets a special license and marries her. He then takes her to his country seat with his twin brother, Richard. The both of them are just really mean to her for a while. He takes to fathering her some more, and tries to get her to eat because she is losing weight and won't eat. Blah Blah. She repeatedly explains to him that she didn't want to trick him and she repeatedly proves herself to be good and selfless. The next 100 pages are just him being mean to her and periodic sexing that isn't written very well. Oh there are also some plot reveals. Spoilers alert We find out that Max won't get married because of a vow he made to his dying mother (that he didn't even like) to make sure his heir was his twin brother because his mother thinks that Max is the irresponsible one because he when was a boy he goaded his twin Richard into riding a wild horse that bucked him and now Richard can't walk very well. Also we find out that Verity blames herself for her father's death because after the war he was addicted to opium and Verity looks like her dead mother so in his opium hallucinations Verity's dad would get all upset and yell at her. So 15 year old Verity threw out his opium and in the withdrawals he killed himself because they were so bad. Yeah. Can you believe that? The more I read the more I just wanted to die.
At one point she tries to take a lover in London so that Max will throw her out, which fails. The big reveal at the end is that Verity's grandmother (who had disowned Verity's father because he married her mother) had a change of heart before she died. She decided to leave everything to Verity. That left the Faringdons high and dry though so they faked Verity's death, told the Granny that she was dead, and started to call Verity Selina. Because they are evil. The Granny changed her will back to the Faringdons and then she died. Some good Samaritan lawyer saw the notice in the paper that Verity was getting married, realized the Granny had been had and came to Max to present a scenario where, through legal Regency mumbo-jumbo, she can get her inheritance. Max does this and get's her money cause he loves her, when he's not calling her a whore or being a total asshole.
The big climax at the end is where Godfrey tries to kill her. But that is actually anti-climactic because most of the second half of the book is about Max being an asshole to her and her overcoming it. It's really upsetting because he just assumes the worst about her and even jumps to the craziest conclusions about her behavior just so he can hate her. It's super weird. Then suddenly out of this Max decides that he loves Verity and wants to make babies with her. The entire book is plotted so badly and the only characters that are in characters are the 1 dimensional side characters. They are just wooden stereotypes of faithful brother, old uptight aunt, friendly older servant and evil uncle. These are the only characters that act in a sensible manner, and that is just because they aren't fleshed out. If the author had taken more time with the side characters I'm sure they would act just as out of character as Max and Verity. It's like the author vomited 6 different romance stereotypes into each of them. Max is a fatherly gentleman, and a rake, and tortured because he had bad parents. He obsesses over Verity and spends LOOONG pages monologing about her virtues but he will call her a whore to her face, repeatedly just to hurt her. He also consistently acts “in her best interest” in a very creepy controlling way. Verity on the other hand is spunky and independent, but can't think for herself at all. She is supposed to be this great selfless yet independent character but I don't think she makes a decision for herself in the entire book. All in all this book is terrible and I hope that no one reads it ever again.