More than a Mistress (2001)
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Romance (Historical Regency)
More Than a Mistress tells the story of Jane Ingleby, an apparently lower-class servant woman, and Jocelyn Dudley, duke of Tresham. The two meet when Jane tries to stop a duel and unwittingly causes Tresham to be injured. This infuriates Tresham and winds up causing Jane to lose her job. Reaching an unlikely agreement, Tresham hires Jane to be his nurse for the next three weeks while he recovers from his injury. What starts out as a trial for them both slowly develops into a love affair. The two grow close in spite, or perhaps because of, their spirited verbal battles with each other. SPOILER: Jane Ingleby turns out to be Lady Sarah Illingsworth who is on the run from spurious criminal charges. Her guardian and cousin, the Earl of Durbury, has accused Jane of killing his son and making off with a fortune in jewels. Both Jane and Tresham must deal with each other's secrets and feelings of betrayal in the midst of their precarious love.
Geographical Setting: England
Time Period: Regency Era (1811-1820)
Mary Balogh's More than a Mistress will appeal to fans of historical romance, especially those who enjoy the regency period. This is a fast-paced novel moved along quickly with the help of witty dialogue between Jane and Tresham. Balogh fills her story with details of the inner workings of London high society. She also explores gender roles and how these roles differ between the upper and lower classes. The detailed setting allows the reader to feel a part of the privileged few of nineteenth century London. The Romantic Times rates this book as "Sensual" which indicates "Conventional lovemaking and Explicit sex." In 2001, More than a Mistress won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Historical Romance of the Year.
The book No Man's Mistress, also by Mary Balogh, delves further into the love life and exploits of Ferdinand, Tresham's younger brother. It takes place in mostly the same setting of London during the Regency era. These titles share the same tone and witty dialogue between hero and heroine. Ferdinand wins Pinewood Manor in a card game, but then must prove his ownership to Viola, who views the estate as her own. Romantic Times also gives these book a "Sensual" rating. Wicked Widow by Amanda Quick tells the story of Madeline Deveridge, who is falsely accused of killing her husband. She turns to Artemis Hunt for help, not just over the accusations, but for help dispelling the ghost of her husband who is haunting her. This book combines the regency period with the mystery of the occult. It has a darker tone than More than a Mistress because of the supernatural aspects included, but also takes place in London during the nineteenth century. A Hint of Scandal by Rhonda Woodward shares the themes of regency romance, high society and woman caregiver with More than a Mistress, as well as a London setting. The Duke of Westlake is seriously wounded during a journey. Luckily he is found by a townswoman, Bella, who then nurses him back to health. But when scandal over this ensues the two must learn to trust eachother and their growing love. The tone is slightly more serious but still with plenty of wit and banter. The Rogue's Return by Jo Beverley tells of Simon St. Bride's journey to return to London. He is also beset by duels and a woman with a mysterious past. There is more intrigue included in this story, but the hidden identities and the cost of secrets gives this a similar feel to More than a Mistress. The book Never Kiss a Duke by Eileen Putman shares the topics of hidden identities and false accusations with More than a Mistress, as well as the setting of London during the 19th century. The duke of Trent is on a mission to uncover a dangerous plot but instead of the spy he is expecting, he finds Emmaline Stanhope, the local match-maker. Reluctant trust and misconceptions also characterize this title, but with more of a mystery feel to it than Balogh's book.
Red Flags: Includes some slightly graphic sexual situations and adult innuendoes as well as mild violence.