Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Book Cover Lynne Connolly‘s review of The Venetian’s Midnight Mistress by Carole Mortimer
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 13 Oct 09

I picked up this one because I liked the title. It is more evocative than Harlequin’s usual efforts, and the picture was fun, too. 

It started with a hunk of backstory in a prologue, which I could have done without. The whole thing could have been cut, and the story would have been better for it, IMO. My eyes glazed over, but I ploughed through it, hoping the story would speed up a bit.

A personal plea – can we stop comparing heroes to Greek gods, unless we have a specific one in mind? I mean: Hephaestus, ugly and with a limp; Silenus, totally drunk all the time, body lax from alcohol abuse; Pan, bearded and half-goat – not nice for a romance hero.

Back to the plot. The exclamation marks drove me nuts. Or should I say, nuts! I mean, when it’s added to a perfectly ordinary sentence to make it seem more important, it doesn’t work except to irritate!

Lots of point of view shifts to describe the heroine’s hair, the way she looks, the way her friend looks – I’m used to that in HMB books, but it jars every time. When you collide with a gorgeous man, you don’t think…

“…two bright wings of colour in her cheeks. Colour she knew would not be complementary to the bright red of her straight below-shoulder-length hair.”

Straight below-shoulder-length hair? Srsly? That is so an info-dump.

Lots more little pov jumps when we switch to Niccolo’s perspective and he knows what she’s thinking. “she said in disgust” might be better expressed a different way to keep the pov nice and steady. Even though the average reader might not think “Oh, a point of view switch here, bit of a head-hop,” it will jar a little, as the author becomes more apparent and the characters less, well, characterful. Too many of these and you’ve lost a reader.

And there are very few speech tags that aren’t either decorated with an adverb, or where a simple “said” is replaced by something more descriptive. “she snapped,” “she conceded,” “she accused” are all taken from one page in the prologue. Enough already. Leave it at “said” and let the words and actions speak for themselves.

When the story starts we are asked to believe that Niccolo and Dani don’t have a clue who each other is when they have sex because they’re in disguise, wearing masquerade clothes. Since Dani is the best friend of Niccolo’s sister, they knew each other fairly well. I would have thought, even if you’re making an effort to disguise your voice, body shape, accent, body language even the scent of someone (not talking body odor here, so get your minds off that one) are all pointers to recognition. Although Mortimer worked very hard to try to make the scene plausible, I just couldn’t buy it. And purple? Get a load of this:

“Tonight she wanted to forget everything else but this man and the seduction of the evening. Wanted to lose herself in the passion of his kisses and the promised pleasure of the hardness of his body.

She wanted him. Wildly. Frantically. Heatedly.”

That was her pov, and later, in his:

“He wanted to know more about this woman—wanted to know everything there was to know about her. Wanted to look at her face, to see her wearing her long hair loose about her shoulders and nothing else.

‘Would you like to leave?’ he murmured. ‘We could book into a hotel somewhere. For a week. A month. Longer!’ “

Oh Fiona!

Sorry. But she knows, you know. No, I really am sorry, but so often this book reminded me of Dame Celia Molestrangler and Binkie Huckaback.

Oh yes, and no protection. These people are supposed to be intelligent adults. They have a stranger sex encounter at a party, and they don’t use protection? Nope. That makes them either too naïve to be let out of the house alone or thick as a brick, and either way, not people I care to read about.

Later he visits her house and behaves as if he knows nothing about her, or her background. It’s all a revelation to him that Dani’s grandfather runs the house, even when he has reason to take an interest, and even though she is his sister’s best friend. Sorry, but a high powered businessman doesn’t behave like this, especially when considering a business deal or an even closer connection to the family. He investigates. Not Niccolo.

Dani isn’t so much a character as a cipher. At times very shy, she turns into a seductress when she wants Niccolo, making me wonder if I was reading about the same person. HMB have moved from the eternal virgin, to the nearly-virgin, the woman who has had sex with one man before that wasn’t satisfactory. It’s the answer to the man’s “my wife was a bitch therefore all women are bitches” to which she responds “I had sex once and I didn’t like it therefore I’m frigid.” Only in a romance novel. True, Dani’s experience was pretty bad, but the way she gave in to stranger sex at the beginning of the novel, and then seduced Niccolo part way through the book seems to indicate that it hadn’t marked her for life. I would have loved to have read about a woman who was truly traumatised by Dani’s previous experience and who meets a man who has the patience and the love to help her through the healing process. Sadly, this wasn’t that book.

I’m so sorry, but I can’t give this book anything other than an D- because there were some nice descriptions of Venice, and I love Venice.

LynneCs iconGrade: D-


Niccolo D’Alessandro has never seen eye to eye with spirited redhead Daniella Bell. So he’s shocked to discover that the mystery woman he’s just made love to after a Venetian-style masked party was Dani!

Their night together was the most amazing of Dani’s life, but with a failed marriage behind her she never wants to wed again. But Niccolo has other ideas… When Dani announces she’s pregnant with his baby, the uncompromising Italian has only one demand: she will become his wife!

Read an excerpt here.