REVIEW: The Mistress Diaries by Julianne MacLeanWednesday, October 14, 2009 1:00
My finding and reading this book was very random, but I’m so glad I did. While I got the book on a whim, I liked everything about it. (Except for the title. I know “mistress” stories are supposed to be titillating and all that, but they never seem to work well.) Also, fear not – the book blurb makes it seem the book is written in first person, but it’s not. The Mistress Diaries had so much of what I liked in historicals – in fact, after I read this story I immediately read another one of Ms. MacLean’s books.
Cassandra Montrose, Lady Colchester, is a very interesting character. I also think her story is rather realistic. She indulges once – just once and does something naughty, and is forced the pay the consequences. (I can sympathize because I think the same thing would happen to me.) Nevertheless, she takes control of her own life.
I felt like the title was somewhat misleading, because the obvious conclusion would be that Cassandra is forced to become a mistress, and she falls in love! Not so. While Cassandra is cast out by her family, she ekes out a living working in a hat shop, and only goes for support when she believes she’s dying. All this show that she has a lot of inner strength, and is a very admirable heroine. Cassandra is realistic, funny, smart, direct, but still human. She makes mistakes, and realizes that- but she cares about people, and is quite likable.
Lord Vincent Sinclair is a very interesting hero. He’s bitter and after a rather tragic event in his past, decided against love. Vincent, however, is being forced to marry by his insane father. Vincent is a dynamic character in every sense. (He’s the opposite of a static character, and is dynamic in general.) Vincent is incredibly attractive, a philanderer, a flirt, and generally a jerk. He knows it, accepts it, and basically wallows in it. But deep inside, he’s a good person, and his family knows it.
Vincent is also so matter of fact about his flaws that… he is likable, because he’s honest. He doesn’t try to trick people or take advantage of them. Throughout, he is very direct and rather understates his best qualities. That, and Vincent is incredibly charming, handsome, charismatic, and the son of a duke.
There’s so much going on in this story – and in a way it starts where many stories would end. The Mistress Diaries begins with Cassandra and Vincent sneaking away from a ball, and spending the night together. They part ways definitively, until Cassandra is forced to seek out Vincent’s family. The result of their one night was a child, and Cassandra is ill. She actually does not trust him, or believe he will take responsibility for his actions.
Cassandra does not like Vincent, and is very wary of him. She doesn’t trust him to keep his word, or to be steadfast. Cassandra thinks Vincent is entertained, seeking a diversion, will bore quickly, and be done with it. Then again, she also thought she would die so she’d never have to interact with Vincent again.
The secondary characters and subplots were all very enjoyable, and added a lot to the story. First, Vincent has a fiancee almost throughout the novel. Not when he and Cassandra first meet, but when she reappears in his life. (His fiancee is evil, and rather one dimensional, but, she plays her part.)
Then, Vincent’s father is insane. A crazy duke is always entertaining, because with the social standing, he still gets what he wants. Scary thought. There are servants, family members… Vincent holds a grudge on his older brother for good reason… All of that is on Vincent’s side, however, and I think it helps to develop both characters.
First, that Vincent while seemingly careless and only concerned about money, really he’s family centered and has strong bonds with [most of] his family. Cassandra, on the other hand, is totally alone, aside from her daughter. Nevertheless Vincent and Cassandra share similarities in their upbringing, and both are from the same social class.
Cassandra is also strong enough to stand up to Vincent, and handle his issues. She allows herself to love him because he needs it, asking nothing in return. For once, I was ok with that, because I knew that Vincent felt the same, and neither party was ceding or inferior to the other. (Too often it seems like the heroine rolls over and dies, or is generally useless. Not so here. I got the sense that, although Cassandra would be crushed if her relationship with Vincent ended, she would still survive, and be fine – and able to provide for her daughter.)
The focus between Cassandra and Vincent’s relationship is the foundation of this book, and that’s what makes it so great. In a way, they’re courting, despite the fact that they already have a daughter together, and it seems that there is no future for them. There are a number of obstacles in their way, and potential for great misunderstanding. In fact, a number of “oops” moments happen – but they work out nicely, and the characters are rational, reasonable, and don’t fly into ridiculous bouts of emotion.
Anyway, my point is that Ms. MacLean’s story was different from a number of other historical romances, in the best way – there were no forehead smacking moments, or parts that made me think or say “Are you kidding me?” I was with the characters all the way.
While I’m not enamored with the title, the “diaries” part fits, because the beginning of each chapter starts with an entry from Cassandra’s diary. They’re very insightful, and really work as an introduction to the chapter. Also, the mistress part does come in, and the fact that Cassandra has to deal with that, and move from point A to B, really shows a lot about her, and the relationship that she’s formed with Vincent. The secondary characters help too, because they give more insight as to why Vincent acts as he does, and has become who he is.
If you’re a fan of historical romances, I definitely recommend this one. Or, if you’ve been wanting to give the genre a try. While Ms. MacLean is a new to me author, I like The Mistress Diaries the best so far. I like the characters, their personality, their history, the plot, everything. It works- it’s rational, believable, yet so romantic throughout. There’s also closure on so many levels, and I love that.
He told me he would treat my heart with great care. He was lying of course, for it was all a very clever, skillful seduction…
The night I met Lord Vincent Sinclair, son of the Duke of Pembroke, was the night I lost control. I never imagined that I, Cassandra Montrose, could engage in such wicked, wanton behavior with a man I hardly knew. But in that fateful moment, alone in his coach, the passion I felt for him was undeniable, even though I knew that after my surrender I was unlikely to ever see my lover again.
Until a fateful secret brought me to his door…
I always believed my pride would prevent me from becoming any man’s mistress – especially a rogue like Vincent, who cares for nothing but his inheritance. Yet I have very good reason to remain in his life. If only he did not tempt me so…
Read an excerpt here.