I honestly have no idea how this book came to be in the immense TBR Mountain Range, though it must probably landed here from some giveaway at some point in the past five years or so. However, I have heard good things about Ms MacLean’s work* and since this months’ TBR challenge is a “new to me” author, I thought I would finally try it.
Boy oh boy.
Let’s just say that I’ll look for another book for the challenge—there’s bound to be something in this house that I haven’t read yet that will not make me wish I could stab its protagonists. With a fork.
Reader beware: profanity laced ranting ahead.
While the novel is narrated in the traditional third person, the blurb is—apparently—taken from the eponymous mistress’ diary:
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 a very good reason to remain in Vincent’s life. If only he did not tempt me so…
First peeve: would anyone in the universe use their full name while writing a diary entry? Seriously?
The Mistress Diaries appears to be the second entry in the Pembroke Palace series—four brothers, a crazy father, a deadline for all to marry or be—all—disinherited.
Short and not-so-sweet plot summary: Cassandra and Vincent meet at a ball, where their attraction is so strong they are overcome by lust and leave together, going to a hotel where they have sex for several hours. A year later, Cassandra shows up at Vincent’s family home. She’s very ill, thinks she’s dying, and wants the reassurance that Vincent’s mother will look after her baby girl. Turns out, natch, she’s not dying, only very sick. After some brief and shallow back and forth, they reach an agreement, wherein Vincent will support both Cassandra and his baby, yet a) she won’t be his mistress, and b) she’ll never take a lover, while c) he gets married to someone acceptable to his more-than-a-little-mad father, the current Duke of Pembroke, so as not to risk his and his brothers’ inheritance.
In the prologue, we are treated to this:
“I have always considered myself a woman of high moral fiber. How then could I have done such a thing? Where were my values and principles? But of course I know the answer to those questions. It was without a doubt the blinding intensity of his charm, which made me forget everything I believed in.”
No, no, of course it was not your decision—whether “weakened by passion” or simply your bad judgement—he made you. Because he was too irresistible. Nothing to do with you being an adult and taking responsibility for your choices, however ill advised. Not here, for sure.
Yeah, yeah, song and dance, how he’s a rake, how she knows his reputation for taking lovers and leaving them behind after one night—or one quickie, whichever—; it’s still his doing, not hers, poor innocent…fucking widow, whose own husband was a philandering asshole.
Then there’s the baby.
Talk about your plot moppet!
It’s not bad enough that, even though she’s supposedly penniless and supporting herself and her child by working in a hat shop somewhere in London, until Cassandra shows up on the Duke of Pembroke’s doorstep, she leaves her newborn baby with the landlady while she goes to work.
Not only is she so fucking talented making hats that she can afford a whole room in a decent enough place to have a landlady she can trust with her daughter, whom she “loves with her whole heart,” at no point is the reality of nursing addressed. Are we to believe that a three months old baby has been weaned then, in the time of no formula?
There’s never colic, inconvenient pooping or peeing, an unexplained crying fit that lasts upwards an hour…Nope. This baby coos and giggles and enchants her parents every. single. time. the author bothers to put her on the page.
Even worse is Cassandra’s attitude toward the baby.
In all their conversations, and her ruminations, about why Cassandra should not agree to be Vincent’s mistress, it’s all about Cassandra. What she risks, her feelings, her “honor” (what, self-respect hadn’t been invented yet?), what she has already “paid” by having that one night of passion a year earlier, how she doesn’t want to be “the other woman” because of how much she resented her own husband’s mistress, and so on and so forth, and blah blah blah.
What about the baby and, potentially, other future children? Ah well, in the only one conversation where that is brought up, Vincent handily says (paraphrasing here), “well, you would all be well kept, so what’s the problem? and since you already have one illegitimate child, why quibble at more?” And Cassandra doesn’t knock him dead! Seriously? Oh, fine, it’s okay if they are all illegitimate, because it’s not as if society gave a damn about that at the time.
I’m not one to chant, “think of the children” but holy shit, this is not the anonymous, general population “child” used to make others do what you would do. Why the hell can’t her parents think of this fucking particular child at some point?
But let’s go along with how the world revolves around Cassandra.
We are told that both her brother-in-law and her own parents disowned her because of her pregnancy, that she—a gently reared lady with no effin’ skills—had to find a way to earn a living.
While pregnant and unmarried.
In the 1870s.
Then we are told that she’s so poor—even though she can afford a room and a babysitter, natch—that she got sick; so sick, the quack who examined her thought she was dying of consumption.
And yet, when she finally gives in (who wants to bet how long that took?) and becomes Vincent’s mistress, she agrees with him that “it hasn’t been so bad so far.”
What in the ever fucking hell???
Don’t even get me started on Vincent’s fiancée. We cannot just have a society miss eager to snare a duke’s son, along with corresponding position and wealth. We cannot have a practical, unsentimental snob. We cannot even have a cold bitch gold digger. No, we have to have a cartoon villainess who screeches that Cassandra should die—never mind that a few chapters earlier she shrugged when Vincent asks her whether she’ll mind him having mistresses/lovers.
Honestly, was that necessary?
To all the above, add a mad duke, a curse, a maybe-it’s-a-ghost, raining, a birthmark, a fire, a puppy, and sibling rivalry, and you have a screaming mess. To top it all, the so sweet it’s sticky epilogue—complete with a handful of children, society’s forgiveness of the couple’s petty transgressions, and of their illegitimate daughter once she comes of age…
I have no idea how I finished this book.
Perhaps it was that thing one does when passing by a wreck on the side of the road, perhaps I kept trying to see what else was going to make me stabbity—I just don’t know.
The Mistress Diaries gets a 4.00 out of 10, and I’m sorry to say that I have absolutely no inclination to seek out any other works by Ms MacLean.
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*There’s always Sarah MacLean, though.