THE PERFECT MISTRESS - Victoria Alexander
England - 1885
The widowed Lady Julia Winterset has several issues to deal with. The first, and most prominent, is her financial state. Besides her London house, she is also supporting her grandmother and her companion in the older woman's cottage in the country. Julia's husband was a dear, but hardly a financial wizard, so she is left to make some serious decisions or she'll find herself on the street. The second problem in her life is her great-grandmother—the one who appears at her bedside each night giving her advice. Julia has been given her great-grandmother's memoirs, a scandalous account of Hermione's life after her husband's death. Yes, most of the names mentioned in the memoirs are as deceased as her great-grandmother, but should Julia solve her money woes by publishing this wicked family secret? Hermione evidently seems to think so, as she clarifies parts of the memoir with her great-granddaughter.
Julia's literary inquiries result in an offer from a fledgling publishing company. But the monetary offer is not going to solve all of her problems. Shortly after speaking to the publisher, the brother-in-law of one of her widowed friends appears at her house demanding that she refrain from selling the memoirs as his father is mentioned in them, and his father is very much alive. Harrison Landingham, the Earl of Mountdale, wants to keep his impeccable family reputation clean, and he will pay Julia anything to hand over the memoirs so that he can destroy them. Julia, of course, politely refuses. But both leave the meeting ever so slightly attracted to one another, despite their discourse.
In the meantime, Hermione is still visiting Julia at night, encouraging her to follow through with her plan, telling her secrets that aren't in the book, but are still shocking—and terribly relevant to the present. When Harrison begins to show more interest in Julia, she is not sure if it's because he wants the diary or her.
Plenty of humor abounds in this titillating tale by Victoria Alexander. Hermione is THE PERFECT MISTRESS, but her great-granddaughter is dealing with the fallout of her scandalous past. Never was there a woman more prepared to handle that, though, than Julia. She stuns Harrison not only with her beauty, but her quick intellect, not to mention her stubbornness. The staid, some say boring, Harrison has to overcome his own intractable personality to woo the lovely Julia. But will he get the memoirs?
Funny, poignant, and totally enjoyable, THE PERFECT MISTRESS is a delightful read for a cold winter's night.