No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by ReneeG. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.

The summary:

USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke is back with the latest in her dazzling An American Heiress in London series, in which a reformed rogue finds all his honorable resolutions tested by the only woman who ever broke his heart…

After spending his youth as one of the wildest rakes in the ton, Lord Denys Somerton has devoted the past six years to putting his past behind him. He is determined to fulfill his duties, find a suitable wife, and start a family, but that plan changes when Lola Valentine—the red-haired temptress from his past—returns to London, sparking the same irresistible desires that almost ruined his life once before.

Lola is a woman with no romantic illusions. She knew love would never be enough for a British lord and an American girl from the wrong side of the tracks. For Denys’s sake, she walked away from him and the glittering life he offered. But when an unexpected inheritance brings her back to London, Lola discovers the passion between them is as hot as ever. Can they vanquish it, or will it burn out of control again and destroy them both?

Here is ReneeG’s review:

No Mistress of Mine is the fourth book in the An American Heiress in London series and is second-chance-at-love catnip with competence porn sprinkles on top. It isn’t necessary to read the other books in the series in order to follow and enjoy this one. And, unusually, this book takes place in 1892 – shout-out to late Victorian industry!

Our stars, Denys (a British lord) and Lola (an American cancan/music hall star) have quite the past. They met in Paris when Denys was a young and irresponsible lordling and Lola was dancing said cancan. Lola moved to London with Denys, where he set her up in a little house in St. John’s Wood after she gave in to his mistress request. He mortgaged his property to finance her star turn in a play that quickly closed due to her poor acting abilities, so Lola ran away, back to Paris and dancing, where Denys followed her and proposed. Lola broke Denys’ heart when she turned him down, implying she was choosing an American investor as her next conquest and returning to America with him. Whew, that’s the backstory.

Our story opens with Lola’s American investor dying suddenly and leaving her his half ownership interest in a London theatre along with a nice chunk of change; the other half of the theatre is owned by Denys’ dad, Lord Conyers. After his wild, passionate, and expensive (failed theatre runs are not cheap) fling with Lola, and subsequent return from Paris after the failed proposal, Denys settled down and took over the family’s business concerns, including the theatre, and discovered he enjoys working for a living. Of course, Denys is a fabulous businessman and has done a tremendous job becoming wealthy and boring, but now he is toying with the idea of settling down with a childhood friend to start producing the next heir. But Lola’s back in town and she has a plan to both fulfill her dream of becoming a serious actress and to ditch the music hall singer/dancer persona once and for all – and she needs Denys’ help to do it.

What I enjoyed the most about the book was the competence porn and the “using of the words.” First, Lola had studied very hard to become a dramatic actress while performing in her own one-woman show in New York (which she had devised and updated, according to the limits placed upon her by her backers). It seemed realistic, based solely on my love of Hollywood and Broadway musicals, that Lola’s backers would want her to keep doing the type of show that was making them money (the old “wink and jiggle, song and dance” act), regardless of Lola’s desire for Shakespeare. It took the death of her “American protector” to free her to pursue her dream in London.

While realizing that the only way she would have a chance at a serious dramatic role involves using her inherited half of the theatre, Lola is also very aware that she will cause Denys pain when she comes back into his life. She apologizes for what happened in the past and spends much time trying to explain about her past (and thinking naked thoughts about Denys). Denys, practicing advanced therapeutic techniques not often seen in Late Victorian London, gradually hears her and comes to understand why she acted the way she did (while also thinking naked thoughts about Lola). Witty banter and genuine communication happen. It doesn’t occur overnight, but over time harsh feelings are softened. Real naked-times happen, not as a weapon from the past but as a gift for the present. The pacing of this was well done – Lola didn’t blurt out what happened to her all at once, but placed pieces of herself before Denys to help him understand her better; they didn’t hop into bed for revenge or old-time memories but because they had hot pants for each other now.

The part which let me down was the ending. Spoilers ahoy!

After killing it onstage in her first role (which she earned through an audition, not because she half-owned the theatre, BTW), Lola decides to toss it all aside when Lord Conyers threatens to tell Denys and the world about her first lover. I just didn’t believe Lola would tuck her tail and run away – again – not after the growth she went through to take her career back into her own hands. After all, she came back to London, where she had flopped like a dying fish, to realize her dream, a dream that sustained her through all the bad in her life. This giant Gong Show plot device was a clumsy way of dragging Lola off the stage so she would be free marry Denys.

After Lola says that society will always see her as trash, Denys sets up a Surprise! proposal to show Lola that he knows best, and uses his friends and their American wives to persuade Lola to stay.

This was a step too far for me. None of the wives had met Lola personally, but they all agree to stand with her against the ton. But let’s take a moment and think about this – wouldn’t you want to meet the woman who was the heartbreaking ex-cancan-dancer-actress-mistress of your husband’s friend and make up your own mind? Wouldn’t that seem rather necessary, especially if you were a just-married American heiress being called upon to use your new social clout to protect said heartbreaker from the slings and arrows of London Society? Do these wives have any ability to say “nope, not gonna ‘til we do tea” to their husbands?

In Romancelandia, an ex-cancan-dancer-actress-mistress (especially if she reforms into a serious actress who does Shakespeare) can grab a happy ending with a lord and get to be part of the ton by jumping through some hoops to make herself respectable. And when you have to reform a shady lady so she is fit for said society, you sometimes have to stretch the story to make it fit that HEA. It just seems a bit much to take away poor Lola’s strength and purpose to make that stretch.

Because the ending seemed so rushed and pulled out of the ether, especially after all the work establishing Lola as a strong, successful woman and the effort Lola and Denys put into their relationship, I had to lower my initial grade. Still, No Mistress of Mine was a mostly enjoyable story, despite how personally disappointing the ending was.

I’d like to thank everyone at SBTB for the opportunity to write these reviews. It is great fun to contribute to a site I love so much!


No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke received a B- in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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