More Than a Mistress

More Than a Mistress - Mary Balogh It's easy to dismiss this book as some sleazy, fluffy story with characters and plots only to disguise the bodice-ripping. The truth is that there's no bodice-ripping and no sleaze. Jane and Jocelyn (yes, strange name for a titled English gentleman) are fully developed characters caught up in an interesting and entertaining plot. Both have secrets. Both are tormented by something in their past -- Jane by a much more recent past, and Jocelyn by his upbringing and "what it means" to be a man and a titled gentleman. And yes, in many ways you can point to the romance-story formula and see how nicely this story does against it. The *point* is, that you don't care about formulas or tormented lovers.... you do care about the secrets, as the author reveals them to you in layers of character and plot. You do care.As for the steam, IMO it's nicely done. We don't have the almost sports-like play-by-play; rather, we receive glimpses and word pictures without vulgarity. What happens is very much intimate, but we don't feel as if we've just participated in the intimacy. Rather like a PG-13 movie. Some readers might be disappointed. I am not. For me, it was one of the charms of this book.I even appreciated the handling of TBM (the big misunderstanding): there was a lot of rage and the plot of revenge... but along the way, the lover who felt he was most hurt realized that he was wrong. So instead of the over-long, over-dramatic oh-my-goodness these two lovers will never be in love again and will hurt one another until the day they die, we see that it's possible for love to triumph OVER all that falderal. There's nothing more irritating to me than to have a perfectly good love story ruined by a TBM that's gotten out of hand and gone on too long -- the point of almost destroying not just the love, but the two lovers. And then *suddenly*, one or both realizes their goof in the last 10 pages, and we, the reader, are supposed to believe that within the blink of an eye, these 2 lovers will live happily-ever-after, without remembering how awfully they treated one another or without allowing the tragedy to ruin their love and married life.Despite the titillating title, this book is a well-crafted Regency love story about how it's possible for two people to "find" one another and fall in love by being friends first, without dousing the sexual chemistry and still managing to keep honor and Regency values in place. Well done!