No Man's Mistress

No Man's Mistress - Mary Balogh This book reminds me of the scene between Shrek and Donkey in "Shrek", when Shrek is trying to tell Donkey that ogres have layers -- like an onion. This book is all about the layers. Just when you think you know who's who and what's going on (or perhaps even that this plot seems familiar), another layer is peeled back.What starts as a charming contest of wills and a possible frothy romance turns dark and a bit dangerous... And while the ending is highly inventive, it's completely unrealistic, regardless of how influential the Dudley family is. But it feels good.Sure, there's plenty of laughter and wit and sparkle... some steam and some love... and I cannot deny that Ferdinand's and Viola's actions speak louder than words about love. It's a good reminder about how much parents and their marriage affects their children. It's a good reminder about how love sacrifices for family and those we truly love. And Viola's not the first young woman who's had to make incredibly tough and unpalatable decisions for her family's sake. But somehow, when we've peeled back several layers of that onion, the plot and its characters seemed too over-blown... too melodramatic. And the ending (again, highly inventive but completely unrealistic) feels like the disarming the bomb and saving the world with :01 second to go.I feel like a wet blanket, because I do enjoy Ms. Balogh's books. And there is much to enjoy about this one, which is why I refuse to lower the rating below 3-stars.