Series: MacLachlan Family & Friends #10
Published by Avon on August 26, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Women rarely refuse the wicked Earl of Hepplewood, whose daring exploits are only whispered about. But when his new governess answers his proposition with a slap, then stalks out, references in hand, Hepplewood finds more than his face is burning.
Isabella Aldridge has brains, bravado, and beauty—but the latter is no use to a servant. Her circumstances are desperate, and with Hepplewood's words ringing in her ears, Isabella realizes she must barter her most marketable asset . . . her body.
But when fate sends Isabella back into Hepplewood's arms, the earl must make an impossible choice—draw Isabella down into his sensual darkness, or behave with honor for the first time in his life.
When Isabella Aldridge’s father died, she was left without a penny to her name and two younger sisters to care for – one step-sister and one half-sister. Since then, Isabella has worked as a governess for “La Seductrice” Lady Pentshaw and managed to put food on the table, pay the rent (mostly) on time, and provide her sisters with an education. But now Lady Pentshaw’s sons are off to school and Isabella must find employment elsewhere. She applies for a governess position with the Earl of Hepplewood, but he tells her she is too beautiful to be a governess and to find employment that would better serve her “assets.” A string of further rejections leads her back to Lady Petershaw in hopes of finding a position as a mistress. Her first match-up? Anthony, the Earl of Hepplewood!
Isabella is a strong-willed, resourceful woman who manages to find a way to care for her younger sisters despite a distinct lack of funding. She is protective and intelligent, doing her best to shield her sisters from the daily struggle that goes on outside of their view. She is cognizant of the future and vows to do what is best for her sisters – even if that means cutting all social ties to them if she becomes a mistress in order to support them financially. Even in her desperation, Isabella puts the interests of her sisters above her own well-being while remaining astoundingly calm about her situation and refusing to accept the “help” of her pedophile cousin currently residing in her father’s old house.
Anthony is a deeply troubled man. He is wracked with guilt over the death of his wife in childbirth and the choices he made to put her in that position. Since her death, he has created a life of depravity and debauchery for himself, something he simultaneously revels in and hates himself for enjoying. He has sadistic sexual tendencies – he enjoys whipping his partners and spanking them until his hand aches. These experiences and proclivities have made him arrogant and controlling, but these traits are balanced out by his love of his daughter and his compelling desire to stick to an internal moral code that makes him stand up and take care of those he loves or is in a position to help.
The sex scenes in this historical romance novel were surprisingly kinky – almost like something one would read in an erotica novel. As already mentioned, the Earl has sadistic tendencies and there is a definite BDSM flavor to Anthony and Isabella’s lovemaking. Isabella enjoys being allowed to relinquish control for once in her life, yet feels guilty, wondering if enjoying such abnormal bedroom activities is normal. These scenes were very sensual and explicit, almost shocking for a romance novel!
The Earl’s Mistress is what I would call a very dark romance novel. Yes, the traditional elements of a romance novel are present, but the plot is quite sinister and the bedroom scenes borderline erotica. Beyond the romance, this novel’s plot centers around a complicated and detailed inheritance entailment to a cousin who is also a pedophile and after the sisters in Isabella’s charge. On Anthony’s side of the plot is yet another complicated arrangement of first-loves, rebound replacements, a jealous and murderous first cousin-turned-sister, and the fallout from an unwanted marriage. Certainly something different in the world of historical romance, but I think this fills a very specific niche of romance readers rather than the majority.