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REVIEW: The Defiant Mistress by Claire Thornton

Dear Ms Thornton,

The Defiant Mistress (Harlequin Historical Series)Though I’d never tried any of your books before, I took a chance on this one when I saw it was set in Restoration Era Venice and England. Alas, it turned out to be a style of novel I’ve lost all patience for. The hero and heroine are torn apart years before by the treacherous actions of a slavering villain overcome with lust for the heroine. For 8 years, the hero then believes the worst of the heroine. Then when they finally met again he accuses her, insults her, manipulates her into his power, treats her like dirt and ensures that anyone else who might have come to her rescue believes the worst of her. And has the nerve to still accuse her of lying to him and treating him badly once he knows the truth. Here’s the woman he claims to have loved yet he’ll more easily believe the lies told to him by someone he doesn’t even know rather than listen to her. Bastard. I read the first 100 pages then flipped to the last 50 to see if his behaviour had improved any. It hadn’t. Rat bastard. After the way he acts, the short grovel of the last few pages isn’t nearly enough. I’m happy that you chose to write about a time period other than Regency England and sad that this effort didn’t work for me.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

7 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 03:07:01

    Ah, well I loved this one. It isn’t just that ‘he’ll more easily believe the lies told to him by someone he doesn’t even know’, it’s that he saw her and someone else making love, while she smiled and appeared to be enjoying it. Even when she tells him why she was behaving this way, the disaster happened because she hadn’t told him the whole truth: she’d lied about her name (would that have rendered any potential marriage between them invalid?) and put both of them in extreme danger. I think he’d be justified in seeing that as a lack of trust, and would be justified in wondering what else she might be concealing from him.

    As it was the plot you didn’t like, you’d probably like the next two in the series much better. The middle one has a heroine who isn’t typically beautiful, and the third is about a duke and a very strong-willed shopkeeper.

  2. Jayne
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 06:24:54

    Laura, I’ve seen a good review for the second book and have pondered trying it. TBH, I wanted to hear from more than one source about it and now that you’ve given it a positive, I might try it at some point. Thanks for posting.

  3. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 06:45:01

    You might think that the heroine of the second in the series is a little bit on the passive side (but given that she’s a woman with no relatives, and taking into account what’s happened to her, it seemed credible to me, given the time-period), but I don’t think you’d have any problems with the hero, and it’s got the same time period as The Defiant Mistress. The third in the series might be the best bet for you. I don’t know if you noticed the Duke of Kilverdale in The Defiant Mistress but he makes for a hero with a troubled past who doesn’t behave in an arrogant/suspicious way towards the heroine, paired with a strong but not stupidly-feisty heroine. All three books have an interesting take on class/the aristocracy – all of the heroes have either been involved in trade/have new titles and there’s a much greater sense of social mobility than there is in most Regency-set romances. The heroines are also shown to have skill which are somewhat unusual: the heroine of the first is a lace-maker, in the second the heroine enjoys gardening, and in the third the heroine is a shop-keeper.

  4. Barbara B.
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 13:31:09

    I love romances set during The Restoration because they seem more earthy and as Laura Vivanco mentioned there’s more social mobility. It’s a fascinating time in English history that hasn’t been done to death like the Regency and Medieval periods. I don’t read many historicals anymore but romances set during The Restoration can still lure me back, temporarily at least.

    Thanks for the review Jayne. I guess a DNF review isn’t necessarily the kiss of death after all. I’m going to order this one from Amazon if they have it.

  5. Jayne
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 13:37:28

    I agree about the increased social mobility aspect of the Restoration era. Jane Feather has a book that was reissued with the title “Venus” which features an actress heroine who snags a lord for her hero. Now imagine that in a Regency setting. That’s right, ain’t gonna happen. Anyone who’s watched the mini-series The Aristocrats knows that that Ducal family began as one of Charles II’s bastards.

  6. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 14:24:55

    an actress heroine who snags a lord for her hero. Now imagine that in a Regency setting. That’s right, ain’t gonna happen.

    Oh, I don’t know. There was Harriot Mellon who was an actress and, (I’m quoting from Wikipedia, but I’m not sure how to put in a link):

    appearing at the Duke Street Theatre [...] attracted the attention of the elderly but very wealthy banker, Thomas Coutts who, with his brother John Coutts, had founded Coutts & Co, the royal bank. She became his mistress until his first wife died 10 years later following which she became his second wife. She was widely celebrated for her beauty, and was painted by George Romney.

    In 1822, after Thomas’s death Harriot became very wealthy and purchased the lease on a country property four miles away at The Holly Lodge in Highgate with parties there and her town house at 131 Kings Road on the corner of Regency square. She later married the 9th Duke of St. Albans, William, who was twenty years her junior.

    There were also the Gunning sisters, Maria and Elizabeth (again, quoting from Wikipedia, but this time the entry on Maria Gunning):

    The family was relatively poor and when the two sisters came of age, their mother urged them to take up acting to earn a living. They then travelled to Dublin, and were befriended by actress Peg Woffington, and worked for some time in the city’s theatres. [...] Tom Sheridan, manager of one of the theatres the young women had acted in, supplied two costumes from the green room, namely Lady Macbeth and Juliet, and they were presented to the Earl of Harrington, the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The two sisters then travelled to London in 1751 from Ireland and starred in many West End shows and at New Spring Gardens, as well as being presented at the Royal Court. In both environments, crowds and courtiers would clamber to see both sisters and they became celebrities within months.

    Within a year, her sister had married the Duke of Hamilton. In March 1752, Maria married the 6th Earl of Coventry and became the Countess of Coventry

    Maybe not exactly Regency for the dates of these weddings, but fairly close, and I’m sure the Gunnings would have been remembered during the Regency period.

  7. Jayne
    Jan 25, 2007 @ 10:30:30

    Hmmm, OK I’ll give you the Gunnings and Harriot but I can’t see this being as easy to do or as accepted as it appears to have been in Restoration England. ;)

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