Mistress by Midnight is the third book in the Scandalous Women of the Ton series by Nicola Cornick. It’s a well written and highly entertaining historical romance which can be read on its own, though some of the secondary characters are the leads in the first and second books, A Whisper of Scandal and One Wicked Sin.
Merryn Fenner is a young single woman living with her sister in London in 1814. Everyone believes that Merryn is a “bluestocking” and that she spends all of her free time at lectures, scientific or art exhibits and studying. No one knows about the double life that Merryn has been living for the last couple of years, learning and practicing the trade of being a private investigator. Merryn plans to avenge her brother Stephen’s death and finally believes that she is in a position to bring Garrick Northesk, The Duke of Farne, to justice. It’s taken her ten years but she has just discovered some clues that point to a different story than the “official” version, which let Garrick flee to roam around Europe before returning to England as a widower. Merryn is determined to get to the truth, regardless of the cost to anyone involved.
Garrick Northesk, the new Duke of Farne, is determined to live his life in study and running his estates, he has no plans to remarry or rehash the past. When he stumbles across an attractive woman hiding in his bedroom, he’s intrigued and determined to discover what she’s been doing in his home for the last several days. After hiring a detective agency no one is more surprised than Garrick to discover that the woman who had broken into his home was Merryn, the younger sister of the man he had killed. Realizing that Merryn is determined to uncover secrets that he has promised to keep, Garrick is determined to stay one step ahead of Merryn and keep her from discovering the truth. He had not planned on becoming attracted to her or on the emotions that she would bring out in him.
The author does an excellent job with the dialogue in this book; the scenes between Merryn and Garrick are full of lively conversation and sparkling wit. Both Merryn and Garrick are in denial of their growing attraction and attempt to fight it, but neither is able to deny the truths that they are slowing discovering. Merryn discovers that Garrick is an educated and honorable man, which is at odds with her presumptions about him. Garrick discovers that Merryn is intelligent, witty and fiercely noble- she’ll always want to know the truth and want to do the right thing. When circumstances trap them in a situation that at first puts them in danger and then leads to a night of explosive passion, Garrick is put in the position where he must propose marriage to save Merryn’s reputation.
The secondary characters are pivotal to the story, from Merryn’s sisters Joanna and Tess, two society members that Merryn incorrectly assumes are only interested in fashion, to Tom Bradshaw, Merryn’s boss whose motivation to uncover the truth is motivated by his own greedy and selfish plans. The story takes several interesting and surprising turns in uncovering the truth behind the duel and what really led to Stephen’s death. The author did an excellent job in pacing the plot, which kept me glued to the pages. The ending to the story resolves the open story lines in a very satisfactory manner and I look forward to reading the next installment in this series by Ms. Cornick. If you want to read a historical romance with a touch of suspense and a decades old mystery, give this story a try.
A wicked duke’s bed is no place for a lady…
Lady Merryn Fenner is on a mission to ruin the Duke of Farne. A beautiful bluestocking with a penchant for justice, Merryn has waited twelve years to satisfy her revenge against Garrick Farne. Her family name had been tarnished at his hands, her life destroyed.
For twelve years Garrick, Duke of Farne has kept the secret of what really happened on the night that he killed his best friend, Stephen Fenner, in a duel. Now Stephen’s sister is intent on discovering the truth and putting at risk all those secrets Garrick has protected.
When a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, white-hot desire stirs between the two sworn enemies. Merryn's reputation is utterly compromised and she is forced to do the one thing she cannot bear; accept the scandalous marriage proposal of the man she has vowed to ruin.
Beware of scandalous women...