The Counterfeit Mistress by Madeline Hunter

March 31, 2014

He's back! The return of the Handsome Stupid Man aka Bonehead Hero.
Yes, Madeline Hunter's The Counterfeit Mistress sees the return of the Handsome Stupid Man, so named by our spunky heroine, Marielle, in the first book of Fairbourne series.

The Handsome Stupid man is really Gavin Norwood, Viscount Kendale and he is still following Marielle around. Under his breath he refers to her as a bitch. Wow, I thought, that's a tad bit harsh, what did she ever do to you? Because my memory of the first two books has faded, I don't recall why he's so angry with her. I was hoping for some kind of clarification that would justify his anger, but it never came. The only thing I could deduce was that at one time a French woman betrayed the army battalion he was serving in, resulting in a semi-massacre of that army unit. Of course, you know what that means! That means a-l-l women are suspect and not to be trusted. So they must be followed from place to place because they are up to something - especially Marielle. She's doing something nefarious - what it is Gavin doesn't know, but she's probably a spy. Why does he think that? I don't know, I guess because she doesn't check in with him whenever she goes hither and yon.

You know, I do get mighty tired of bonehead heroes who can't trust women because they are under an assumption another woman did something wrong. And, by the way, I don't believe in the other two books it was ever proven that the unknown French woman actually was guilty. Maybe she'll make an appearance in the next book, because there are still plenty of distrustful men left in this series. 

Actually, Gavin is a little bit correct in his assumptions; Marielle is up to something. What she is up to is one of the many convoluted plots in this story. Here is my take: she is smuggling prints out of England delivering them to France, because there is a bad guy in France she wants to bring down. Everyone knows just how powerful political cartoons can be, and how dangerous. There are people being killed just to stop these prints from leaving the country. But she's up to more than just that - she actually is the engraver of those prints, but she doesn't want anyone to know that. And, is she who she says she is? Is there someone in France who is locked up and she trying to save? Is she going to do all that on her own? And, does she still have time to seduce Gavin? You betcha!

Gavin. This guy also has a plot going on. Besides following Marielle around and jumping to conclusions, he is also searching for the traitor responsible for the murder of his army friends. He's formed a private militia and he's doing all these secret, nefarious things like invading France without anyone being aware. Except that is for the home office and his omnipresent-friend/ex-friend who keeps warning him about things.

I couldn't decide whether this story was a spy story, an adventure story, or a romance. There were too many things going in different directions and when I found out what Marielle was up too, my reaction was, "You're kidding me." Gavin and Marielle were strong secondary characters; however, having their own story weakened them. I was especially disappointed in Gavin. His treatment of Marielle after sex bordered on the Steve Morgan school of charmers. Gavin was very cold-blooded when it came to any whankee-woo. His character bothered me so much that I was awakened in the middle of night and had to write down my thoughts on him. He's portrayed as a darkly mysterious man, occasionally clever, but there was something missing. What was missing was his essence. His character was just a shadow. I felt as if I was just reading words and not connecting to any substance.

I loved Madeline Hunter's medieval stories and when I read the first one in this series I was anticipating some great moments. However, this particular tale was very convoluted and the characters did not live up to the promise they exhibited in their earlier appearances.

Time/Place: England early 1800s
Sensuality: There was sex

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