My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
A Mistress to Remember is the third book of Eliza Lloyd’s Birds of Paradise series. I stumbled across this series in 2015 when it wasn’t yet a series and read book 2, The Darkness in the Marquess of Dane, which pretty much blew me away with how good it was! It was also the first book I read by the author so I was very impressed and wanted more!
Since I read the series out of order, an anomaly for someone who will do anything to read series in order LOL, I’m not quite sure about the concept of the title Birds of Paradise. But I know that the theme of a mistress is quite prevalent. In a way or the other, the heroines of this series were mistresses to the heroes before they became romantically involved. Book 1, Another Lover, which I read after book 2, was too short and rushed for my liking. The h was a legendary courtesan with ‘terms and conditions’ on her services that also required an exorbitant amount of money. The H, a known rake, wanted to make her his for a long time with an intensity. So finally, when the opportunity arrived, he snatched it up right away....... Well, I just wished there were more background on the H and h like the later installments in the series, more fleshed out characters too. It felt like I was missing something, that the H and h had shared some private moment or something that was never quite revealed. I’d still recommend it as the famous H of book 2, the Marquess of Dane, makes a very short appearance there.
Now, The Darkness in the Marquess of Dane, is the book that was....... well, I felt quite literally speechless after I read that one. It was SO dark and intense, especially because our H was quite the rake who was used to having multiple partners in bedroom (no M/M). He enjoyed living a life of debauchery and well-known for his lifestyle. Dane, who is also called Lucian Conover, had no family to speak of, led a life that made him forget his past. Your usual broody, rakish hero? Um, nope. He was a man in a league of his own. So, for him to be attracted to a virgin spinster, therein lies the twist. ;) Due to some family troubles that began with their gambler father, now deceased, Christina had to go to the Marquess to offer her virginity so he pardons her father’s debts. Christina’s elder brother was disabled. He was the Earl but he was pretty much homebound too. He couldn’t do anything to help. They were already tethering on financial ruin and couldn’t afford to pay the Marquess so Christina stepped in to help her brothers. Mark, the younger brother (not younger to Christina though), who was already engaged, was looking for an easy way out of it. Or so I thought reading how readily he agreed to this plan without the knowledge of their elder brother.
When Christina went to the Marquess with the offer, she thought it’d be one of those ‘wham-bam-thank-you-mam’ type affairs. One-time thing and she’s done. I mean, she wasn’t looking to marry anyway because she’d never have the dowry to go with it so why care for something that is not really needed at this point of her life? But fate had a completely different plan for her, and for her prospective suitor, who’d find himself ensnared his beguiling ‘captive’. Why I call her his captive, you’ll just have to read the book and find out how it unfolds. There is no cheating, info for those of you like me hates cheating and might be concerned.
I had to recap the background a bit cause book 3 connects to book 2, though it can be read as a standalone and takes place a few years afterwards. It’s Mark’s story. As I mentioned earlier, with the speed he agreed to let his sister surrender her virtue to the worst rake possible (whom he didn’t even like because of Dane’s history with women) seemed rather crazy to me. So it was good to know that he had regretted the decision but also heaved a sigh of relief that Christina and Dane had found love, married and given him the most adorable niece ever! However, he still doesn’t like Dane but he’d learn to get along with him for his sister’s sake. As for Katrina, I didn’t even remember that she made a really minor appearance in book 2, so for me she was rather a new character.
By the time A Mistress to Remember begins, Mark’s elder brother had passed away so he is now the new Earl of Compton. His other sisters are also happily married but except for Christina, the other two are known only by mention. Unfortunately, Mark hadn’t found happiness in his marriage. He had married the girl he was engaged to but that hadn’t turn out to be what he’d envisioned. Then, within two years, his wife died having his child. Mark had been emotionally scarred ever since he lost his family, even if by that time he’d known he’d never be happy in this marriage.
The crux of the matter was, Mark’s wife wasn’t fond of sex or any type of physical intimacy which he obviously didn’t know before. So to say that the whole affair after marriage was awkward would be a gross understatement. He had a healthy appetite and she wasn’t a giver. You can imagine the rest. :/ When she finally got pregnant there was no talk of sex anymore and that was that. After her and his son’s death, Mark had been aloof, hadn’t thought of seeking relief anywhere, with anyone, except until very recently with an alluring widow who has pretty much taken over his thoughts. Mark had known Katrina Klee but had never really felt the need to pursue her before. Besides he was supposedly happily married and she was with another benefactor of hers. Her husband passed away a few years ago leaving the beautiful countess all alone. When an older peer of the realm snatched her up, everyone knew it was inevitable. She needed someone’s protection for herself and her 3 boys. Until recently Mark had only been a spectator.
The next time Mark saw Katrina he was sad and lonely, desperately in need of comfort. And physical release. He’d heard Katrina’s benefactor had passed on too and had hoped to gain her favor. Mark was extremely surprised to experience the kind of intense longing he felt for her, not knowing if she’d ever agree to his ‘proposal’ but he didn’t dissect his feelings. He wanted Katrina Klee and no one else. Now all he has to do is gather the courage and approach the countess...
Katrina, born and raised in Russia, came to England when she was young. She married a man a bit older than her but knowing she’d loved him. She became a baroness, had 3 adorable boys with Samuel. Her 2 elder boys are already teenagers and she was looking forward to see them grow into amazing young men. Katrina thought her life was quite settled when Samuel suddenly passed away leaving her bereaved. With her beauty and the wealth he’d left for her, it was only a matter time she was hounded by the so-called eligible men for her hand, or other things she’s incapable of giving them.
One of Katrina’s old family friends has sheltered her from all sorts of wrong attentions. Everyone thought her to be Geral’s mistress and Katrina didn’t mind. He was kind and did his best until his passing too. In truth, Katrina had never been anyone’s mistress and had never been with anyone but her husband. So when young and handsome Earl of Compton approached her with his outrageous proposal, Katrina was supposed to have laughed it off or slapped his face and leave him in a hurry. Then why is she even considering his proposal? What in the world has gotten to her??! She has sons she needed to take care of and this type of negative attention won’t be any good for them. Besides, her brother-in-law Peter had already been chasing after her. His marriage proposal had no sway over Katrina cause she knew Peter was extremely selfish and it had nothing to do with her or her boys’ welfare. All he wanted was the control over her wealth. Katrina had a lot on her plate, and yet, all she could think of was to do something forbidden once in her. Have some fun, take a lover for the first time in her life. Could she even do it?
Oh but it was all so tempting and Mark Turnbow was so attractive!
I liked the story thus far, but it was lacking the magic of book 2 for the better part. Mistress stories can be tricky and I don’t always find them to be appealing. Credits go to those authors who make those stories extremely interesting with twists and turns and/or with interesting characters. Unsurprisingly, Mark and Katrina hit it off right away. Even though at first, she had some conditions due to her family and social status, Katrina gave in fairly easily. Mark was only too happy to be with a beautiful woman he wanted for a while now. Neither of them initially thought of making it permanent. Katrina got in knowing one day Mark will move on. He’s an Earl so he needs to marry for an heir.
For more than half of the story it was just sex after sex and I was getting a bit frustrated cause there was nothing else to the story, really. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with sex scenes. However it was just sex for the sake of sex and I found myself drifting to other books on and off... Thankfully, soon enough, Mark and Katrina started having the realization that this ‘thing’ between them has evolved into something none of them ever thought of happening. That they were developing feelings for one another! The chemistry was intense without a doubt and after experiencing bliss together, there were some soul-searching and discoveries regarding their past experiences. But there were also doubts about the acceptance from both sides. Katrina couldn’t imagine Mark settling for someone like her; older, who has 3 children and some crucial family problems that needed to be resolved, while Mark wasn’t sure whether Katrina would even give him the chance to become something else.
But when Katrina is forced to leave England for Russia by Peter is when things begin to take a more dramatic turn. There were big gestures and happy endings. Knowing that they finally realized that it was just better to give into their mutual feelings was the most amazing part. Then, both Mark and Katrina were like two giddy teenagers in love for the first time. In some way, it was their first time cause they realized they’ve found the missing pieces of their lives. :)
TBH, for me, the best of the story were all of Dane’s appearances throughout. And his one last twist to return a favor to Mark. He helps Mark have his beloved back because, after all, Mark had inadvertently helped him find his own. :D I really loved the gesture, the acknowledgement from both parties and how the story ended. Before that though, there were some hints of the next installment. I don’t think I know the protagonists so will be eagerly waiting for it. In truth, I found A Mistress to Remember a well-written story even if I had some hiccups in the beginning of it. 4 solid stars!
ARC received from the author, thanks Liz. x :)