The Perfect Mistress

Written by Victoria Alexander
Review by Eva Ulett

Proper Victorian Harrison, Lord Montdale, is distressed to discover a memoir on the point of publication detailing Lady Hermione Middlebury’s salacious affairs. One of the dead noblewoman’s amours was Harrison’s still living father. Intent on protecting the family name, Lord Montdale approaches the owner of the memoirs. Hermione’s great granddaughter Julia, Lady Winterset, is a widow and facing poverty, yet she resents Harrison’s offer to purchase the memoir, which he intends to destroy. Several other London gentlemen are interested in Julia and the memoir. Initial resentment and annoyance between Harrison and Julia develops into something different as Julia decides both her own fate and that of her ancestor’s legacy.

The Perfect Mistress deals with a perennially interesting topic, the relations of men and women. Julia is an intelligent woman, forced into self-reliance when her dead husband’s family refused their support. At thirty-three Harrison wants to marry, even making a list of the qualities he desires in a mate; intelligence isn’t on it. The narrative is interspersed with selections from Hermione’s memoir in which she delivers home truths to the Victorians, now experiencing the backlash of their ancestors’ misdeeds. An appealing and well-crafted story.