by Lisa Manuel

August 2004
ISBN: 0-821-77648-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Lady Tessa Hardington is just easing back into society following the death of her much-older husband, and discovers that her family’s past indiscretions are still fresh in the ton’s memory. While she is perfectly satisfied with a quite life in the country, her cousin Helena wants to force the issue. She is determined that Tessa be accepted, and so will insure an entree later when Tessa’s niece makes her debut.

Once visible in society, Tessa learns that the very reason she married, to escape the control of her Uncle Howard, is now once again in force. Her parent’s wishes were quite clear. Tessa must be married or Howard controls her finances until she reaches the age of thirty. Since he had already squandered half her fortune before she wed, she now envisions the rest of her livelihood disappearing from her grasp. This cannot be allowed to continue. She has many people depending on her. Many more than Howard is aware of.

A chance encounter with former love interest is all the opening Tessa needs. Begging Charles Emerson to “play along” she tells her distasteful relative that she is again married, in secret, to her childhood beau. This “white lie” begins a series of events that involve mystery, murder and Mostly Mayhem.

Lisa Manuel’s second “Mostly” novel is not quite as entertaining as the first, but the stakes are very serious indeed. Tessa and Charles are sober people who have weighty concerns. They take their responsibilities seriously, which actually impedes their personal relationship. I wanted to lock them both in a closet until they settled matters, but unfortunately, it took the entire course of the book for them to get around to it. I did appreciate seeing Helena and Wesley again from Mostly Married, but was dismayed to discover that I found Tessa’s manservant Fabrice to be the most fascinating character in this book. I was impatient with the constantly murky relationship between the two main characters. If Charles was good enough to love, why wasn’t he good enough to trust? Tessa’s continued manipulation of facts wore quite thin and I became bored until the threads of the plot all came together at the end. Charles’ constant demands to be trusted bordered on whining, and even when he knew some of the facts, he did not confront Tessa, but waited for her to come clean. If he had shown his hand, then perhaps the book would have gotten livelier, earlier.

Reviewed in July 2004 by Paula.

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