by Alana Clayton

March 2002
ISBN: 0-8217-7101-9
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Itís hard to know what to say about The Mistress Thief. I donít like to be harsh (I know you all can hear the Ďbutí coming a mile away) but this book left me with the feeling that I had wasted my time reading it. The plot sounded intriguing enough; a vengeful young woman steals away a lordís mistresses just when he needs them most. But the twist is, the reason he needs them isnít at all what youíd first think. My head instantly filled with all sorts of exciting and delicious ideas after reading the description on the coverónamely a strong, feisty heroine, a furious but dashing hero, and some extreme contact between them as they work out all their misunderstandings. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the fact is I was left disappointed at the bookís end.

The center of the story is Lady Lavinia, who is out for revenge against the Earl of Weston, believing that he treated her beloved sister callously. And since Lavinia also happens to work rehabilitating prostitutes, she decides to take away what she thinks Lord Weston values most in lifeóhis mistresses. She talks them into disappearing without even a note to him. Unfortunately (for Lord Weston anyway) Weston is an agent for the Home Office investigating the shady dealings of Lord Hayley, whose suspected crimes include counterfeiting and kidnapping women and selling them into slavery on the Continent, and Weston needed the mistresses to move in Hayleyís circle. To make matters worse, rumors start to circulate that all the women disappearing in London were murdered by Weston, and now he canít find a replacement. Meanwhile, Weston and Lavinia meet, but their growing relationship is complicated by his duty to the Home Office and her mistrust of the man she believes ruined her sister.

With all that going on, the story should have been very engaging. But the characters were flat, and so other than worrying that the kidnapped women would be all right, I had little interest in the plot. It also managed to be both predictable and unpredictable, in the sense that everything up to the ending was easy to guess, but the ending itself let me down. Hayley is a nice, nasty villain, I would have reveled in his downfall, but I was cheated. The romantic situation too was in a fantastic tangle, but I was given only a summary on the last few pages. The opportunity for some great intrigue was lost, and I think that irritated me more than anything else, even the few anachronisms.

Reviewed in May 2002 by Wendy B..

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