Review: Mistress of Merrivale by Shelley Munro

mistress of merrivaleReviewed by Janell

In this historical, Jocelyn is a courtesan who gets dumped by her protector because he’s about to get married. He wants to look out for her, though, and suggests that she marry his cousin Leo, who is conveniently in need of a wife. Jocelyn has a crazy mother who is prone to screaming fits and chats with ghosts, and she is happy to take any man who will take her and her mother, as long as he’s not a bad guy.

Leo, the cousin in question, is a widower. His wife cuckholded him several times, and then she was strangled to death. Most of the locals believe that Leo murdered his wife, although his dead wife’s sister and brother are still on good terms with him. The sister actually wants to marry Leo, and she is obvious and enthusiastic about her intentions. Leo doesn’t want her, though. He wants a woman he can control, who won’t sleep around on him, and who will be a stepmother to his daughter. After a brief chat, Leo and Jocelyn agree that they can meet each other’s terms, and so they marry.

Leo isn’t nobility, but he is some kind of landowner who oversees farmers. He has a grand estate complete with a hedge maze out in the country. Jocelyn and her mother move in, and she soon learns that there was another recent murder, and a local woman has disappeared, and her husband is still the prime suspect. Oops.

Since Jocelyn was a courtesan, she is not afraid of bedsport. Her new marriage is pretty smooth sailing since she and Leo are decent people who get along and they have great sex. Their relationship is so easy that the book turns to mystery to add conflict to the plot.

Jocelyn has doubts about Leo, whether he’s innocent or not. Her mother claims that ghosts are calling to her. Leo wants to find out who’s behind all the murder and mayhem so that he can clear his name and get on with his life. The suspense amps up by throwing red herrings around, putting Jocelyn and Leo in danger, and adding in shady characters.

As a romance, it was fine enough, there just wasn’t much conflict. Jocelyn was a courtesan, but only because circumstances forced her to be to protect her family. Leo isn’t put off by that at all, in fact he fantasizes about all the things he won’t have to teach her in bed. Jocelyn worries that Leo might have an affair with the nanny, but otherwise she is confident in their relationship. They would have gotten along swimmingly, almost boringly, without the whodunit drama.

As a mystery, it was pretty extreme. Not many small English villages have a sudden epidemic of missing or murdered young women. I was fond of the policeman who worked honorably on the case, and I was amused by the villagers who were all, “Your husband is a killer but thanks for throwing the nice party anyway.” The ending was, well, I’ll use the word extreme again. Not exactly typical for a sleepy village, but it made sense.

I enjoyed the premise well enough, but I think I needed more conflict in the romance department to really love it.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

Mistress of Merrivale
by Shelley Munro
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Samhain

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