I'm very excited to bring you this book review, as the author is none other than my fabulous cousin, Julianne MacLean.
I met Julianne when I was six, when my family moved from Michigan and rejoined the Nova Scotia branch of the clan. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Julianne and her brother, and myself and my sister, grew up like four siblings, always over at their house or our house. There's a me that only Julianne knows, and she's a bright spot in my world when I'm often wiping away the tears of loved ones, dusting them off and setting them back on their feet again.
Julianne is the person I can relax and laugh with, admire the same sort of writing muses *wink*, and plunge into fascinating creative discussions with. So I'm thrilled to be able to share her 12th book release with all of you. The Mistress Diaries hits store shelves on July 29th.
1 - The Mistress Diaries is a Harper Collins Avon Books release. Second in the Pembroke Palace series, this story follows the second Sinclair brother forced to choose a bride by a father slowly going mad.
2 - Part of Avon's Romance category, Julianne's story is a Victorian historical focusing on the swirling emotions that hide beneath the polished exterior of the nobility. The love scenes are steamy and really take the reader inside the feelings of the hero and heroine.
3 - Here is the book trailer for The Mistress Diaries, made by Julianne's husband, man of many talents. The trailer is best enjoyed with the sound turned up. And it may not be safe for work. Enjoy!
4 - We meet Cassandra Montrose, Lady Colchester, fresh out of mourning for an unfaithful husband. Far from eager to attach herself to another man, Cassandra dallies with a known seducer, determined to have at least one night of passion before embarking on the rest of her ladylike days.
5 - Lord Vincent Sinclair is a jaded rake of the highest order. Second son of the addled Duke of Pembroke, he has every expectation that his upcoming marriage to Lady Letitia will hardly cause a ripple in his quest to take his pleasure whenever desire strikes. And his appetite for that is legendary.
6 - Vincent was the villain of the first Pembroke Palace book, In My Wildest Fantasies. That book introduced Vincent as an angry, brooding brother to Devon Sinclair, with a major grudge against his elder sibling. Being a great fan of the gray character, I stand in awe of my cousin's ability to turn such a dark character like Vincent into someone I can fall in love with.
7 - Sexual tension flares up immediately for Cassandra and Vincent. As with all of Julianne's couples, each offers an emotional release to the other that simmers along with the sexual arousal. Julianne returns her two lovers to a state of courting, which only heightens the tension level to brow-mopping intensity.
8 - Julianne gives us a fascinating look into the fallen woman character with Cassandra. We relate to her completely at the beginning of the story. As she finds herself thrust into a social role for which she never planned, we see inside the complexities of choice, consequence and self-image. It's a perfect balance to Vincent's journey from his brother Devon's villain to this story's hero.
9 - I really, really love Julianne's way with a hottie hero. Here's our first impression of Vincent (from his book, not Devon's!):
"Lord Vincent Sinclair kicked open the door of the sumptuous London hotel room with staggering brute force and carried Cassandra Montrose, Lady Colchester, over the threshold. He had kissed her senseless in the carriage the entire way there. He grinned and kicked the door shut behind him.
Pulling his white cambric bow tie and unbuttoning the top of his shirt, he smiled with devilish intent. 'I quite assure you, Lady Colchester, I have not yet begun to be a bad influence. My best is yet to come.' "
10 - Julianne really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
" 'You are very appealing when you choose to be, Vincent,' she told him, 'and you are a handsome man. That can be blinding for even the most sensible of women. I hope you will consider that when you become a husband.'
He seemed surprised by her sudden desire to steer him in the direction of his conscience, when clearly neither he, nor she, believed he possessed one.
'Indeed I shall,' he replied nevertheless, 'though I don't recommend getting your hopes up. We both know I will be a dismal failure at matrimony. I'm simply not cut out to be faithful.'
She sighed over the fact that he had not changed, and likely never would. His brow furrowed with displeasure. Or was it annoyance? She wasn't sure what to make of it.
'At least my mother will be close at hand to repair the damage when I live up to your meager expectations.' With that, he stood and walked out.
Immediately after leaving Cassandra's bedside, Vincent entered his own bedchamber and saw his great-grandmother's necklace - the famous Pembroke Sapphire - sitting in an open velvet box on the bed. He stared at the dark blue stone for a moment, saw in his mind a headstone with Cassandra's name on it, then slammed the door so hard, the vase on the dressing table toppled to the floor and smashed to a thousand pieces."
11 - Julianne switches POV seamlessly between Cassandra and Vincent, often in the midst of a heightened emotional scene. It only serves to further reveal plot and character, a sure touch from a writer at the top of her game.
12 - There are no secondary characters who serve as set dressing in any of Julianne's books. Even Vincent's ducal-approved fiancee, Lady Letitia is three-dimensional. A character revealed only through letters, memory and conversation is especially haunting.
13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!
" A short time later he was trotting up to the palace on his horse. He stopped to look up at the brightly lit drawing room window above. Letitia passed in front of it, unaware of his presence below. She stood for a moment with her back to him, chattering on about something to someone, then walked away.
Devon came to look out the window next and looked down at him with a cool stare, as if he knew where he had been all night and greatly disapproved.
Contempt shuddered through Vincent as he imagined going up there and sitting down with the rest of them. They would ask where he had been. Devon might even call him to the study to have a reproachful word with him about his activities and remind him of his duty to the family. His brother would warn him not to become distracted and tell him to spend more time at the palace.
Devon had already fulfilled his duty by marrying Rebecca. They were all depending on each other to safeguard their inheritances. Vincent watched him raise a brandy glass to his lips and turn from the window when his wife slipped her arm through his and drew him away.
Outside, alone in the dark, Vincent remained seated on a restless horse that could not, for some reason, keep still.
He felt restless himself. He did not want to be here. He wanted to be at the dower house, in those small, cozy rooms, sitting by a fire.
He turned and gazed back in that direction. It would be wrong to return. Cassandra would most certainly be angry with him. It could spoil everything. He should not do it.
But he wanted so badly just to kick in his heels and urge his horse to a gallop - to speed across the moonlit hills and feel the wind in his hair, to leap over this particular hurdle in his life.
He looked up at the full moon and watched the wispy clouds float in front of it, thin and transparent, incapable of dimming its illumination.
He breathed deeply, seeking the calmness and dispassion he required to get through his betrothal to Letitia, his usual detachment, but all he felt was an ache of longing deep inside his chest. It was so relentless and severe, it almost made him double over in pain.
In the end he did what he knew he should not do. He kicked in his heels and galloped off.
Cassandra looked out the window at the full moon overhead and thought wistfully about the many hours she had spent with Vincent over the past few weeks, strolling leisurely to the river, speaking openly about so many things.
She had not expected it to be so pleasant. Not with him - the man whose heart she had believed was made of stone. This strange arrangement of theirs had been going on for quite some time now without a single hitch. Beneath all the courtesy and manners, she had been fighting against a new kind of desire that simply would not die.
Every time Vincent stepped out of his coach, dressed in his elegant black coat and top hat, smiling up at her with those dark, mesmerizing eyes, she melted. She fell to pieces like a lovesick pup that did not know the meaning of restraint.
But she did know the meaning of it, and she understood the consequences of giving in to temptation. She could never endure the heartache of sharing him with another woman. She was simply not built that way. If she loved someone, it would have to be all or nothing. She could not settle for less, and was still not sure Vincent was capable of such a devoted love, for he was broken inside.
Or was she wrong about that? she wondered as she stared out the window at the darkness beyond. She had been wrong about so many other things, and he'd done nothing but surprise her over the past few weeks.
A moment later she was tipping the crystal decanter over a glass. She took a sip and strolled back to the window. It was a beautiful night. She raised the glass to her lips when a nervous fluttering arose in her belly, for she spotted a man. He was sitting under the tree on the bank of the river at the bottom of the hill. The moonlight was reflecting off the water, and he was silhouetted against the sparkling ripples. His horse was tethered to the tree, its long neck bowed down to the grass.
It was Vincent - that much she knew, even though it was impossible to identify anyone from such a distance in the darkness.
What was he doing there? She had heard him leave almost two hours ago. Had he been sitting there all this time, or had he left and returned?
She set her glass down on the table. If she knew what was good for her, she would go back to bed this instant and forget she ever saw him. But that would require her to guzzle the entire contents of what remained in the brandy decanter, enough to knock her out until dawn, because the fact of the matter was - she cared for him. She cared for him a great deal. And somehow she knew that he needed her."
- Julianne MacLean - 2008