Genre: historical romance
Cover: lovely stepcover.
Kate Bergeron is the beautiful and mysterious former mistress of a cloth merchant...and the latest beauty to capture the interest of the Prince of Wales. Mired in a disastrous divorce, the Prince attempts to distract attention from his next amorous pursuit by ordering Grayson Christopher, the eligible Duke of Darlington, to pretend to London society that he is having an affair with Kate. When Grayson reluctantly agrees to his Prince's demand, he finds the lady no more willing than he is. Kate will grudgingly act the part in public, but her favors are not for sale to any man. As Grayson and Kate mimic ardor for the world to see, they find what started as a deception becoming all too real. And when passion flames into love, their predicament becomes extreme. For while marriage between a duke and a courtesan could never happen, Kate knows in her heart that she is willing to accept nothing less....
Kate Bergeron is the latest mistress of the Prince of Wales. Not something she ever wanted to be. She comes from the poorest part of London, and was “discovered” by her first master while working in his cloth halls. Refusing his offer was out of the question, as he would have fired her and finding decent work for a young girl, enough to afford to rent a place as well, is almost impossible. He send her to Paris to be educated in the art of being a mistress, and Kate became quite good at it. Her master was more interested in laudanum for the past few years to spend much time with her, but when the Prince of Wales saw her, he sold her to him.
Kate has no choice but to honor the contract, as angering or refusing the Prince of Wales would ruin her utterly, or see her send out of England altogether.
She has a few friends, mr. Digby, who helps her and educates her in the way of the world, in her speech, her clothing and mr. Butler, whom she rescued from a pressing gang at the docks, and who now works for her as a butler. And there are some young girls she provides housing for in the docks, the same part where she grew up.
She has also been searching for years for her little brother, and now there are finally some rumors about a seaman with the same green eyes and white blond hair as Kate has, working on a slave ship. Kate wants nothing more than to be reunited with her brother, ever since her stepmother kicked her out of the house at age 13.
The Prince of Wales is looking for a divorce from his wife, the Princess Caroline, whom he has accused of treason. But while the King is contemplating his request, he cannot risk a new scandal, especially as the people of London support their princess. And so he has ordered Grayson, the Duke of Darlington, to escort Kate around the ton and draw attention away from him, while still allowing George to see Kate.
Threatened with scandal if he refuses, Grayton has no choice, and he reluctantly escorts Kate about. His mistress Diana is furious about it all. But slowly Grayton discovers the real woman beneath the courtesan, and he can’t help to be drawn to her. First because of her beauty, but later because of her unique way of looking at live. She has resigned herself to her lot in life, but she is planning for a different future. Kate wants to open her own bakery some day, and is saving money for it as much as she can. Her cook, one of the servants paid for by the Prince of Wales, is teaching her how to cook and bake.
Grayson doesn’t like the fact that Kate has come from such a bad background, the slums of London, instead of being a bit more respectable, like a merchant’s daughter. How can he show himself in public with her? But he can’t stay away from her either. And taking her on a skating outing, along with his two young nephews, is the first step over the line. His family is very displeased with him, how can he show himself with a courtesan, while so many eligible debutantes would love for him to choose her as his wife.
I have to admit, when a few people of the ton thought they recognized Kate, I thought it would be the well known plot of her suddenly being the long lost granddaughter of a nobleman. And that would be the solution to their being unable to marry. But to my surprise and delight, that was not the case.
I liked Kate. She did not want to be a mistress, a courtesan, but she knew she had no choice in that. Men would take by force what she would not give willingly, as it has happened before. At least she lives in a nice house, with enough food and warmth and is capable to take care of her friend as well. She is planning for a different future though, and I admired her for that.
Grayson is the high and mighty Duke, very much concerned with his reputation and that of his family, and all his responsibilities as the head of a very large family. I enjoyed how he played with his nephews, even though his mother admonished him that Duke’s don’t crawl over the floor. Having a married mistress goes against his honor already, but he can soothe it with the idea that no one knows about it. Until the Prince of Wales blackmails him with that fact. He has been raised with the burden of the good name and the honor of the family on his shoulders since he was a little boy, and it is starting to chafe. Grayson is tone deaf, and cannot appreciate music at all, until he spends a night at the opera with Kate. I did love that scene.
I did enjoy the ending very much, when it all came to a conclusion in a big scene at the Prince of Wales’ annual fête. And Diana, well, she got what she so richly deserved for trying to mess with Kate out of spite.
Julia London is one of the authors attending the Love Letter Convention in Berlin. I have only read some of her books in Dutch, many, many years ago, and some short stories in English in anthologies. So it was high time I picked up one of the books written by her that have been gathering dust on my shelves for way too long. This was my first full length novel by Julia London, but it won’t be my last.
Read for #LLC2015
For more info look: http://www.loveletterconvention.com/en/
© 2015 Reviews by Aurian