Mistress by Midnight

Nicola Cornick
Mistress by Midnight
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HQN Books
Release Date
December 2010
Historical Romance

Merryn Fenner is on a mission to ruin the Duke of Farne. A beautiful bluestocking with a penchant for justice, Merryn has waited ten years to satisfy her revenge against sensual, mysterious Garrick Northesk. Her family name had been tarnished at his hands, her life destroyed. And now she intends to return the favor—by finding the true heir to the duke's title and disinheriting Garrick.

Yet when a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, white-hot desire stirs between the two sworn enemies. Her reputation utterly compromised, Merryn is forced to do the one thing she cannot bear: accept the scandalous marriage proposal of the man she has vowed to ruin.

Book Review by SusanRenee (reviewer)
Dec 03, 2010   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
418 people found the following review helpful
With the influx of regency romances, it was nice to see one that was unpretentious in its simplicity. Nicola Cornick's writing is strong, thoughtful and unabashedly straightforward with characters that are both memorable and sympathetic.

It is typically a taboo for a man to lust after his best friend's little sister. That is doubly true for Garrick Farne who killed his best friend Stephen in a duel. Having just returned from his exile, Garrick meets Stephen's little sister Merryn, who is hiding under his bed. Merryn's motivation is simple. She wants to avenge her brother's death by ruining the man she used to have a crush on.

Garrick and Merryn's attraction is meddlesome and unwanted. They show it, they think it and the reader feels it. Nicola Cornick writing style is direct. Usually, that particular style lends to a dryer read, but with Cornick, the prose read more intensely when emotions called for it as was the case when our hero and heroine made love for the first time. The narrative flows well from one scene to the next with all of the important points hit upon without lingering overlong on anything in particular.

There are only a couple of times that Cornick seems to falter. A few parts toward the end seem rushed and a bit forced. One part in particular, Merryn suddenly jumps to a conclusion that she seemed to have no reason to conclude. Yes, the reader can make the same speculation, but we have the benefit of knowing Garrick's thoughts and actions.

Though a well-written story is important, characters are more so. Garrick is honorable to a fault and an apt example of how a good trait can become bad when in abundance. He always tries to do the right thing even if it is detrimental to himself and his desires. Conversely, Merryn is single-minded in her mission, so much so that she believes herself to be more important and worldly than her sisters and others. Neither main character is perfect, but their shortcomings seem believable and they seem willing to work with each other to overcome their mutual failings. In all, every character seemed authentic with reactions and motivations that were in line with how ordinary people would act no matter the time period.

Now, two little nitpicky problems: First, the back matter referred to the hero as Garrick Northesk, which is not the surname most often associated with him. Secondly, the title "Mistress by Midnight" seemed ill-fitted and not connected to the story.

If you have the chance, pick up a copy of MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT especially if you've never read a novel by Nicola Cornick before. I promise, you will want to read more.

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Book Review by CarolAnn
Jan 28, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
207 people found the following review helpful
Nicola Cornick's wonderful combination of star-crossed lovers, hidden secrets, life-threatening danger and delightful touches of humor make MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT an unforgettable read.

Lady Merryn Fenner hates Garrick Northesk, the new Duke of Farne, because ten years ago he killed her adored brother, Stephen, in a duel over Garrick's wife, Kitty. A private investigator, Tom Bradshaw, approaches Merryn with evidence to suggest that no duel actually took place and that, in fact, Garrick murdered her brother. Since then, she has been secretly working for Tom Bradshaw hoping to find further evidence against Garrick so that she can expose him as a murderer and see him hang.

In an effort to find the evidence, Merryn breaks into Farne House but is unaware that Garrick has returned from abroad to take up residence following his father's death. He discovers Merryn but she manages to escape.

Garrick is unable to forget his ‘pocket goddess' of an intruder and is determined to ascertain her identity. However, when he discovers that she is Lady Merryn Fenner, he is forced to seek her out and discover exactly what she knows because the truth surrounding Stephen Fenner's death must never come to light.

Despite everything that has happened in the past, Garrick and Merryn develop a deep mutual desire and, following a near death situation, they finally succumb to their intense feelings. Unfortunately, they are discovered in a highly compromising situation and are forced to marry. Can Garrick and Merryn find true happiness or will the past and a scheming enemy keep them apart?

In Garrick and Merryn, Nicola Cornick has created two very memorable and complex characters.

Garrick is everything a hero should be – handsome, enigmatic, powerfully built, witty and sexy. However, he has one major flaw – ten years ago, he killed his best friend under suspicious circumstances!

It is clear from the start that honor and duty mean everything to Garrick and that the tragic events of the past have been significant in shaping the man he has become. I admire him for his strong sense of honor even when it is at odds with his own personal wishes. For instance, he wants to tell Merryn the truth about the circumstances surrounding her brother's death, but he knows that he cannot break the oath he took ten years ago. He is also aware that if Merryn should learn the truth, ‘she would be horribly disillusioned, all her memories tarnished and her life in ruins again'. I really felt great sympathy for Garrick as there seemed no easy solution to his dilemma.

When he discovers that his father had purchased the Fenner Estates, following the death of the Earl of Fenner, he feels honor bound to return them to Merryn and her sisters by way of a gift. This is not to salve his conscience as Merryn suggests but because he is revolted by the fact that his father profited from those past tragic events.

He sees being a duke and looking after the estate as a ‘monstrous duty' but one which he takes very seriously. His task is made more difficult because of his late father's terrible reputation – ‘The eighteenth Duke had beaten his servants and kicked his dogs, and vice versa.' He has to prove that he is not like his father.

I could not believe that a man with such high principles would be a cold-blooded killer and was delighted when the truth was finally revealed and my faith in him rewarded.

I like Merryn because I always have a soft spot for unconventional heroines. She is a very principled person who ‘believes in justice and fighting for what is right....', although she is very blinkered in her obsession with bringing Garrick to justice. She idolized her brother and has shut her eyes to his true character. We also learn that she has a guilty secret of her own which has colored her view of past events.

She shows a certain naïveté with regard to Tom Bradshaw because she to fails to realise that he has been using her for his own nefarious ends. When she discovers his duplicity, she begins to doubt her own judgment.

I sympathize with her dilemma with regard to her growing feelings for Garrick. He is the man who murdered her brother and she feels guilty for desiring him.

I like the way in which Merryn matures over the course of the book. Initially, she regards her sisters, Joanna and Tess, as frivolous and only interested in clothes and balls. Gradually, she sees just how much they care for her and how much she loves them. Although her life has been exciting, she realizes that it has been devoid of love and that she has never experienced desire until she met Garrick.

Ms Cornick does an excellent job of building and sustaining the sizzling passion between Garrick and Merryn and the love scenes are very sensual.

I really warmed to Merryn's sisters, Joanna and Tess, who revealed hidden sides to their characters. Both provide support to Merryn in different ways when she is facing ruin.

Ms Cornick excels in combining witty banter, exciting action, intensely passionate scenes and wonderfully descriptive narrative. I love Garrick's description of his butler, Pointer, as ‘fluttering around in the dark hall like a monstrous moth' and I could really smell the beer fumes in the scene of the London Beer Flood.

I can highly recommend this book and I will certainly be reading the other two books in this Scandalous Women of the Ton series.
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