cover image Mistress


Amanda Quick. Bantam Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09352-0

A sturdy backbone of suspense is the only prop that keeps this latest,uneven historical romance by the author of Deceptions from collapsing. London society in the early part of the 19th century, ruled by rigid patterns of proper behavior, is quick to ostracize those who defy its conventions. So when Iphiginia Bright discovers that her dear old Aunt Zoe is hiding an extremely embarrassing secret--and is being blackmailed for it--the young woman schemes to keep her aunt's reputation intact and to ferret out the perpetrator as well. In order to penetrate the highest levels of society, where the blackmailer operates, Iphiginia poses as the mistress of Marcus Cloud, Earl of Masters. To her chagrin, the earl catches her in the act; but when he learns that a close friend of his is also being blackmailed, the enterprising and unconventional lord joins forces with his strong-minded ``mistress,'' leading to some convoluted sleuthing and complex role-playing interspersed with passionate confrontations. Quick (aka bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz) deftly spins a first-rate mystery that includes a perplexing murder, but her usual light comedic touch disintegrates into burlesque and farce here, with pointless subplots that veer out of control, spawning pages of vapid conversation. Even Quick's two admirable and enchanting protagonists can't salvage this slow and lackluster romance. (June)