cover image His Mistress by Christmas

His Mistress by Christmas

Victoria Alexander. Kensington, $19.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7582-5567-9

Alexander’s inconsistent second “Mistress” Victorian romance (after The Perfect Mistress), her first in hardcover, piles on the clichés. The widowed Veronica, Lady Smithson, decides to take Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater, intrepid explorer and incorrigible rogue, as her lover. An outspoken red-haired beauty, Veronica charms Sebastian with debate and brash enticement. Sebastian, meanwhile, is entirely set on marriage, as his inheritance depends on his family finding him sufficiently respectable. To justify her improprieties, Veronica rolls out simplistic aphorisms about women’s equality. To demonstrate his deep wisdom, Sebastian makes observations like “The journey [is] more important than the destination.” Victoria may find such things “profound,” but the reader hardly will. The story drags through several overt references to The Taming of the Shrew before the inevitable set of mutual realizations plods to a rote conclusion. (Oct.)