Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Mistress by Susan Wiggs

Title: The Mistress
Series: Chicago Fire Trilogy
Author: Susan Wiggs
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 27, 2010
Publisher: MIRA
ISBN: 0778327906
ISBN-13: 9780778327905

October 8, 1871—One small spark ignites the entire city of Chicago, sending its residents into panic. But amid the chaos, a case of mistaken identity leads to an unexpected new love.

As the historic fire ignites across town, Kathleen O'Leary finds herself dressed in borrowed diamonds and silk, enjoying a lavish masquerade. The penniless maid has caught the eye of Dylan Francis Kennedy, the rich, handsome gentleman all of high society has been speculating about. The night feels alive with magic...and ripe with promise.

Then fire sweeps through the city, cornering the young lovers with no hope of rescue. Desperate to share their last moments together, Kathleen and Dylan impulsively marry. Incredibly, they survive. Now, as the fire burns down to cold ash, Kathleen must tell Chicago's most eligible bachelor that he has married a fraud. But the joke's on her. For this gentleman is no gentleman. While Kathleen had hoped to win Dylan's love, he had planned only to capture her heart and steal her fortune. Dylan Kennedy—con artist, gambler, and ne'er-do-well—has been unwittingly caught in his own game. Now the real sparks are about to fly.

My rating:

When a “love story” starts with a deception you know you’re in for a treat. This one started with two deceptions. Both Kathleen and Dylan pretended to be something they weren’t. And their story, how they got to know each other in deception, fell in love, discovered each other’s duplicity, pretended nothing ever happened, but never managed to stay apart, was a real (double) treat to behold.

I cannot say I was moved by their story as much as by Deborah and Tom’s sweeping tale (The Hostage), but it was still a wonderful read. Sure, thinking back I’d say their “courtship” was rather rushed—they fell in love and married in one single night—but it all seemed longer, due to the eerie descriptions of the devastation the fire caused (even the resolution to the “misunderstanding” took a little longer, but I’m not complaining).

I doubt you’ll notice the abruptness of their romance, I didn’t.

While Ms. Wiggs paid only a small “tribute” to the Chicago fire in The Hostage, giving it more a catalyst role to Deborah and Tom’s story, the disastrous fire takes a more center-stage role in The Mistress, serving as a backdrop to Kathleen and Dylan’s whirlwind romance. The imagery was chilling and eerie, the wording rather subtle, but painting a horrifying picture of that tragic night.

Along with The Hostage, The Mistress was another great installment in the Chicago Fire Trilogy and I cannot wait to read the last one, The Firebrand, Lucy’s story. I wonder what happened between her and Rand at the reception where Kathleen and Dylan first met.


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