A marriage of convenience … full of inconvenient secrets.
Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.
Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.
Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.
As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…
Publisher and Release date: Samhain Publishing, March 2014
Time and Setting: London, 1758
Genre: Historical Romantic Mystery
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Sabrina
Mistress of Merryville starts off with an interesting concept. How do you move forward after learning your protector is to marry and cast you off? I imagine our protagonist, Jocelyn, must have been quite scared and nervous. I expect she was extremely relieved to learn rather quickly that there is a possible replacement. I personally would not have minded if we had explored this circumstance a little longer as it would have been interesting to see how Jocelyn would plan her next move. Aside from this thought, the story that follows is an entertaining romance filled with mystery and suspense.
Leo Sherbourne comes highly recommended from a trusted source and Jocelyn is surprised to hear he is looking to offer her marriage! She is intrigued and curious but also smart enough to accept his proposal without pushing her curiosity too far. She considers herself quite lucky to know Leo accepts her and her mother with all their faults. The fact that he is quite handsome is a nice benefit that she expects will add constant enjoyment to their marital bed. While Jocelyn comes to the relationship with a checkered history, she realizes quickly there is an air of mystery surrounding Leo and his home. Beautiful Merryville Manor holds secrets.
From the minute we enter Merryville Manor we fear things aren’t exactly quite right. The staff is distant if not a bit hostile. Jocelyn’s mother, Elizabeth, is not recovering her health away from the city as Jocelyn hoped, but is becoming increasingly erratic. Women are missing from the village and it seems some of the neighbors are decidedly irksome and intrusive. Then there’s Arabella – beautiful, secretive Arabella. Why is she at Merryville Manor and why is it Leo is away a lot? Things are quickly going awry and Jocelyn is determined to find out why and fix it before her life falls apart. Jocelyn knows that she and Leo are starting to develop a deep affection for each other; not to mention the uninhibited nights they enjoy, so it’s understandable that she wouldn’t want to lose this new life.
I will admit there was one point in the book where I felt the story took a back seat to focus on the passion between Jocelyn and Leo. While these nights were scorching hot and fun for our couple, it does halt the progression of the story somewhat. There are also overwhelming insecurities coming from Jocelyn towards the end of the book. I guess I can give her a little leeway after all she’s been through, but I felt it was out of character for her.
Overall the suspense captivated me and I found myself tensing throughout, never knowing when something else would happen to complicate things. With strong secondary characters such as Captain Cartwright I was able to slowly put the pieces together. If you like romance novels that contain a heathly dose of mystery and suspense this is a book for you.