Lady Merryn Fenner spent her childhood adoring her brother Stephen's best friend, Garrick. But, twelve years ago, Garrick killed Stephen in a duel after he'd had an affair with Garrick's wife. The death was ruled an accident, but Garrick, guilt-ridden, fled the country. Now he is back, the new Duke of Farne, and Merryn is determined to prove that her brother's death was no accident, but murder.
Of course, there is much more to the story of what happened that long ago day than Merryn knows or Garrick is willing to tell. He has promised to keep silent in order to protect innocents and, though, as he falls in love with Merryn he longs to unburden himself and give her the answers she needs, he keeps his word. Garrick is a stand-up guy, an honorable and likeable man.
I had more misgivings about Merryn. Merryn is feisty. And not the kinda cute feisty. She's the secretly working for a private investigator for a couple of years and getting caught snooping in Garrick's bedroom kinda feisty. Doing all this while leading her debutante life and keeping it all a secret from her older sisters, stretches credulity. Though she does have her redeeming qualities; her love for her family, her passion for justice, and her perseverance are all admirable.
Cornick does employ one of the best deus ex machina plot devices to bring Garrick and Merryn's passion to a head. She uses a real-life event - the London Beer Flood of 1814, where a vat on top of a brewery exploded, flooding streets, killing several people and, for our purposes, trapping Garrick and Merryn in a demolished building. I also liked that the full story of Stephen's death had some surprises to it.
So, a mixed review from me. Mistress by Midnight had some interesting plot elements and a strong hero. I just wish I'd like the heroine.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, January 10, 2011