This is a perfectly delightful romp of the 'get 'em together and keep 'em together' type, and is sure to please any fan of the Regency romance genre, brimming as it does with smiles and laughter.
Driven by desperation, Theo Winslow hatches a plan to get himself disinherited by his curmudgeonly father. It's simple, really—he'll take home his prospective wife, a young woman totally unsuitable for that position. But where will he find this candidate? Actresses are too expensive (and prone to bow out at the last moment when a real acting job appears!) and he really doesn't know of anyone else who might—but wait! He does know the owner of a bawdy house, and so he appeals to Sallie Ellis for help.
Having admitted to his partiality for red hair, Sallie realizes she has the perfect nominee right in her kitchen! Molly Sweet is the cook for Sallie's house of 'working women' while yet not being one of them. Molly has it in mind to someday own an inn, and is working to save up enough money to be able to purchase one. It's only too obvious that, although Molly knows little of her antecedents or current family either, she's definitely not a girl of the streets. She does know that her father was in the Army in India, and both her parents succumbed to cholera. An uncle took her in, but soon became ill himself, and one of his last acts was to ship Molly home to England and her family.
Unfortunately, something went awry with these plans, and Molly found herself alone on the docks. A bright girl, she set about finding work, which is how she ended up, some years later, in Sallie's kitchen.
Theo's father is a bully, having driven away his older son by his roughshod tactics. Now, he's threatening the same to Theo, who wants to precipitate such action by engaging Molly to be his pretend sweetheart, prompting a real disinheritance, and thus leaving him free to live his own life.
As in most cases, however, the best laid plans go astray, as Molly and Theo discover more and more about each other, and the various incidents that have made them as they are. To the surprise of both, they find more in common than otherwise, and when Terrence (the previously disinherited older brother) comes home to see Theo's strumpet for himself, he unwittingly prompts Molly into giving the three Winslow men a good piece of her mind, before she leaves for London, and the familiar and warm kitchen at Sallie's house.
Theo and Molly are engaging, well-drawn characters who'll tug at your heart as they fumble their way through the obstacles strewn along the path to true love. Their story is told with a gentle sense of humor by the author, who is also very capable of more serious books. A Proper Mistress is a pleasant change of pace, about a young woman who has no idea of how to be a proper mistress, and a young man who decides that, after all is said and done, he doesn't want one, anyway. What he really wants is—a wife! Most enjoyable.