With the influx of regency romances, it was nice to see one that was unpretentious in its simplicity. Nicola Cornick’s writing is strong, thoughtful and unabashedly straightforward with characters that are both memorable and sympathetic.
It is typically a taboo for a man to lust after his best friend’s little sister. That is doubly true for Garrick Farne who killed his best friend Stephen in a duel. Having just returned from his exile, Garrick meets Stephen’s little sister Merryn, who is hiding under his bed. Merryn’s motivation is simple. She wants to avenge her brother’s death by ruining the man she used to have a crush on.
Garrick and Merryn’s attraction is meddlesome and unwanted. They show it, they think it and the reader feels it. Nicola Cornick writing style is direct. Usually, that particular style lends to a dryer read, but with Cornick, the prose read more intensely when emotions called for it as was the case when our hero and heroine made love for the first time. The narrative flows well from one scene to the next with all of the important points hit upon without lingering overlong on anything in particular.
There are only a couple of times that Cornick seems to falter. A few parts toward the end seem rushed and a bit forced. One part in particular, Merryn suddenly jumps to a conclusion that she seemed to have no reason to conclude. Yes, the reader can make the same speculation, but we have the benefit of knowing Garrick’s thoughts and actions.
Though a well-written story is important, characters are more so. Garrick is honorable to a fault and an apt example of how a good trait can become bad when in abundance. He always tries to do the right thing even if it is detrimental to himself and his desires. Conversely, Merryn is single-minded in her mission, so much so that she believes herself to be more important and worldly than her sisters and others. Neither main character is perfect, but their shortcomings seem believable and they seem willing to work with each other to overcome their mutual failings. In all, every character seemed authentic with reactions and motivations that were in line with how ordinary people would act no matter the time period.
Now, two little nitpicky problems: First, the back matter referred to the hero as Garrick Northesk, which is not the surname most often associated with him. Secondly, the title “Mistress by Midnight” seemed ill-fitted and not connected to the story.
If you have the chance, pick up a copy of MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT especially if you’ve never read a novel by Nicola Cornick before. I promise, you will want to read more.