(4.5) Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned….
You know I love the new cover Sourcebooks put out last year but those older ones are a lot more fun. A bit different from your usual Du Maurier novel, in this one she tells the story of her great-great-grandmother Mary Anne Clarke.
Borne into a poor London family, Mary Anne marries Joseph Clarke who ends up drinking and gambling away any money he gets from his family. Disgusted with the marriage and desperate to support her children, Mary Anne finds herself tempted by a *cough* broker for the wealthy nobility and becomes mistress to Frederick Duke of York. Although being a mistress of a prince with no head for money brings on its own dilemma – how to run a household and a lavish lifestyle on the meager allowance the Duke gives her. With a war looming, men eager for commissions seek preferable treatment through Mary Anne, as the Duke is also the Commander-in-Chief and an offer of money gets a word in the right ear.
Eventually the Duke tires of Mary Anne and she finds herself out in the cold with massive household debts and no pension from the Duke, her brother unjustly cashiered out of the army and her finger is very much in the pie when the scandal of selling commissions hits Parliament with a full blown investigation including the testimony of one very disgruntled ex-mistress. I won’t be a spoiler, but further actions taken by Mary Anne in revenge against those who “done her wrong” don’t work out as planned and sets her on a nine-month path of harrowing consequences.
Du Maurier is superb as always, she had me hooked from the very unusual opening reflecting back on Mary Anne’s life (do go back and reread it after you’ve finished) to the very end as she makes a very final and fitting farewell to the man who had such an impact on her life. The kind of woman you either love or hate, Mary Anne was most definitely a woman who did what she had to do in order to survive in a man’s world and make a better life for her children. Du Maurier doesn’t sugar coat her image either – she’s presented as is, warts and all. I loved the relationship between her and the Duke, particularly their first meeting in the *cough* broker’s parlor where not knowing who she’s set to meet she natters on about the latest court gossip (priceless!), to their first dinner and the popping buttons (you’ll know when you get there) although tops was the way the author worked in Mary Anne getting those officer’s names out there in between seducing the Duke. Its so refreshing to see that an author can write a sex scene so subtly that it isn’t staring you in the face with blow-by-blow details but you know what’s going on at the same time. The only parts that did drag were the court scenes, with endless pages of testimony and dialogue, and for that I’m knocking off 1/2 star – 4.5/5 stars.