Monday, April 9, 2012

Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

That seems to be the case between Edward and Caroline Christie -- after one mad moment of attraction and a whirlwind wedding, they find themselves having to deal with a lifetime of resentment and discord.

They are the embodiment of opposites attract: Edward Christie comes from a long line of barons who have upheld the Christie reputation for immaculate propriety. His life is a series of schedules and organization and he wants everything to be just so -- walking through life without ruffling feathers or stirring up dust.

Caroline Parker's past, in contrast, is mottled and stained. She has no money and no connections and her brother died under the most dissolute circumstance.

The story begins five years after they got married and got separated. Caroline Christie has been installed on Jane Street, (in)famous for the occupants on that row, and has made a name for herself writing romance novels and a reputation for hosting a weekly tea for the Janes (read: mistresses).

Caroline and Edward have an interesting arrangement: she stays on Jane Street and out of his life for 364 days and for 1 night a year, on the anniversary of their separation, they come together.

Robinson showcases her technical skills as a writer in this series -- and she utilizes the POV to show the bittersweet situation our hero and heroine find themselves in. Because what neither one knows is how much the other looks forward to that one night a year. How much they wait in anticipation for that one single night. And how neither one can seem to express, in precise terms, why they are attracted to one another.

When they come together, it is incendiary -- a year's worth of pent-up emotion combusts in that one moment.

But it has been 5 years, and Caroline and Edward are uncertain about what they want. They are both tired of their arrangement but neither one is ready to let the other go. They have talked of divorce and legal separation -- but something prevents them from going through with it.

Mistress by Marriage is a dissection of love and how it comes to be. Most people are fortunate for love happen so apparently that they can express it with eloquence and clarity, but that is not the case for Edward and Caroline -- who fight as often as they love. And love each other as much as they hate being with each other.

"You're ruining my garden."

"You're ruining my life!" Edward snapped.

"Good, because you've ruined mine. you odious, impossible, horrible" -- she paused -- "man!"
- p. 166

So, what does happen when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This paradox has been studied and answered in many way -- but I like Grant Morrison's answer best (from All-Star Superman): They surrender.

This is a story unlike any other that I have read -- and I am delighted to have read it.

Mistress by Marriage is part of the Courtesan Court series by Maggie Robinson.

Btw, I wordled this blog post and this is what it looks like:



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