Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Mistress of my Fate by Hallie Rubenhold

Publication Date: January 8th 2013
Format: Hardcover 464pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"Set during a period of revolution and turmoil, Mistress of My Fate is the first book in a trilogy about Henrietta Lightfoot, a young woman who was abandoned as a baby and raised alongside her cousins, noble children of a lord and lady. At just sixteen years old, circumstance and a passionate love affair tear Henrietta away from everything she knows, leading to a new life fending for herself on the streets of 18th century London as a courtesan, gambler, and spirited intellect of the city."
My Thoughts: 

Living as a companion to her cousin Lady Catherine, Henrietta Ingertion/Lightfoot is treated as nothing more than a poor relation who is bothersome and useless. Although it hurts her not to be accepted as a friend she is still accepting of her fate of solitude among her uncles books, that is until she meets the charming Lord Allenham. Never before has she known such emotion, and never before has someone understood her character so completely, but she is not destined to rise so high in life, and Lady Catherine will be sure to keep her in her place. When a sudden and tragic event occurs, followed by startling revelations, Henrietta must learn to break free of her destiny and become the mistress of her own fate.

This was one of those books where you are captivated one moment, and wanting to skim through pages the next. The redeeming quality that pulls the reader along despite the slow moments was definitely the excellent descriptive detail. From the dresses, to the parties, and the scoping landscape, Hallie Rubenhold did a splendid job of bringing the reader into the heart of 18th century London. Each character faced a certain level of distress, and it was easy to feel sympathy for their plight. Of course this is where the problems started to occur; there is a fine line between sympathy and irritation.

As the story progressed, Henrietta's story began to seem forced. At the beginning her naivete and distress was believable and invoked compassion, but about half-way through she just sounded like a complaining child stomping her foot. In her confessions she claimed innocence, but it came across as stupidity instead. Another inconstancy was the steamy love scenes. They were descriptive and drawn out, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if it fits with the character, but it felt out of place in this story, especially when the character is claiming innocence. Due to these aspects, it was impossible to relate to the main character for the majority of the novel; the secondary characters were much more interesting.

Mistress of My Fate is a novel written in the style of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, and it is reminiscent of Kathleen Winsor's novel Forever Amber. If you are a fan of either of these novels you will find some pleasure in this tale of a fallen woman's perseverance, but don't expect it to have the same sweeping effect.


Copyright © 2013 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.


Mystica said...

Intriguing - thanks for the review.

Lucy said...

I have this one downloaded on my kindle and was wondering how good it was..thanks for the honest review:)

Lady W said...

Thank you for your review of my book and I'm pleased you enjoyed aspects of it. I don't often comment on my reader's interpretations of my work because your opinion is your opinion, but after reading your review I felt the need to clarify a few things. As an 18th century social historian and specialist in what are called 'whore's memoirs' and confessional writing, I attempted to create a book,characters and a narrative voice which were entirely authentic to their time. Henrietta's behaviour and attitudes are a mirror of those of her historic counterparts, as is well documented in source material. She is writing her memoirs in the 1830s, not the 1790s, and as an old woman who has lived her life as a courtesan (amongst other things) and not as an innocent girl. This would account for the sex scene, which has been written by a courtesan and in the idiom of explicit material from that period (do have a look at Julie Peakman's 'Mighty Lewd Books' or Bradford Mudge's 'When Flesh Becomes Word' if exploring this subject is something of interest). I know many modern readers find it difficult to sympathise with the behaviour of women in the past, if women didn't behave in a way which modern readers think is logical, but times and circumstances were extremely different. I've tried to convey this in Mistress of My Fate. Bemoaning one's tragedies and painting oneself as having a flawless character was why one would write a confessional memoir. The narrator was not always being truthful and one of the joys of confessional literature is that the narrator is almost always unreliable - it's their version of events! (Hallie Rubenhold)

Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader said...

Thanks for the honest review, Svea. I have this one on my shelf waiting to be read -- I wonder if my thoughts on it will mirror yours.

Svea Love said...

Yes, I will be looking forward to seeing what you think about it as well. Let me know when/if you read it!

Svea Love said...

Thank you for stopping by, Hallie! I appreciate your comments in response to my review. Your point about the sex scene definitely makes sense when viewing it as coming from the point of a courtesan. Maybe that's where it became unclear for me, because she seemed like she was always trying to describe her true self as an innocent. But as you say, the narrator was not always being truthful, so perhaps I was easily fooled.

Best of luck in writing the second installment of the trilogy! It will be interesting to see what happens to Lord Allenham and Henrietta next time.