The Perfect Mistress: A Novel by Betina KrahnThe Perfect Mistress: A Novel by Betina Krahn

The Perfect Mistress: A Novel

byBetina Krahn

Mass Market Paperback | September 1, 1995

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The Perfect Mistress is the perfect follow-up to The Last Bachelor. This time the heroine is a courtesan's daughter who wants the unthinkable: to get married... The daughter of an exquisite London courtesan, beautiful and blunt Gabrielle La Coeur is determined to make a different life for herself -- staid, respectable... married. Pierce St. James is an openly libertine viscount, who intends to stay single and free of the hypocrisy of Victorian society. For Gabrielle, there is only one way out of the life her mother has planned for her -- she must become the virginal "mistress" of London's most notorious rake.
Betina Krahn lives in Florida with her husband, two sons, and salt-and-pepper schnauzer. With degrees in biology and counseling, she has worked in teaching, personnel management, and mental health. She attributes her positive outlook on life to having married an unflinching optimist and two great-grandmothers named Pollyanna.
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Title:The Perfect Mistress: A NovelFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 6.88 × 4.2 × 1.23 inPublished:September 1, 1995Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553565230

ISBN - 13:9780553565232

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from I like it! The plot is very funny and original, and the whole book is written very well. I suggest this book!
Date published: 2015-10-23

Read from the Book

London / April 1883   “You’re in for it now, my girl.”   The majordomo’s whisper resonated in the quiet hallway as he reached for the polished door handle.   One of the massive double doors swung back, and the low drone of voices and the scent of perfume rolled from the opening. Gabrielle LeCoeur stiffened and cast a dread-filled look at the stone-faced houseman. He narrowed his eyes and gave her a nudge that propelled her through the opening into her mother’s boudoir. The latch clicked softly behind her and she was left alone to face her fate … Gabrielle in the lioness’s den.   The large chamber was filled with the soft glow of evening light, grandly baroque furnishings, and the pervasive aura of woman at her most sensory and elemental. Every curve of the polished mahogany and drape of silk damascene … every hue, from delicate mauve to rich burgundy … and every texture, from lush velvet to glittering gilt, was contrived to recall the chamber’s owner and prime occupant, Rosalind LeCoeur. The lighting and furnishings were carefully arranged to direct every eye, from every possible perspective, to her. Gabrielle’s gaze traveled along one of those cannily composed lines of sight toward her mother. She groaned silently.   There sat Rosalind on a round silk divan flanked by sprays of imported spring flowers. She was surrounded by three other women, each attired in a floral silk dress with an elaborate bustle and an extravagant “picture” hat.   “I take it you have recovered from your little ‘upset,’ ” her mother said, waving her into a chair with a superbly manicured hand. The remark was more an order than an observation.   As Gabrielle complied, four pairs of experienced feminine eyes scrutinized every drape and furl of her gown and every curve and line of her body beneath it. She perched stiffly on the edge of the high-backed parlor chair placed strategically before them. She hadn’t known they would be here: her mother’s bosom friends. It boded ill.   “Really, Gabrielle, getting sick in front of him … very nearly on him!” Her mother rose and stared at her with consternation. “How could you behave so toward a gentleman who has come to seek your hand?”   It wasn’t the sort of question that required an answer. Gabrielle bit her tongue to keep from declaring that her hand had not been mentioned—though a number of her other parts had been quite thoroughly discussed. It wasn’t her fault she had gotten sick, she thought mutinously; the overheated wretch had smelled of garlic and that putrid ambergris. And if he had kept his tongue to himself during that interminable kiss, she might have managed without almost giving up her din—   “You not only failed to captivate the count, you may have put him off altogether,” her mother said, pacing back and forth, turning so quickly that her tea gown billowed about her. “A man of his station would never find such a green and unpredictable girl appealing. And after all my efforts on your behalf—that expensive schooling and travel, those endless lessons and countless brushes of culture. What good are they if you do not display them to advantage?… What have you to say for yourself, young lady?”   What did she have to say? She hadn’t wanted to believe that it truly would come to this: her education, her experiences, her talents, and even her very body were to be employed for the sole purpose of enticing and pleasuring a man. But it had come to this. It was now or never, she realized. Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath and met her mother’s narrowed eyes.   “I didn’t like him,” she said.   “Didn’t like him?” Roses bloomed in Rosalind’s fashionably pale cheeks as she exchanged looks of astonishment with her lady friends. “See here, Gabrielle … he is by far your best prospect.” She stalked closer, visually probing Gabrielle’s person. “Like it or not, we must get on with settling your future. You are nearly nineteen years old. You cannot go on wearing hair bows and white voile forever!”   White voile. Gabrielle looked down at the frothy white confection of a gown that was fashioned in a sly but unmistakable parody of a young girl’s schoolroom pinafore: ruffles over the shoulders and an apronlike front that darted in snugly at the waist to reveal attributes that declared the wearer to be beyond schoolroom days. When she glanced up, the others were staring with discernment at those same ruffles and darts and at the waist and bosom they both concealed and displayed.   “You have quite lost the ‘baby fat,’ ma petite,” one of her mother’s friends crooned in French accents. “Not that you have not blossomed well …”   “No offense, my dear, but you’re on the brink of outgrowing your virginal appeal,” a second declared with a look down a patrician nose. “And one must never outgrow one’s virginal appeal before one disposes advantageously of one’s virginity.”   “Take it from me, lovey,” the third advised in countrified tones, “there ain’t nothin’ men find more tiresome than a stringy old virgin.”   Gabrielle’s skin caught fire at their assessment of her perishable value as an object of desire. She squeezed her hands together in her lap as she struggled to control her rising anger. “Perhaps … I’m not ready.”   “Not ready?” Rosalind began to perceive the hostility beneath Gabrielle’s embarrassment, and she straightened with alarm. “What an absurd notion. You are well educated, suitably accomplished, impeccably well mannered, and certainly of the right age. It is your destiny, my dear, and you must reconcile yourself to it.”   “Reconcile herself? Mon Dieu—she should fall to her knees in gratitude!”   “Not every young miss gets such a fine chance!”   “She should be preparing for the singular and incomparable joy of a woman’s life … a man!”   “And a splendid destiny it is.” Rosalind resumed her discourse, adopting a pose of subtle drama, her arms open wide. “The swell of grand passion … the searing delight of being in love … the thrill of being desired … the absorbing intricacy of romance … the rapture of being crowned queen of a man’s heart and made the center of his life … Nothing on earth can surpass the pleasures of spending sweet, stolen hours in the arms of your one true love.”   “Not to mention the lovely gifts.”   “Th’ clothes.”   “The stock portfolio.”   “This is a matter of the utmost importance, Gabrielle.” Her mother pinned her with a look that fairly crackled with imperative. “The count is admirably suited … a man with a thorough knowledge of the world, a generous nature, and an enormous bank balance.” Then she hastily added: “And he is so gentlemanly and well favored. Just the sort to steal a girl’s heart and keep her madly enthralled for years to come.”   “So delightfully bowlegged and bulbous-nosed,” Gabrielle muttered before she could stop herself. “And with the way he spits and sprays when he speaks, I should certainly never want for something to water my pot plants.”   “Water your—” With a furious motion, Rosalind drew a handkerchief from the bosom of her gown and began to dab at her reddening face. “It is clear that you have no notion of the pitfalls that lie in wait for a headstrong, disobedient young girl who faces the world alone. You must submit to the guidance of your elders—we who have your interests at heart and know what sort of choices must be made. A young girl cannot possibly know her own mind in such intricate matters.”   Every word struck a nerve in Gabrielle as she struggled to keep silent. How could they possibly have any idea what she knew or wanted or cared about? She had been back in London, in her mother’s house, for only three months. Three months out of the last twelve years. And now her mother could not wait to be rid of her … again.   “Well, I cannot speak for other young women,” she said, curling her hands into icy fists around the white ruffles on her lap. “But I certainly know my own mind. I am nineteen—old enough to know what I want. And it certainly is not the count!”   Rosalind blinked, alarmed at her daughter’s unprecedented display of defiance. “If you find the wealthy and generous count so objectionable—dearest heaven, Gabrielle—just what sort of man do you want?”   “A man who saves his money and doesn’t gamble, hunt, or drink to excess. A man who is dignified and presentable in public and will have the decency not to burden me overmuch with his presence in private,” Gabrielle proclaimed, watching her mother flinch as the words struck. “I want a man who belongs to the Athenaeum and Liberal clubs and spends every evening there, engrossed in Voltaire or politics or the price of pork. I want a man who tends his own business and doesn’t bother me with it … or with his innermost thoughts and longings.”   Rosalind drained of color and stumbled back a step. “Dearest heaven, Gabrielle, that sounds like … a … a husband.”   Gabrielle met her mother’s horrified gaze and braced.   “Precisely.” She swallowed hard then came straight out with it: “I don’t want a grand romance, a thrilling passion, or a life of intoxicating love. I want to be married.”   She had finally said it. After three interminable months of being groomed to take her place in her mother’s world, it was in the open at last. She didn’t want the kind of life her mother had. She didn’t want to be a mistress; she wanted to be a wife.   Her declaration was met with stunned silence.   “I am sorry if my desire to marry disappoints you,” she said, summoning every last spark of her courage. “But, I simply am not constituted for life as a great courtesan, like you.” She glanced determinedly at the others before turning back to her mother to announce: “I … don’t have the juices for it.”   Rosalind blanched, couldn’t seem to expel her breath, and after a moment, crumpled gracefully onto the lush brocade of the divan. One lady friend rushed to her side and patted her cheek, another hurried to ring the bell, and the third flew to search the dressing table for smelling salts and toilet water.   “Wicked girl—how could ye speak such to yer mother? Marriage, o’ all things!”   “A vile affront to l’amour.”   “A cold, filthy bargain … a veritable desert of duty and dullness.”   They fanned Rosalind with a silk pillow, waved a small blue bottle under her nose, and wetted a handkerchief with cooling toilet water to dab on her temples. She soon revived, and once assured that her condition was not serious, the trio of experienced courtesans turned their attentions to Gabrielle, determined to set her straight on the nature of marriage.  

From Our Editors

Planning to marry a man of her choice as opposed to the wealthy protector her courtesan mother has decided upon, Gabrielle Le Coeur pretends to be the mistress of libertine viscount Pierce St. James. Original.