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Hidden Secrets in Victorian Society - an Editorial Review of "Chosen Mistress"

Book Blurb:

A complex tale of two women, in early Victorian society exposing the underside of love, sex, and relationships.

Charlotte Ashford will do anything for her cousin Lydia. They are practically sisters, growing up together in the heart of Victorian England. They dreamed they would share their lives forever and made girlish promises to always be there for each other. When Charlotte’s path veers to America and Lydia marries the enchanting Nathanial Hammond, their dream of sharing a life together is fractured.

Years later, Charlotte is unexpectedly left penniless and alone. Learning of her cousin’s fate, Lydia doesn’t hesitate to invite Charlotte to return to England and live with her. But when Charlotte arrives, she discovers that not all is as idyllic as it seems for her cousin.

With promises from the past, to always be there for one another, Lydia is pushed to ask Charlotte to embrace a role that she never could have imagined–to become her husband’s mistress.

As secrets surface and truths unravel, Charlotte finds herself ensnared in a web of duty and deception. Amidst the intricate dance of desire and loyalty, the picturesque life Charlotte and Lydia once envisioned together, now holds a far more complicated plot–one that beckons them to defy convention, question the boundaries of love, and navigate the perilous territory of a shared life with one man.

Book Buy Link:

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Conte is an award winning novelist, writer of short stories published in journals & books from all over the world, and a sketcher of poetry, “Creating Beauty for the mind.” A native to California, she enjoys the year-round gardening weather growing roses, photographing flowers, walking her dog, Winston, or mixing up a cocktail. She prefers whiskey! Her love for writing is only equal to her love of gardening.

Editorial Review:

Charlotte stared at the letter in disbelief, the ink-stained paper crumpling between her fingers. She pressed her temples trying to halt the dizziness swirling in her head, questions flooding her thoughts as she read the words for the third time. The realization sank to the pits of her stomach causing her breathing to become shallow. Life as she knew it was about to be turned upside down–a life that had been so busy caring for her father, she had failed to create one for herself.

She pressed her back against the seat, and rubbed her neck, stiff and strained, as the carriage rattled across the cobblestone streets through Boston heading to the bustling ports where Charlotte’s father’s business resided. Her heart raced listening to the horses’ every stride of their hooves clicking against the pavement. Prudently, uncrumpling the paper clenched in her gloved hand, she read the letter one more time. Holding back tears, she tried to make sense of the words written boldly across the paper:

You are to vacate the premises within a fortnight.

"Chosen Mistress" by Elizabeth Conte is a novel that masterfully intertwines the complexities of love, societal norms, and individual identity within the strictures of early Victorian England. The story revolves around two women, Charlotte Ashford and Lydia, whose deep bond and intertwined destinies lead them into a web of moral and emotional dilemmas.

The book opens with a compelling hook, immediately drawing the reader into the story. The first line and paragraph set the tone for the narrative, offering a glimpse into the novel's thematic depth and stylistic elegance.

The narrative is rich and engaging, with a storyline that deeply immerses the reader in the world of its characters. The plot's central conflict, involving Charlotte being asked to become her cousin Lydia's husband's mistress, is both shocking and intriguing. This complex situation provides fertile ground for exploring themes of loyalty, love, and societal expectations.

Charlotte smirked as she walked to him. “I suppose we are due some leniency…at least in each other’s company.”

Andrew lifted his glass to her and gulped to their agreement.

It is still very early in the afternoon. You might want to slow down to compensate for the hours still ahead of you.”

And you are sensible! Charlotte, if I had any sense at all, I would fall in love with you.”

Are you mocking me? A man who doesn’t believe in love should never claim the possibility to a woman who has hopes of such a noble pursuit.”

What naivety you still carry to believe in such nonsense. Love is a fairytale to entice lovers to be honorable. But honor is not always synonymous with love.”

You are quite cynical. Who has hurt you so to turn your heart cold?”

Maybe I have not found someone to melt the glacial block that lives in my chest. Or maybe I was born without a heart at all.”

Andrew, everyone has a heart! It is how you wield its power that matters. You can love and be loved, or you can let it harden with bitterness and fear. It is your choice. The potential lies within you, not the ability of another to transform you. Why give or let someone take that gift from you?”

Indeed, why would you?” Andrew threw the question back at her.

The book is well-edited, with attention paid to detail, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted reading experience. The formatting compliments the narrative style, with clear demarcation of shifts in perspective or time, aiding in the reader's comprehension and engagement. This book has named chapters that give hints of what is to come in each one, and I always love that in books.

Conte is a master at developing multifaceted personalities. All of the characters—including Lydia and Charlotte—are fully realized and change and grow throughout the narrative. Their growth is deftly depicted, enabling readers to identify with their challenges and victories.

The story keeps a steady flow, with every incident and character development making sense in relation to the ones that came before it. Keeping the narrative consistent aids in creating a universe that makes sense and is credible.

"Chosen Mistress" stands out for its unique portrayal of Victorian society, particularly in its exploration of women's roles and the constraints placed upon them. The novel's approach to its central dilemma is both original and bold.

Conte's writing is evocative and rich, effectively transporting the reader to the era and setting of the story. Her use of language is both beautiful and precise, capturing the nuances of emotion and social nuance with skill.

Nathanial jumped to his feet; he hovered over his wife, blocking the day’s light from her face.

I do not know what I have done to deserve your vile contempt. I never meant to hurt you, nor was my intention to ever desert your heart. I tried…Oh, God knows I have tried to be a good husband, bring you happiness. I had hoped time would heal our separation. But it was not enough for you. I was not enough for you.” He straightened; his shoulders locked. “Was he?”

How dare you! I am here, am I not? I gave you a child...your legacy will continue.”

The narrative arc has a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. As the plot develops, each stage of the story adds to the larger narrative and heightens the suspense and interest. This is as much about the people involved as it is a period piece. Their stories are what drive the narrative forward and keep you wanting more.

The novel's satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion brings all of the narrative threads together in a way that may come as a surprise to some. The reader is left thinking about the ramifications and complexity of the characters' choices.

The novel "Chosen Mistress" is an engrossing and skillfully written work that delves deeply into the complex themes of love, loyalty, and social expectations in the context of early Victorian England. Conte's narrative prowess is evident in her nuanced characters, vivid prose, and an engaging plot that keeps the reader guessing.


“Chosen Mistress” by Elizabeth Conte receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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