This book is the second in as series written by Susan Wiggs. What drew me to purchase the book? 1) It is set in the United States and 2) it takes place on the night of the Chicago fire.
When Kathleen O’Leary (daughter of the woman who allegedly started the Chicago fire) accepts a dare from two upper-class girls to pass herself off as the daughter of an upper class family, she earns the attention of the most sought after bachelor in Chicago – Dylan Kennedy. What Kathleen and her friends don’t know is that Dylan is a con artist looking for a wealthy girl to marry so that he can make off with her money. What Dylan sees is Kathleen, dressed in borrowed finery and wearing borrowed jewels. He doesn’t know that she’s a maid to the upper-class daughter of a wealthy local family.
A hot wind blowing in from the Illinois prairie on that hot October night carries a spark from the chimney of a Western Division family’s home, finding a welcome in a haystack in the O’Learys barn. The spark catches flame, the fire spreads, and the rest is history. Kathleen and Dylan try to outrun the fire and seek shelter in the City Hall. When it becomes apparent that City Hall will soon be a pile of rubble, Kathleen and Dylan accept the fact that they will soon perish. The town clerk, pinned under some fallen rubble, signs a marriage certificate while a local priest marries them. The mayor himself serves as witness.
By sheer luck they escape the encroaching fire and in an abandoned Pullman car Kathleen and Dylan create sparks of their own. Only later, after the worst of the fire is over, does Kathleen try to find her family. But will Dylan remain with his ‘wife’ or will he leave in search of a true upper-class wife when he learns Kathleen’s secret of being a maid?
I loved this book! The tempo of the story is set by the all consuming fire and we are led through the pages in rapid succession, hoping for a happy ending that is at all times threatened by the forces of nature.
The Mistress is a true page-turner. Kept me on the edge of my seat – couldn’t put it down. I have since bought the first book of the series (The Hostage) and have ordered the third (The Firebrand). The research that Susan Wiggs has done is evident in the smallest details, i.e., taking us down street after street and giving us the landmarks to track the movement of the fire.
You won’t be disappointed in The Mistress!
Rating: MMMMMm (5 1/2 M’s) – Excellent +