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Literature / A Pearl for My Mistress

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A Pearl for My Mistress (2017) is a novel by Annabel Fielding, set in 1930s Britain. It follows Hester, a young, ambitious girl, who finds a job as a lady's maid in order to better her prospects, as well as to escape the inevitable Small Town Boredom. Working in an isolated household of Impoverished Patricians, she ends up falling in love with the young lady she serves. Lady Lucy is a sensitive and talented young woman, striving to escape her stifling, conservative surroundings. She is desperately lonely, and, after a while, she seems to return Hester's affections. Hester is overjoyed. There is a catch, though: her intelligent, passionate Lady Lucy is also a fascist sympathizer with a penchant for dabbling in international affairs...


A Pearl for My Mistress contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents - Lucy had an easily irritable, creepily possessive father and a manipulative, implied sadistic, unhealthily perfectionist mother.
    • Fridge Horror? This part was based on very-much-real Diana Mitford's childhood. Some more Fridge Horror? The author actually toned it down.
  • Affably Evil - Eugen is nothing if not courteous and reasonable.
  • Ambition Is Evil - Averted with Hester and Sophie. The former wants to find a place in a wealthy household and travel the world, the latter is very determined to become a famous jazz singer, but they are both really nice people. Played more or less straight with Lucy.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil - Averted with Eleanor. Despite being an "Honourable Miss", she is the sweetest cinnamon roll around. Played straight with... pretty much everyone else.
  • Aroused by Their Voice - At their first meeting, Lucy can't help but notice, how deep and pleasant Eugen's voice is. (Overlaps with Evil Sounds Deep.)
  • "Awesome McCool" Name - Lucy Elaine Fitzmartin. Sounds like it also belongs to a very sweet person. It doesn't.
    • Also, as the ending hints, she has a fair chance of acquiring an even cooler name: Lucy Elaine von Frenzel.
  • Badass Bookworm - Lucy is, in her own words, "weak and pale". However, she is a superb writer, so colorful and persuasive, that she could sell snow to the Inuits (and pro-German views to World War I survivors...).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family - The Palmers. It's implied, that in their heyday the Fitzmartins were also this. No, the family didn't get any less screwed-up; it just got smaller...
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing - Lucy. So much.
  • Berserk Button - Don't lie to Lucy Fitzmartin. Ever. Also, don't assume her to be a stupid child. She is not a stupid child.
  • Betty and Veronica - It's complicated. On one hand, Hester is a gentle, kind-hearted girl (Betty), while Eugen is a charismatic foreigner with VERY questionable ideals. On the other hand, though, romance with Hester is infinitely more dangerous for Lucy. Her affair with Eugen is quite illicit as well, but, at least, it will not lead her into an asylum.
    • A more straight-up one for Hester: cheerful housemaid Abigail vs. gorgeous Nazi Noblewoman Lucy.
  • Brainy Brunette - Lucy, unfortunately for everyone.
  • Byronic Heroine - Lucy is an intelligent and sophisticated Anti-Villain with a grandiose aim. High-minded and introspective, her great enterprise is doomed (by [[Foregone Conclusion history.
  • The Corrupter - Eugen von Frenzel, to Lucy. Not that Lucy is a pure Ingenue to start with...
  • Darker and Edgier - The book was supposed to be this (if not an outright Take That!) for the popular period dramas a lá Downton Abbey. It deals with economic problems, unsavory politics and racist attitudes of the "glamorous" 1930s in a more forthright fashion.
  • Dark Is Not Evil - Sophie Blake is a sultry Chanteuse with olive skin and a serpentine body. One would expect her to be a local Femme Fatale, but she is really a cheerful, kind person who loves her sister.
  • Defecting for Love - In-universe, Lucy mocks this trope, when Hester proposes to use it in her new novel. However, that's precisely what she offers Hester in the end.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance - No one would expect Lucy, a Nazi sympathizer, to be comfortable with the notion of interracial romance; however, even "good" characters, like Hester and Sophie, are at least disturbed by it.
    • Likewise, Lucy having a Nazi lover, who is significantly older than her, is (supposedly) forgiven much easier, than her lesbian affair with a sweet girl her age.
    • Also, being an open Nazi sympathizer in the British society doesn't affect her career or social life at all. (The fact, that she is also a titled lady probably helps, though).
  • Draco in Leather Pants - In-universe, Hester tends to see Lucy as much more of a Woobie than she actually is, and tries to separate her (occasionally redeeming) actions from her (really horrible) beliefs. Justified; Hester is in love with her, after all...
  • Evil Counterpart - Inverted; Charity Williams, a minor character, looks like a Good Counterpart to Lucy the Anti-Villain protagonist. Charity is a well-educated, politically astute writer; however, unlike Lucy, she is implied to have come from a relatively healthy and supportive background. Also, unlike Lucy, she is evidently uncomfortable with the rise of Far Right politicians.
  • Even Evil Has Standards - Lucy is (at least, by the end of the story) totally a-okay with propaganda, manipulation, blackmail and working for the Nazis. However, the notion of marital infidelity disgusts her.
  • Evil Is Sexy - Eugen and Lucy's night together is implied to have been pretty awesome. In the morning, she is worried about this "excess of pleasure", along with the lack of sleep, temporarily dulling her wits.
  • Evil Mentor - Eugen's conversations with Lucy have shades of this.
  • Face–Heel Turn - Lucy Fitzmartin. It's debatable, of course, how much of a "face" she initially was. She did already work for a fascist organization, however moderate one, in the beginning... (And managed to get worse.)
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job - Lucy's family regards her journalistic occupation to be this. Lucy herself actually enjoys both the job itself and the independent income it allows her.
  • Femme Fatale - that's Sophie's stage persona, that has almost nothing to do with her actual personality. Granted, she is not averse to a little wheeling and dealing, but there is nothing really devious about either her or her plans.
  • Fiery Redhead - Abigail.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling - Hester considers herself and Sophie to be this (herself being the responsible one, of course). It's not quite as simple - Sophie is more impulsive and passionate, but she is certainly not foolish.
  • Gentlewoman Snarker - Better known in society as Lady Lucy Fitzmartin.
  • Grammar Nazi - Lucy, in more ways than one.
  • Greater-Scope Villain - Eugen serves the scheming German ambassador, Joachim von Ribbentrop; and behind him, in turn, looms a shadow of one failed Austrian artist...
  • Hero of Another Story - Real-life Stephanie Von Hohenlohe. Although she is more likely to be considered a Villain of Another Story...
    • Also, Charity Williams - a passionate intellectual and a successful writer, who is evidently uncomfortable with the rise of right-wing politicians. She appears only in two scenes, though...
  • Honor-Related Abuse - What teenage Lucy was subjected to after her secret correspondence with her cousin was uncovered.
  • Hypocritical Humor - Yes, Lucy, you are just the person to condemn someone for illicit affairs...
  • Icy Blue Eyes - Lucy's blue eyes are described as "lucid" and "unsettlingly clear". Though a lot of people seem to mistake them for Innocent Blue Eyes...
  • Impoverished Patrician - The Fitzmartins are this.
  • Incest Subtext - All the actual situations involving Hester and Sophie are quite innocent. However, in-universe, Lucy tends to regard their relationship... a little strangely.
    • A much more chilling example for Lucy herself. When describing her possessive father, she mentions, that he could have wanted her for himself. And her laugh at the moment sounds quite humorless.
  • Karma Houdini - In the end, Lucy is doing just fine (although she is an emotional mess). So does Eugen. They have rosy plans for the future, that might or might not include an engagement and a road trip through Europe.
    • Although, given certain later events of European history, this might be more like Karma Houdini Warranty...
    • Kind of Truth in Television, given, that neither Diana Mosley nor Stephanie von Hohenlohe (both partly inspiration for Lucy's character) suffered any serious repercussions even after the war, let alone before.
  • Kissing Cousins - Lucy and Albert. Justified; it's the early 20th century England we are talking about, after all...
  • Les Yay - Sophie and Lucy have these moments, combined with some Foe Yay. And, given Lucy's bisexuality...
  • Light Is Not Good - Lucy is a blue-eyed, ivory-skinned, semi-translucent young lady with a bright smile. Even her names, both the first and the middle one, mean "light"! However, if you read the book till the end, you'll see, that she is very, very... not good. At best, she is a Jerkass Woobie or an Anti-Villain. At the very best.
  • Love Redeems - Hester puts great hopes in this trope; however, it ends up deconstructed...
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl - Lucy's courtship of Hester has some shades of this. It doesn't last, though.
  • Manipulative Bastard - Basically a part of Eugen's job description. And Lucy's, eventually.
  • Most Writers Are Writers - Not only is Lucy a writer and a journalist; she is a writer with a clear penchant for historical fiction. But we really, really hope she is not an Author Avatar.
  • Ms. Fanservice - try counting all the scenes, where Lucy is either undressed, half-dressed, or only dressed in someone's shirt or a Sexy Backless Outfit...
  • Nazi Nobleman - Eugen is an interesting example. Being a younger son in a minor family, he wouldn't have gotten much out of his origins, even if the revolution didn't come into play. And, as it is, he actually thinks the whole landed wealth and title thing to be a relic of a bygone age, and is enthusiastic about the new German regime, more popular in nature.
    • His sort-of historical inspiration, Count Von Durckheim, went even further - he felt so strongly on the subject, that he actually rejected his inheritance altogether.
  • Nazi Protagonist - Downplayed with Lucy Fitzmartin. She is more of a "moderate Nazi sympathizer protagonist".
  • Nobility Marries Money - Sir Palmer and Marianne Lindley are a rather heartbreaking example. What makes it even more heartbreaking is the fact, that they are based on the true story of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, and his first wife Mary.
  • Not So Different - Lucy evokes this trope in her confrontation with Sophie, and privately she is positively gleeful about the fact.
    • On a grander scale, she ponders as to whether Britain and (early) Nazi Germany are this, especially in certain aspects. After all, both use slogans like "we turn modern girls into little housewives" unironically...
  • Old, Dark House - Hebden Hall.
  • Old Retainer - Mrs. Mullet. Hester dreads over the prospect of becoming one some day.
  • Only Sane Woman - Lucy considers herself to be one. Sophie actually is one.
  • Oop North - Where the Blake sisters hail from. Neither is overjoyed by it.
  • Pragmatic Villainy - Lucy hopes, that Sir Palmer isn't going to go all violent on his daughter's black suitor... because otherwise it will screw Lucy's scheme to bribe Sophie.
  • Prevent A War - Lucy is a rare (anti)villainous example with this trope for a motivation.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain - Lucy starts out as a rebellious, spirited young woman. Towards the end, she becomes a staunch Nazi supporter, ready to sacrifice anything and anyone to her cause. Has some From Nobody to Nightmare undertones.
  • Piggybacking on Hitler - Eugen von Frenzel is a rather mundane example. He is hardly an ardent National Socialist; however, he panders to Nazi ideas in his research and writing in hope to advance his own academic career.
    • Lucy in the end qualifies, too.
  • Purple Prose - In-universe. Lucy is embarrassed of her early writing, because it consisted mostly of this. Justified, as she was basically raised by Georgian and Victorian novels. Also, in her defense, by "early" writing this troper means, that she was freaking thirteen.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin - Lucy's appearance. Her skin is directly compared to ivory on more than one occasion.
  • Servile Snarker - Hester is in general less snarky than her mistress, but she has her moments.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness - Eugen's manner of speech has to be seen to be believed.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit - Lucy wears one to her evening at Lady Cunard's, where she meets Eugen for the first time.
  • Shout-Out - During her conversation/confrontation with Sophie, Lucy says at one point "You underestimate my power". These were the exact words of a certain other young talent, corrupted into service to a totalitarian government...
    • Lucy and Eugen's first meeting is one hell of a shout-out to Evita.
  • Silk Hiding Steel - Lucy evolves from a more straight-up Ingenue into this.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist - Lucy's mother. Must be In the Blood; when Lucy starts to speak "with the softness of winter mists", it rarely means anything good...
    • Lucy isn't really sadistic, though. Her villainy is largely pragmatic.
  • Southern Belle - It's implied, that Eleanor's mother, Marianne Lindley, was one.
  • Small Town Boredom - In part what propels Hester to seek not-very-lucrative employment as a lady's maid.
  • Technical Virgin - Lucy invokes this trope before sleeping with Eugen. "Never been with a man", indeed...
  • Those Wacky Nazis - Only one actually shows up in the plot, but they are frequently referenced.
  • Unholy Matrimony - Lucy and Eugen form something like this towards the end.
  • Uptown Girl - Lady Lucy is this to her maid Hester. The romance doesn't end well.
  • Villainous Crush - Lucy's love for Hester can be considered this.
    • Eugen von Frenzel's crush on Lucy can definitely be considered this.
  • Villain Has a Point - Lucy actually has plenty of points, particularly regarding the hypocrisy of much-idealized aristocratic "old world" (arranged marriages, kept mistresses, negligent education for girls etc.).
  • Villain Protagonist - Lucy deteriorates into one of those pretty quickly.
  • We Can Rule Together - A rather downplayed example, as Lucy doesn't really rule anything per se. However, she offers Hester to assist her in service to those, who do.
  • White Sheep - Eleanor, for the Palmers. Lucy looks like one for the Fitzmartin family... until it turns out, that she inherited all the familial screwed-upness, and then some.
  • Wicked Cultured - Eugen. He is extremely well-mannered, well-educated, well-travelled and well-dressed. He is also an opportunist, a blackmailer and a Nazi. Towards the end, Lucy shows some undertones of this trope, too.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy - Teenage Lucy considered herself to be a Gothic novel heroine. Her living in an Old, Dark House Oop North didn't help.
    • Likewise, Hester seems to think, that she is in a Jane Eyre-like narrative as a plucky, highly principled underling, who will soften and redeem her dark and troubled master (in this case, mistress).


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