From the Telegraph:
The role of the mistress is as old as love and matrimony, but harder to define than either. Elizabeth Abbott, a Canadian academic whose previous books include a history of celibacy, has taken up the challenge in Mistresses: a History of the Other Woman.
Abbott writes that it was while researching her book on celibacy that “I came to realise that mistressdom is, in fact, an institution parallel and complementary to marriage. Though many people assume that adultery undermines marriage,” she notes, “many others believe that, paradoxically, it shores marriage up.” The material, in short, could hardly be richer or more complex.
In 13 chapters, beginning with illicit love in the ancient world and concluding with the changing role of the mistress after the sexual revolution of the Sixties, Abbott considers the careers of mistresses in a variety of different eras and cultures.