Seducing The Heiress
by Olivia Drake, historical (2009)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0312943458
Olivia Drake is not a new author - she's the pseudonym of the author who had published romances under the name Barbara Dawson Smith. Seducing The Heiress would have been a predictable but decent historical romance were not for the unlikable hypocritical hero.
Portia Crompton is a wealthy tradesman's daughter whose family made a quick return from India when Portia was caught kissing the son of the Maharaj. Despite the fact that it is madness for her to imagine that she can have a happily ever after with an Indian prince as they will face strong opposition from every side, Portia is determined that love will conquer all and she makes half-baked plans to flee to Arun's side in India after her season. Colin Byrd, our Viscount Ratcliffe, needs a quick infusion of money into his coffers - a lot of money - and he targets Portia for marriage, with a quick trip to the bank as part of the honeymoon itinerary. He will soon exploit Portia's frantic plans for his own advantage.
Seducing The Heiress is therefore basically a story of our daft heroine being played like a violin by our hero. Portia likes to imagine that she's on to Colin's plan, but while she knows that he's after her money, he nonetheless plays her so easily because like most romance heroines, Portia cannot control her libido. She is horny, therefore she must put out, and yes, it's because she's in love. Sigh. Portia keeps coming up with all these plans that are bound to fail and she's way out of her depths in this story - I can't help feeling sorry for her. It doesn't help that despite being a beauty, poor Portia can't seem to attract a halfway decent beau. Ms Drake makes sure that the other man that Portia could choose turns out to be a villain, so in the end poor Portia has to marry Colin because it's not like she has any other choice.
Colin... oh, where do I start? He's a hypocrite, telling himself and Portia that the nice guy Portia hangs out with is a nasty villain with sinister purposes - as if Colin himself didn't have a mercenary purpose to go after Portia, really. He is so whiny and self-absorbed, he's not a likable fellow. He doesn't even redeem himself in the end. When his back is against the wall, he is more than happy to abandon Portia, whom he had ruined and shagged without protection (he leaves it to the woman to carry out preventive measures against pregnancy - he just shot and left in the past, so to speak). Oh, he feels guilty about leaving Portia who may be carrying his child, but guilt means nothing when he's still abandoning her in the end. It takes other people to clean up the mess he and his mother caused for him to return to Portia. Isn't love grand?
There is nothing new or unexpected in Seducing The Heiress, but the most charming hero makes this otherwise tepid and predictable read a pretty painful one to follow.
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