Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-239110-0
Historical Romance, 2017
Then when he’d confessed he hadn’t been courting Gina at all – his behavior was reprehensible. All because he wanted access to a horse’s cock.
There, I’ve given you the best part about An Affair with a Notorious Heiress. We can all can go home now. Oh all right, let’s talk about it a bit more. This one is related to several other books by Lorraine Heath, which I haven’t read, but I can catch up with who’s who just fine, so in a way, it’s not too bad as a standalone story. At the same time, I don’t understand why some parts of the story have to be the way they are, so maybe I am missing out on some important details after all.
Alistair Mabry, the Marquess of Rexton, really wants access to a horse’s private parts. Not for himself, though – he wants a prized stud belonging to our heroine’s uncle to be allowed to breed on his prized mare in order to have some future stars of the race circuit in his stables. To get the mandatory shagging going, he needs to pretend to court Virginia Hammersley, an American heiress finally making her debut in the Season. The problem with Gina is that she comes with a baggage: her older sister, Mathilda “Tillie” Paget, a divorcée who was once married to the Earl of Landsdowne. Tillie is a social pariah where the Ton is concerned, but she is also Gina’s closest family member (their parents passed on a while ago), and Tillie has no choice but to stay in London even if her presence will jeopardize Gina’s ability to find a suitable husband.
As you can probably guess, sparks fly between Rexton and Tillie. Fortunately, Gina is not a clueless child like she appears to be – Tillie and her uncle who are the ones that infantilizes her as this simple, wide-eyed innocent when she’s far more aware than she appears to be. In fact, she’s smarter than her sister in that she realizes right away that Rexton is far more interested in Tillie, and that’s fine with her because she has no interest in the man. She also guesses correctly that Rexton’s courtship of her must be a plan arranged by her uncle, and she’d just take advantage of this arrangement to throw the man closer to Tillie.
Now, the good thing about this story is that Rexton and Tillie have some good chemistry, and their interactions can be fun and charming. However, the story does them no favors at all.
For one, I’m confused as to why Gina must stay in London to see if she can marry an English nobleman, when the two sisters are not wanting for money, and Tillie doesn’t have a high opinion of those noblemen in general. Both Tillie and Gina believe that love is more important than money and prestige, so why not just have Gina try to see if her Mr Right is in America? The premise of the story suggests, to me, that for all that talk about love and respect, the unspoken implication here is that a marriage is only sensible if the man also has a title and money. If that is the case, why not just be upfront about it? The story will make more sense then.
Also, the story feels contrived. Rexton apparently doesn’t listen to gossip much, so he has no idea why Tillie and her husband divorced. But as the story progresses, it turns out that his BFFs also know Tillie, and they have no problems telling him then the 101s. The fact that this book is linked to so many other books means that characters in those books show up in cameos to practically spoonfeed our hero on things he is unaware of, as well as to nudge him to acknowledge that he has the hots for Tillie. This story doesn’t make the main characters work to explore their feelings or find out things for themselves – various secondary characters often pop out from around the corner to lecture and prod them on instead.
And when the secondary characters back away in the late third or so of the story, it only allows the two main characters to compete in that always fun “I love you, but I know it cannot be, so I will do my best to sabotage everything!” stunt. Surprise, the heroine ends up the winner in this competition. Me, I’m bored because the whole thing plays out just like it did in countless other historical romances. I actually like the characters at first, but by the time I reach the last page, I feel more relieved that they, especially Tillie, are going to vamoose into the sunset… at least, until the next book, probably, when they join the chorus of secondary characters cheering the couple of that book on.
An Affair with a Notorious Heiress is a readable story despite everything, but as I’ve said before, that’s because the author is a polished and proficient storyteller. The story itself, however, alternates between being contrived and being boring and formulaic. There is something very calculated and contrived about this very by-the-numbers story that irks me, however. Normally, I’d give a readable but forgettable story three oogies, but this one feels so much like a tepid contract filler effort that I’m deducting one oogie as a result.