by Adrienne Basso, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6988-X
I think I'll start paying more attention to this author. Somehow she has flown under my radar and delivers two books in a row which I find pretty good actually. This, To Protect An Heiress is entertaining and the characters do have to work a little to get their happily ever after, and the characters - some obligatory and familiar baggages aside - are likable and intelligent.
Meredith Berrington was 18 and a disaster on her debut (too spirited, et cetera). At the same party was Trevor Morely, the infamous playboy Marquess tamed by Lavinia, his radiant wife (and also Merry's friend), who was also there, of course. Lavinia was also a mother-to-be, and Merry was delighted for her. But that night went horribly wrong when Lavinia was found dead - an accident, they said - and she was found by both Merry and Trevor. Oh no. The party was ruined, and nobody stayed for dessert, naturally.
Cut to years later, when Merry is now a spinster trying to keep her twin brothers from running wilder than they already are. It isn't easy. The two silly brothers machinate a silly wager that end up compromising both Merry here and Trevor. These two marry, but it's no easy ride here as Lavinia and Trevor's family all cast a gloomy shadow over the nuptials. They both decide to do the right thing, ie keep this strictly business, but a killer will play matchmaker and teach these two silly bumpkins to find a middle ground in love.
Yeah, yeah, the plot is nothing new, but here's what's nice. In the end, Trevor tells Merry that he loves her as well as Lavinia. This is no "Hey, baby, I love ya, my dead wife wasn't that fun after all!" thing. Trevor's recalcitrance can be annoying, as is Merry's tendency to humor that silly fool, but Ms Basso doesn't overplay her hand. Merry isn't stupid, and she doesn't let people walk over her. How she stands up to Trevor's insufferable father when Trevor wouldn't defend her is something worthy of applause, come to think of it. Trevor may come off as a stubborn fool at times, but he doesn't overdo it to the extent that he becomes an ogre.
The mystery is tied up to Lavinia and this allows our two characters to bare their breasts and beat the drums of angst and guilt, but this is also pretty well-done. I find that in this case, the guilt makes sense, and it doesn't drag on interminably, so this is a case of well-paced drama.
I don't know if I'm saying this right, but here goes. To Protect An Heiress won't be winning any innovation awards any time soon, but it is a nice love story with just the right amount of angst and humor balancing each other, featuring two decent people with some brainpower whom I believe really like each other a lot in the end. Fun, sweet, with just enough angst to stop things - and Merry - from being too Pollyanna-esque, this book is a very pleasant surprise indeed. Let me scribble down this author's name - I'll watch out for her books in the future.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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