The Heir
by Johanna Lindsey, historical (2000)
William Marrow & Co, $24.00, ISBN 0-380-97536-X

Sabrina Lambert, plain Jane trying to snag a hubby in her first Season, is taking a break from the burdens of romance heroine-dom by lying on a nice lawn of grass and closing her eyes, when she is almost trampled to death by Scots hunk Duncan MacTavish, the new and reluctant heir to the title of Marquis of Birmingdale. My, aren't those kilted thighs the sexiest this side of Regency London?

Too bad Sabrina is demure enough not to look up higher. Oh well.

It is a rude twenty-first birthday shock for Duncan, really. First, he is summoned by his granpa, the Marquis, to the latter's bedside to learn of his new future inheritance. The best one is that he is now engaged to Lady Ophelia Reid!

He's young and he wants to wench around the Scots highlands. He does not want to be in England at his granpa's bidding. And Ophelia is one shrew, selfish, catty, bitchy woman. "She's not the one. I don't want her," he declares.

But now he has met Sabrina, who is spookily enough being sponsored by Ophelia's parents. He's engaged, but hey, what is a mere engagement compared to true love, eh? Ophelia doesn't have a chance.

This story is fun. It has the bounce and gaily, boppy feel missing in Ms Lindsey's last few books. While the plot and the characters aren't anything new, everything works like a charm. He's obtuse and a bit befuddled, but hey, it's a good sort of befuddled. She's witty and strong-willed, and she takes no nonsense, which is good too. (Okay, there's this self-inferiority of hers, but that's okay really.) And their romance progresses most charmingly and delightfully, from bicker to banter to lust.

But the best has to be the little details of the story. I don't mean historical details, but the little nuances of cattiness from the secondary characters such as Ophelia and her two faithful companions. The old men are befuddled and have the best lines, and Ms Lindsey really know how to insert wry humor here and there that have me giggling. Sometimes it feels like I'm watching a Regency version of Amy Hackerling's Clueless with all the high school girl-like cattiness and claws bared to scratch one's eyes out hidden by silk gloves.

The Heir seems to herald the return of the skilful storyteller in Johanna Lindsey. Welcome back - it's about time, I say.

Rating: 86

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