Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-284106-3
Historical Romance, 2019
To Wed an Heiress has an intriguing premise. Once, a Rutherford and a Caitheart fell in love. They defied the roles and responsibilities imposed on them, and fled… oops, and then they were dead. This tragedy left a considerable impact on their families, and to this day, the two Scottish families have a cold war despite being neighbors. History is about to repeat itself when this story opens, when Mercy Rutherford, whose parents are black sheep of sorts in her grandmother’s eyes, flees America and an unwanted impending nuptial to some unnamed location in Scotland, where her grandmother’s dour self resides. Her carriage collides with Lennox Caitheart’s experimental flying machine, and the rest, as they say, is history. Does she dare to escape the responsibilities imposed on her to follow her heart, and if yes, what would be the consequences?
Unfortunately, the execution of this story is a muddled mess. I sincerely hope that nobody reading this story is expecting the hero or the heroine to swoop around in a flying machine during a grand denouement, as the author seems to have forgotten the more fantastical nature of Lennox’s creations after she’s written the aforementioned scene. I think the author has also forgotten to add some dimensions to her characters, as the bulk of the cast is flat, flat, flat. In fact, the sense of location in this story is abysmal: forget the lack of names, the entire story takes place in an amorphous, bland setting simply called “Scotland” and populated by people whose only characteristics is that they are stubborn to a fatal degree and are proud of that.
The only character with anything resembling depths is Mercy, and even then, her character arc sees her being a confused and hesitant young lady who commits one blunder after another, until she finally does the only one right thing – to ask Lennox to marry her and save her from her inability to do anything right – towards the end. Mercy’s emotions ring very real, and her fears and insecurities are something I can empathize with. However, I wish you all good luck in trying to be patient with this dear as she veers back and forth being a train wreck on an express route to complete social ruination. Thank god for Lennox being there to marry her.
But no thanks to Lennox for anything else, as this guy is one-dimensional. I’m told he was almost a licensed physician, and now he spends his time making things. He is, sadly, a stereotypical nerd character who often acts like a boor or a scowling emoji under the guise of “Aw, that’s how all nerds behave… awkward!” For a long time, his character is a formula for turning out a bland and forgettable nerd stereotype, and his grand act in this story is to quickly jump to conclusions and call the heroine a prostitute in front of her family. He spends the rest of the story feeling bad, but if you ask me, if a lady needed a one-dimensional boyfriend, I’m sure she can do better than a grouch with little else going for him other than he’s an earl and not, say, a genuine mad scientist living in a shack.
The author shows some glimmers of her old self in this story, but she spends far more time describing the characters’ emotions in a certain scene than showing me the big picture of Lennox and Mercy falling in love. If you ask me how these two end up husband and wife, I have no idea – I feel like it’s this is one of those stories where the hero and the heroine fall in love because it’s expected of them to do so. The chemistry is barely discernible, and Mercy for the most part seems to be doing all the work while Lennox just stands there with a bewildered scowl on his face. Seriously, this guy is passive to a ridiculous degree, and has to be pushed by the people around him into doing anything, so when coupled with a fatal streak of obstinacy that he seems so proud of, this guy may as well come with a “high maintenance” tattoo on his forehead.
The one-dimensional nature of the story also extends to the rest of the characters here. I’m especially disappointed with Mercy’s grandmother, whom I thought could have been developed into a more interesting character. Instead, this hateful hag is just nasty through and through from start to finish with no redeeming feature whatsoever. What happened to the Karen Ranney who used to write well-drawn characters? I don’t need this hag to be nice; I just wish there is something more to her than just 100% vileness. A good, interesting villain has depths. This hag is just a piece of cardboard with a sneering face drawn on one side.
Ultimately, To Wed an Heiress is a dull yet joyless read. The characters are mostly uninteresting or, worse, just plain unpleasant in the most one-dimensional manner. Mercy comes off as indecisive or morose most of the time, Lennox always has a stick up his rear end, the hateful hag is just being a cruel and mean Scooby-Doo villain minus all sense of camp, and everyone else is just filler in a scene. Some stories leave me cold and indifferent, but this one just makes me feel relieved when I reach the last page. Now, let’s go read something more upbeat.