To Marry an Heiress, by Lorraine Heath

>> Friday, March 28, 2003

I've always pretty much despised Western Historicals, but Lorraine Heath is one of the very, very few authors who'll make me take the plunge. Now she's writing England-set books, a fact which I'm sure everyone will mourn (Westerns lose another author, etc, etc, etc.), but sorry, I'm glad. The one I finished yesterday is called To Marry an Heiress (excerpt).

Devon Sheridan, a widowed earl and father with a deteriorating estate, seeks to replenish his empty coffers by marrying Georgina Pierce, the plain, stubborn daughter of wealthy American Nathaniel Pierce. In exchange for unlimited access to Nathaniel's funds, Devon agrees to woo Georgina and provide her with the one thing she desires most children. Georgina quickly sees through the charade but marries him to please her father, who dies shortly after the wedding, having gambled away his fortune.
Very good book, very, very enjoyable. My grade is a B+, and pretty close to an A-. There were quite a few things that made me want to shake both Gina and Devon (especially Devon, more on this later), but the good parts were just so good!

I loved, loved, loved Gina (and yeah, I know I should ease up on the bold font, but my brain is speaking kind of enthusiastically today and I can't help myself). Ok, Gina, in spite of her tendency to be a martyr for her daddy, this was a heroine you can root for. Nice, sensible, not afraid of hard work (and I mean hard, backbreaking, physical work), cheerful, she's quite a strong woman, but, thank God, not feisty.

I always practically groan when I realize the heroine is an "American heiress", because that seems to be code for "same old, same old, but feisty, wild, and usually TSTL". Not here, not at all. Gina really did have a complete different outlook on life than Devon, and this made for a very original conflict.

In Devon, Heath doesn't take the easy way out and make him a 20th century egalitarian who just happens to have a title. He's very much an aristocrat, and he really does believe all those rules we find so silly now (and by extension, so do the usual 20th cent. egalitarian heros mentioned above, who simply ignore them). This was believable, and original. For all that I think that the "gentlemen don't work, that is below them" dictate is bullshit, I simpathized with Devon.

Problem was, there were times when I doubted if Devon's brain was working all right. He simply didn't seem capable of logical reasoning. Ok, I understand that he's deeply scarred by his first wife's rejection of him when he had to start laboring in the fields, but it simply doesn't follow that he'd believe for so long that Gina would do the same. From the very beginning, she made it clear that she thought it was silly that gentlemen didn't work, and that she considers willingness to work up some honest sweat a virtue. And even after Gina had helped him out in the fields, he doesn't let go of this idea. When he makes his very kind offer to give her a child (*snort*) and she refuses, he still thinks it's because she's repulsed by the fact that he's become a field laborer. Enough said, stupid thinking. This is what kept this book from A range.

I loved the way Devon slowly realizes he's falling in love with his wife. Very well done. However, the ending was a bit of a cliché, with Devon's bedside vigil. Still, it was cute and pretty satisfying.

Tiny little niggle: Devon sometimes addressed Gina as "Countess" (for instance, "Countess, I'd like to talk to you after dinner"). Now, all I know about the subject of protocol and such comes from reading other romance novels, so I very definitely don't consider myself an expert. Also, I usually couldn't care less if this kind of detail is correct. Still, this "Countess" business just grated terribly. I asked in the AAR Reader to Reader message board if this was correct, and it was confirmed to me that it wasn't. Someone wondered if he was doing it when he was annoyed with Gina (at the beginning, he was), and another poster mentioned she thought he was doing it as a way to remind her that she'd bought the title. At the time (I wasn't even halfway through the book), I thought this sounded like a good explanation, but he keeps doing it right until the end, so it now seems to me it was just a mistake. Not that it bothered me much! I still loved this book.

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