by Grace Burrowes, historical (2010)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-4434-6
The Heir gets a pretty good amount of rave reviews for a debut effort, so naturally, I have to give this a look. Unfortunately, this is one of those books that completely make no sense unless we go by the principle that romance heroines making a big martyr out of themselves is the way to go. It's not only the heroine who hails from an alternate universe - everything about this story is a bizarre trip through a cracked looking glass - but it's the heroine's special brand of "Idiot, moi?" tomfoolery that powers the story to its finish line.
The plot is pretty basic as for the most part, the hero Gayle Windham, the Earl of Westhaven, is determined to remain housebound with his housekeeper Anna Seaton. He is hiding from all those desperate women who want a piece of him, you see. He gets whacked by Anna at the beginning - don't ask - and the two then spend the rest of the story talking and frisking each other. Anna has a secret that she is determined to keep from everyone, although that doesn't stop her from revealing to Gayle that she is fluent in Latin, French, German, Gaelic, Welsh, and Italian from the get go. Yes, she's that kind of heroine - determined to be a martyr to her Big Secret but being as subtle about her Big Secret as an elephant stomping around in a china shop.
I would think at least four times before even suggesting to a reader who is particular about historical authenticity to give this book a glance. Westhaven is an Earl and Anna is housekeeper, but that does not stop her from being tart and sassy in his presence. I especially love how she lectures him about how terrible it must be to have sex with someone who doesn't love you back on page 115. She thinks nothing of letting him brush her hair for her or put his mouth at her naughty parts because she is so thrilled by his touch, but heaven forbids that he should make an honest woman out of her because she knows he doesn't love her. Meanwhile, Westhaven and his brothers discuss the possibility of him marrying Anna, a housekeeper from all appearances, as if this is something Earls do on a daily basis. Mind you, Westhaven is described as a responsible bloke aware of his duties to his title (although, like Anna, these two supposedly responsible people have plenty of time to cavort from day to night when I'd think they would at least spend some part of the day... I don't know, doing whatever their responsibility demands of them).
As for Anna's big secret, this is a plot device to turn her into an even bigger imbecile. She's already bad enough as a judgmental twit who lectures people like a stereotypical man-hating hag despite knowing very little about life in general, but she also has to be stupid in the process. Seriously now, an Earl, who will one day be a Duke, wants to marry her - and by doing so, her problems would be solved without much difficulty considering her husband's social cachet. But no, Anna doesn't trust all men despite having a loving grandfather because, to her, All Men Are Untrustworthy Bastards. It is fine that she gives away the milk and the whole cow for free because she loves him, but heaven forbids that he marries her because she is an imbecile like that.
"The choice of a woman's husband is often not hers, and the way a man presents himself when courting is not how he will necessarily behave when his wife is fat with his third child a few years later."
The above is an example of the way she will harangue her employer - whom you may recall also happens to be an Earl - shortly into their acquaintance. Couple her man-hating diatribes to her willingness to put out for free to men she knows for only a short while, and Anna is definitely first class in rampant stupidity.
The Heir is a Regency romance set in a remarkably democratic fanciful version of England where Earls and housekeepers marry with the blessings of everyone around them, the main characters behave like hormonal modern-day twits, and there is no such thing as class differences. If that is the only crime this book is guilty of, this isn't so bad. But The Heir is also guilty of being powered by the heroine's imbecile nature from start to finish. Now this is bad.
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