by Brenda Hiatt, historical (2005)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-072379-3
Brenda Hiatt's The Runaway Heiress scares me at first because the heroine Undine "Dina" Moore has a Plan and like most Heroines With Plans, she is headed for disaster and she doesn't know how lucky she is when she meets the hero and therefore is saved from the consequences of what will happen if her Plan succeeds.
You see, Dina's father made it such that unless Dina weds when she's twenty-five, all her money reverts to her brother Silas. Silas has already worked his way through his own money at the gaming tables and is starting to make inroads on her jewelry. He has his eye on her money, naturally, so Dina decides to marry. Her Plan? Marry the man she knows is very close to her brother. She knows he is easily controlled by her brother... and she is still shocked and dismayed when she learns that this man has planned along with Silas to just string her along, waste her time, and left her unwed by the time she's twenty-five. That will be in just four days time at the start of this story.
No matter, Dina now storms to Gretna Green alone to look for a husband. She encounters Violet Turpin who is eloping with an obvious fortune hunter. Dina comes up with a new plan: she'll scare Violet away and marry the fortune hunter herself! Luckily for this stupid woman, Grant "Thor" Turpin shows up in time to rescue his sister and he makes the mistake of asking Dina how he can repay her for delaying Violet and therefore saving Violet from the clutches of the dastardly suitor. Dina wants Thor to marry her. He does so out of obligation and those two agree not to get intimate since this is, after all, one of those marriages. They will regret being so honorable when the itchies start a-coming.
Dina is a dingbat. Watch as after she's married, she finally visits the family lawyers only to realize that she doesn't need to get married, she can just ask them to transfer the control of her money from her brother to her. Dina then wonders why she didn't think of this before. Gee, I don't know. I guess it's that time of the month when I'm supposed to show the mentally feeble some love since Ms Hiatt happily acknowledges that her heroine is a first class moo-moo and then expects me to clap my hands and cheer the moo-moo on even if she's a moo-moo.
Still, nothing really happens in this story so fortunately for me, Dina doesn't get the opportunity after she's married to commit crimes of stupidity of as large a magnitude as her imbecilic plan to marry a fortune hunter to protect her fortune. On the other, the fact that nothing really happens also means that this story can be a pretty potent sleeping pill if one is not too careful. Dina and Thor spend the remainder of the story pretty much circling each other while not daring to make any move because each is sure that the other will be disgusted if he or she announces that it's time to party.
This is one of those stories where the two nitwits are determined to honor their "no sex please, we're romance characters" vow to the point of coming off like complete nitwits and the story, as a result, drags on and on because of their need to be "honorable". The two characters also worry a lot about making the other person happy. The thing is, these two never talk to each other when they should. They make assumptions the other person (usually wrong ones) and then try their best to accommodate the other person based on these wrong assumptions while suffering inside. It is as if Dina and Thor are in a competition to see who can be the biggest martyr for the most stupid of reasons. That or they are trying to see who will drive me up the wall first.
The external conflict is pretty annoying since it involves the main characters being unable to remember or believe that Silas is capable of some nasty things even after Silas has pulled a few tricks on them. Violet is a very irritating character because she's a "romantic" that babbles intrusively about how Dina and Thor should be having sex and stay married forever and ever even when she knows those two marry as a result of her own stupidity. Violet has no sense of boundaries where the personal lives of her brother and his wife are concerned. I'm convinced that she secretly boils bunnies for fun because no one can be that demented and still claim to be sane.
Dina has an unusual hobby - she lifts weights and works out. However, because she is small in stature, Thor keeps worrying that she will scream in horror or snap in two if he ever gets naked with her. Apparently he likes his women "strapping". As a result, Dina's hobby never really takes off - it becomes another contrived reason to let Thor realize that his wife is strapping where it counts the most.
The Runaway Heiress is a story therefore that doesn't really have much going in it other than the characters worrying about nothing for a long time. As a result, reading this book is an experience as enjoyable as watching paint dry. But there is a part of me that will always be grateful for the fact that this book is boring because, judging from Dina's lamentable state of intelligence, I have a suspicion that this story would have been terrifying if Dina gets off her backside more often to come up with her Plans.
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