The Third Heiress
by Brenda Joyce, contemporary (2000)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, 0-312-97419-1


My reaction after finishing Brenda Joyce's first hardcover reissued in paperback is Eh?. There's a ghost, a historical romance angle, a contemporary romance angle, a mystery, and a passel of rich dysfunctional people who ought to get a hobby. Something has to give when all of these elements jostle for space, and even when close to a whopping 500 pages, ultimately the romance between the hero and heroine is sent screaming to the sidelines.

What's left is a guilt-ridden heroine who needs a backbone muddling around a house full of nasty relatives who need to get a life. Heroine Jill Gallagher is a dancer who has the token horrid past. She is about to be Hal Sheldon's doormat when the car she drives goes out of control. Hal is killed, but not before calling for Kate. Kate?!!

Naturally, Jill feels guilty and now sees her life's true mission to piece together who this Kate hussy is, what Hal is doing with her, and meets Hal's cousin Alex. She thinks Alex is a bad guy, and he reciprocates by thinking her a mercenary hussy out to pick clean her dead hubby-to-be's leavings. But I know they are in love because they show the finger to each other most passionately and boinks towards the end.

Along the way I am introduced to Hal's semi-incestuous, nasty family who blames Jill for Hal's death. Jill also decides to investigate the disappearance of a woman named Kate who was last seen in 1899 and whose photo Jill finds in Hal's bedroom. Has Hal watched Somewhere In Time once too often?

There's also a ghost somewhere.

Anyway, despite the overladen plot elements The Third Heiress so happily carries, it manages to leave me cold. I don't care about Jill, I don't care about her silly love-you-hate-you-ooh-boink-me relationship with Alex, and I outgrow Virginia Andrews' overwrought writing long ago. The Third Heiress tries to be everything - a romance novel, a Gothic melodrama, a ghostly tale of tragic love, a contemporary woman-in-sad-family tale, a Jackie Collins sex event, a Virginia Andrews family-in-need-of-a-life tale, a ghost story, and a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys double-combo novel (with sex). Such schizophrenia can't be good, really. It sure isn't a fun book, that's for sure.

Rating: 46


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