Hidden Heiress
by Amanda Scott, historical (2002)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-61032-1


I happen to believe that if authors are to use authentic brogues and accents in their stories, they better go all the way inside of doing half-baked "I ken yae, but when it comes to some more complicated sentences, I lapse into more contemporary jargons so as to nae confuse yae, yae ken?" nonsense. It is just pure luck that I haven't pulled every strand of my hair out of my scalp by the end of this book.

Factor in the Cinderella heroine Elspeth's bewildering trust in the hero throughout the book, except when it's convenient (read: plot contrivances), and I get a very, very annoying book indeed. Since Elspeth is a Cinderella archetype, a servant girl of noble birth to guardians who ill-treat her, I may accept her willingness to abet the subterfuge of Patrick McRae without question if there are scenes of Elspeth's guardians whacking her in a brain trauma using a baseball bat, but no. It's all instinct - apparently a handsome man can't be a criminal, and if he is, apparently it must be a mistake of some sort. But it's good, I'm told, because this is only a sign of how viscerally pure our heroine is. Or something.

While she is wandering around the woods like some Banana Cinderella, she stumbles upon Patrick who is clearly running away from something or someone. Without knowing - or caring - why or who he is, she helps him. Since he is a man, Patrick McRae has the luxury of being a more pro-active guy, involved in court intrigue and other standard plot elements of stories of this sort. He infiltrates Elspeth's household - with her blind trust and aid, naturally - and gets her involved into a lot of stuff. She only cares whether or not he loves her like she he.

Of course, he will restore her to the lifestyle she deserves. He will save her. He will take her love, he will have her heart, he, he, he, he, he, he. She is just there, a useless figure all about instinctive "understanding" and "trust", a roadkill waiting to happen, and the author, bewilderingly, knows it. There are more than a few instances where Patrick marvels that if he is a really nasty guy and her trust is misplaced, she would be in deep crap by now. How lucky for Elspeth, I must say.

Patrick is a standard hero. If you have read any noble, misunderstood Scottish heroes, you won't be encountering anything radical in this guy.

This book is readable, and the more fast-paced scenes are quite good. But I just cannot get over the irritating heroine doing absolutely nothing to warrant her happy ending - unless you count her suffering and passive hapless as "something" - and the fact that her very existence seems to be nothing more than an extension of the hero's raison d'etre.

Oh, and there are some faerie... things in this story, understandable, as someone needs to help our main characters cross the street and remind them to flush the toilet after their using it (but check first before flushing, please, just in case Elspeth has accidentally expelled her brain in the process). But they only add clutter to a story that needs some major CPR when it comes to characterization.

Rating: 73


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