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Brazen Heiress by Elizabeth Boyle
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-22638-4
***
Brazen Heiress is a good story but not a great romance. A great deal of time and effort went into the intricate plot for this story, but the romance never won me over because I never understood the attraction between the two main characters.

At fifteen, Lily D'Artiers is certain she loves dashing English spy Webb Dryden, and that they will wed and live happily ever after. Her feelings are not reciprocated. Webb considers Lily to be little more than a pest, and a very unpleasant one at that. Lily's young heart breaks when she finds Webb making love to another woman.

Almost six years later, a grown up and widowed Lily D' Artiers Copeland returns to England from her new home: America. Lily has her own mission for her own country, but her English spy sister and Webb's father (the English Spymaster) want to recruit Lily for a mission. They want Lily to pose as a French heiress so that she can find a set of journals that name names and could hurt England's spy network.

When Lily is reluctant, they throw in Webb as an inducement. Webb is surprised when Lily doesn't show any interest in being his partner. Lily does all that she can to convince Webb's father and her sister that she cannot be a spy. She even produces a phony fiancé, Adam Saint-Jean, to help her get out of this assignment.

Everyone is convinced that Lily's totally incompetent and could never be a spy – everyone that is except Webb. He begins to see that Lily's "incompetence" is feigned and part of a brilliant performance. Before Webb can dig too deeply into Lily's motives for such a performance, Lily changes her mind and agrees to work with him.

The author did a wonderful job of setting up an intricate and interesting story line but she never really explained/demonstrated why Lily and Webb belonged together. Certainly a teenager's crush on a good-looking young man is understandable.

However, it's very difficult to understand how or why Lily would fall in love with Webb five or six years later. Webb doesn't take any interest in Lily until she's made over into a beautiful heiress. Adam, Lily's phony fiancé, appreciates and values her more than Webb.

I often criticize romance authors for not having enough story in their story line – or retracing the same ground over and over again until the romance gets stale. Brazen Heiress is the exact opposite in that it's very strong on plot – there are lots of twists and turns that keep the reader interested.

It's a shame that the romance between Lily and Webb wasn't setup with the same attention and care. If it had been, I'm sure I'd be recommending this book instead of finding it merely acceptable.

--Judith Flavell


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