Encounters of the Ardenzy Heiresses
by Claudia Dain
(Aspendawn Books, $.99, e-book, rated PG) ISBN 9781940940007
This double novella, released as an e-book, tells the story of two beautiful twins and how they manage to find romance with the right men. Elizabeth and Elena Ardenzy are the daughters of a wealthy London businessman. Their fortune and looks make them tempting to the nobility, and their father wants nothing more than to see each one wed to a title. Elizabeth has already intrigued Lord Redding and he seems on the verge of proposing. Elizabeth finds him uninteresting, but is willing to do her familial duty and accept his suit.

Looking for an escape, Elizabeth spends hours in the Reading Room of the British Museum. One day she encounters James Cavendish, illegitimate but beloved son of a duke, and it’s love at first sight. James is bowled over and sets out to discover Elizabeth’s whereabouts, since she left him with nothing but her first name to go on. He enlists the help of his friend Anne, Lady Staverton, and Sophia, Lady Dalby, who is a great friend of his mother.

Meanwhile Elena, the wilder of the two sisters, is pining for Lord Redding and she finds him extremely interesting. Elizabeth’s defection into James’s arms leaves the door open for her to capture his interest. Elena is in for a surprise when she finds out who Lord Redding had his eye on all along…

These two stories were previously published in various books of Claudia Dain’s “The Courtesan Chronicles.” Elizabeth and James are fun, fine characters and one can’t help but root for their romance, although love-at-first-sight stories need some suspension of belief. Dain circumvents this by having their first encounter consist of a long conversation, mostly about Shakespeare (Elizabeth is reading Romeo and Julietat the time). It’s flirtatious, but not particularly meaningful, and the fact remains that these two know absolutely nothing about one another yet believe they’ve fallen in love.

Elena fares better, as she’s known Lord Redding for some time and truly likes his company. Elizabeth and James take up 50-plus pages, and Elena’s story occupies only 20, which is a shame. She’s the more interesting twin, and her story is less arch conversation, more action, taking place during the same time frame as Elizabeth’s story.

Anne, the friend, has her own story to be told with her nemesis, the Marquis of Dutton, and I’m looking forward to it. Encounters of the Ardenzy Heiresses is a light, bubbly read that mainly serves to introduce some of the characters in “The Courtesan Chronicles” for those who haven’t read them.

--Cathy Sova

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