The Damsel

My Lady's Desire

The Princess

As Claire Cross:

The Last Highlander

Love Potion #9
Once Upon a Kiss

 
The Heiress by Claire Delacroix
(Dell, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-22589-2
**
This is the third installment in Claire Delacroix’s medieval Bride Quest series and, while I did enjoy certain aspects of the plot, I just could never bring myself to care about the two main characters.

Rowan de Montvieux is a man who just cannot say no to a dare. So when his brothers dare him to woo and win the hand of the richest heiress in all of Ireland, he says yes. There’s just one small problem -- he doesn’t exactly know who the richest heiress in all of Ireland is. That is until he purchases a beautiful slave woman named Ibernia. He learns from her that his heiress is Bronwyn of Ballyroyal, and as luck would have it, Ibernia is Irish and quite knowledgeable about her homeland.

Ibernia soon finds Rowan’s weakness and she uses it against him. Rowan wants to relax at a tavern and overcome his seasickness but Ibernia dares him to secure passage on a Venetian vessel destined for Dublin. It is on this ship that they meet the dastardly Baldassare di Vilonte. Rowan and Ibernia soon learn exactly what kind of man Baldassare is, and this subplot makes up the one aspect of the novel I found myself enjoying. But Baldassare takes a back seat for much of the novel, which instead focuses on Rowan and Ibernia.

Rowan knows almost immediately that Ibernia is lying about her name, true background and identity. Who is she really? How did she come to be a slave? Why is she trying so hard to fool everyone? This part of the plot was so obvious and predictable that I was immediately bored with it after the first chapter.

Rowan, intrigued by his new acquisition, bets Ibernia that she will be unable to resist him and will give herself willingly to him. She swears that she is never going to give herself willingly to any man. Does this sound familiar? If Ibernia can resist Rowan until they reach Ballyroyal, then she will have her freedom immediately. If she cannot, then Rowan will not release her from slavery until one year and one day later. What a great guy! Gee, being a slave for only a couple of weeks sounds great!

Oh and honestly, who could resist Rowan? He is beyond in love with himself, and I am still scratching my head over how any woman would find his attitude attractive. I could never bring myself to like him because every time he did anything remotely likeable, he blew it with his attitude. Also, if he is so attracted to Ibernia, why keep her as a slave? Call me old fashioned, but it might be fun to woo someone who was not legally bound to you as your property.

My dislike for Ibernia was almost as high as my scorn for Rowan. She’s supposed to be a victim, and you’d think her experiences would have taught her something, but instead she’s as dumb as a doorknob. Right after Rowan buys her, she immediately starts mouthing off to him. Honestly, would an abused and hurt slave be a smart mouth to her new owner that she knows nothing about? Not only that, but she falls into Baldassare’s hands quite easily. She’s adept and getting herself out of trouble, but it’s trouble that any sane person would not get into in the first place.

I did enjoy many of the secondary characters. Baldassare, while a clichéd villain, is great fun. The Heiress would have greatly benefited if the focus was on the hero’s conflict with him instead of Ibernia’s true identity. Marika is another slave woman that Rowan buys, and her story is far more interesting than Ibernia’s. She portrays the fear, helplessness, and loss that Ibernia doesn’t even try to convey. Thomas, Rowan’s 12-year-old squire has some amusing moments.

Also enjoyable were the last 50 pages of this book. Rowan and Ibernia start acting like actual human beings, and the action ensures that there isn’t a dull moment. However, by this time it was too little, too late -- and while I enjoyed the last couple of chapters, it could not overshadow my dislike for the first sixteen.

--Wendy Crutcher


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