Innocent Passions

Rogue's Honor

Scandalous Virtue

The Runaway Heiress
by Brenda Hiatt
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-072379-3
When I sit down to read a book in any genre, I most enjoy reading about interesting, memorable characters. Brenda Hiatt’s The Runaway Heiress gets half of this right, as the book’s characters are certainly memorable. Interesting isn’t the other word I would use, however. They are more frustrating than interesting.

Undine (Dina) Moore has a short time to marry or her brother will take charge of her inheritance. Unfortunately, her brother is a gambler and wastrel, who has long since spent his own inheritance. He would love to get his hands on Dina’s funds. Dina has a plan; she has convinced a local man to elope just days before her birthday. When he backs out at the last minute, she impulsively decides to make the trip to Scotland as planned and hopes to find a man there that she can marry.

Grant Turpin is also on his way to Scotland. He’s going after his sister, Violet, who has eloped with a fortune hunter. When Dina convinces his sister to back out of the elopement, Grant wants to express his gratitude. Dina says that he can repay her by marrying her.

Dina is memorable, but not for positive reasons. She doesn’t selflessly convince Violet to break off the engagement. Instead, she meets the fiancé, recognizes that Violet is already annoyed with him, and decides that he would be a good choice for her — Dina — to marry. Dina believes he would be easy to dominate, and so she plans to wed him herself.

The secondary characters are equally aggravating. Although Violet knows the circumstances behind Dina and Grant’s marriage, she persists in viewing theirs as a love match. She constantly pushes the two together. She’s also completely naïve regarding Dina’s brother, Silas. Although Dina told Violet about Silas’s actions, Violet meets him and decides that he couldn’t be capable of such terrible behavior. Perhaps she expects him to introduce himself as the villain. Since he doesn’t, that must mean he’s OK.

Grant’s mother shows equal persistence. She winks at Grant and Dina constantly and talks about the happy couple’s need for time alone. At one point, Dina wonders, “Did the woman never tire of winking?” I wanted to know the same thing. She also wants to know whether Dina and Grant have consummated the marriage. I hadn’t realized this was a proper topic of public conversation in 1816. Grant’s mother apparently thinks so.

It’s quite telling that Grant is the least memorable character in the book. His main quality is fear that he will hurt the petite Dina if he has sex with her. Voila. Instant conflict.

The Runaway Heiress reads quickly. Hiatt is clearly a writer of some skill. She just needs to write a story about better characters than these.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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