The Artful Heir

The Gallant Gambler

The Magnolia Tree

Miss Maitland's Letters

The Noble Nephew

The Righteous Rogue

The Seductive Spy

Three for Brighton

 
That Scandalous Heiress
by Martha Kirkland
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6608-2
****
Martha Kirkland’s new Regency romance is a pleasant and entertaining tale. She takes the familiar plot of the rakish hero who meets a woman totally unlike those who inhabit London society and finds that his life is forever changed and gives us a most enjoyable story.

We learn of Adam, Viscount Jensen’s character in the prologue. He is engaged in a duel with a man who is convinced that the viscount cuckolded him. Although this particular accusation is untrue, it is clear that Adam has a reputation as a rake. When his opponent wounds him, Adam decides to rusticate at his manor in Derbyshire, which leads to his encounter with Miss Marianne McCord.

Marianne has spent the past nine years, since her mother died when she was seventeen, as companion to her demanding aunt. Then, she unexpectedly receives an inheritance. Mr. Theodore Bibb has left her his house, Bibb Grange and £200 a year. Marianne rejects her aunt’s order that she sell the property and continue her life of unpaid servitude. She wants a home of her own. So she sets out for Derbyshire to make a new life.

Marianne’s reception at Bibb Grange is less than welcoming. Mr. Bibb’s staff refuses to serve a single woman who arrives unattended and the villagers conclude that she is “no better than she should be.” A chance encounter with Lord Jensen -- he ends up thrown from his horse after nearly colliding with her gig -- provides her with at least one friend among her neighbors.

But his lordship warns her that he is a dangerous friend. Adam recognizes that Marianne is an innocent, but she is also intelligent, interesting, and not overly impressed with his charm and position. He is attracted to her and she is attracted to him. But a woman with somewhat dubious antecedents is not a likely candidate to become his viscountesses. Yet he finds himself loathe to suggest another kind of relationship.

Much of the book describes in some detail the tenor of country life. We see Marianne putting her house in order, finding a housekeeper whose position in the village is as ambivalent as her own, exploring the countryside, and becoming better acquainted with the viscount. Yet Kirkland does this so well that her descriptive passages add interest to the story. When an accident occurs while Marianne’s roof is being rethatched, we learn more about the characters of our hero and heroine.

Tension is added by the presence of Mr. Bibb’s nephew, the suspicious Titus Brougham and Marianne’s fears that he has some designs on her inheritance. When it becomes clear that someone is breaking in to Bibb Grange, searching for something, this provides an added element of suspense.

But what led to my enjoyment of That Scandalous Heiress is the characters. While both Adam or Marianne are quite familiar to Regency readers, Kirkland portrays them and their relationship so well that it was like spending time with well loved old friends. The secondary characters are also nicely done.

In short, That Scandalous Heiress, while in many ways a “typical” Regency romance, is nonetheless a most enjoyable story. Readers who like sweet stories, with well done characters in a lovely country setting, and just enough of a suspense plot to make things interesting should enjoy Kirkland’s latest novel.

--Jean Mason


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