The Scandalous Heiress
by Kathryn Taylor
(Silh. Desire #1194, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76194-5
****
The Scandalous Heiress is really a misnomer. Our heroine is anything but scandalous. She is quirky, spunky, vivacious and a take-charge woman. In short, she's one of the most likable heroines I've read in a long time, with surprisingly few hangups considering her past.

Twenty-three year old Mikki Finnley, formerly of McAfee, Kansas, now a waitress in New York, is not happy when Clayton Reese begins asking her questions about her background. She's immediately distrustful of this man who 'reeked of money the way the diner reeked of hot grease.' When he indicates that she may be the kidnapped daughter of a powerful businessman, a daughter kidnapped twenty years ago, she's intrigued but highly suspicious.

Clayton Reese is investigating a letter which claims that Michelle Finnley is indeed the daughter of his employer, a man he respects. But there have been other women claiming to be the kidnapped heiress. If this woman is a con artist, Clayton is determined that she won't hurt anyone.

Mikki agrees to travel with Clayton to meet this family which may be her own. She knows she was adopted by her late mother. She has reason to hate her step-father , a Fagin-like character with her as Oliver Twist. She's had her own share of dealing with the law and finds it humorous that she may be the missing daughter of a millionaire. Mikki has good reason to be cautious and occasionally hostile, but there's no chip on her shoulder.

At her father's urging, she stays and takes an entry-level job at his company, the one run by Clayton. She and Clayton are in a quandary. She knows that if she takes the blood test and it's negative, she'll lose this father she's come to love. She's also sure that Clayton will have problems romancing the boss's daughter if it does turn out that she's the missing child. She's in that 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' situation.

Although Mikki has limited sexual experience (don't they all?), she's not afraid to be the aggressor. Clayton readily admits that he's better in the boardroom than the bedroom. Isn't that a refreshing change from the super stud image? Mikki, to placate her family, is staying with Clayton for the foreseeable future until a person who has been threatening her is found. When she catches Clayton, Mr. Uptight, coming from the shower, she can't resist teasing this shy man.

She squelched the impish desire to yank the plush white towel from his narrow waist.
"Mikki," he said with a trace of warning.
"Clayton," she returned in the same tone. "Now that we've established who we are, let's talk."
"About what?"
"Whatever pops up."
He glanced down quickly.
She burst out in laughter and placed her hand on his damp chest. "Gotcha."

Clayton sees so much potential in this lovely young woman. He actually despairs over her lost years, years that he spent in luxury while she pickpocketed for her stepfather. Trying to humor her, he acquiesces and agrees to go camping, not his favorite outdoor sport. After they've set up the tent, a tent she bought from his neighbor at a garage sale, Mikki comments,

"You've been a really good sport about this."
H straddled the bench next to her. "That's because I plan to sleep in the car. It's got reclining seats, a quad sound system and air-conditioning."

That's my kind of outdoorsman.

The resolution surrounding the twenty-year-old kidnapping is far-fetched, so much so that I had to mull over and digest it before I could accept its premise. Once you've done that, then the whole story falls into place.

The Scandalous Heiress has first rate characters, with sparkling dialog and some sex scenes that really sizzle. This is just the ticket for January's doldrums, with its combination of high humor and frequent tongue-in-cheek situations.

--Linda Mowery


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