|It's been a while since I've read a comedy of errors featuring
identical twins, but ,b>Love Is in the Heir didn't exactly renew my
faith in the age-old device. Ironically, some of the best parts have
nothing to do with the central premise.
The hypochondriac Earl of Devonsfield must designate a new heir. His
closest living relatives are twins whose order of birth was never
recorded. Desperate to dispense with the long formalities necessary
to determine the first born and hence the heir, he proposes that the
one who marries first inherits the title. Griffin and Garnet St Alban
agree to the terms.
Griffin isn't really interested in being named the heir, but he has
fallen in love with Miss Hannah Chilton and is determined to ask for
her hand, inheritance or not. He doesn't reckon on Garnet's help. The
skirt-chasing twin pretends to be his shy, comet-gazing brother in
the hopes that his charm will win over the young woman. But the
deception only results in drawing a wedge between the couple. Because
who would have guessed? The woman actually prefers the shy astrologer
to the ladies man. That is, until she catches "him" pursuing another
woman. It takes some time before the misunderstanding is sorted out.
In the meantime, Hannah amuses herself by trying to outdo her
chaperones in matchmaking. The elderly Featherton sisters feature in
other Caskie novels, but the tables are turned on them here when they
become the focus of Hannah's new venture. And while the young woman
is busy managing them, they do what they do best: matchmake. All this
meddlesome if well-intentioned activity results in comic mayhem and
at least four new couples. There may be even more, but with so much
going on, I lost track.
Herein lies my main criticism: the novel's many plots,
counterplots and subplots are not only overwhelming, they are also
confusing. In addition to the twin story and the matchmaking stories,
there's Griffin's interest in comets as well as a continuous flow of
characters ready to infuse more turmoil. The former offers an
intriguing departure from most Regency-era settings: Caskie's
fictional rendition of Caroline Herschel, England's pioneer woman
astronomer, is inventive and engaging. My enthusiasm is more
tempered, however, where the other secondary characters are
concerned. Most of them appeared in earlier novels of the series. Not
having read any, I can only suspect there were several in-jokes I
missed entirely. On the other hand, fans and devotees may be
delighted to see old friends.
My other criticism has to do with Garnet's motivation: I
don't understand why he is so eager to help his brother win his
bride. After all, he's much more interested in the title. So why
doesn't he use his charm to trap a woman for himself? (That he
eventually does is beside the point.)
All in all, Love Is in the Heir tries hard to draw new
laughs from a well-worn situation. Unfortunately, too much
bewilderment is mixed in with the occasional chuckle. I'm not
convinced the pay off is worth it.