I understand that western romances are declining in popularity and that
editors seem convinced that all historical romances should be set in
19th century England. But it is a pity that one of our best western
romance authors has abandoned Texas and followed the crowd across the
Atlantic. At least five of Lorraine Heath’s wonderful Texas romances
sit on my keeper shelves. To Marry an Heiress will find its way
to the library booksale.
This novel is a fairly standard “marriage of convenience” story.
Georgina Pierce is in London with her father to visit an old friend from
Texas whose mother married an English earl. The year is 1878 and
Victorian proprieties are in full force. Gina is not happy in London
and not comfortable in high society. Her father had made and lost
several fortunes and Gina is used to a much more exciting life. New
York society had rejected the Pierces and broke her mother’s heart.
Now, her father has an idea about how to get revenge: he will marry his
daughter to an English nobleman.
Devon Sheridan, Earl of Huntingdon, needs a wealthy wife. His father
had left his son in financial difficulties and Devon, although he has
worked hard to improve the situation, needs an infusion of cash. His
first wife had not adapted well to the straightened circumstances or
with Devon’s singular decision to work his own lands with his own hands.
When the chance to marry a wealthy American heiress arises, Devon jumps
at it, even if it comes with the requirement that he woo Gina and
convince her that he loves her.
Gina is wise to her father’s plans and would have rejected the idea
except that she meets Devon at a ball and is immediately attracted to
the handsome earl. Somewhat to her surprise, she accepts his
proposition and, within a week, the two are married. Somewhat to
Devon’s surprise, he finds himself attracted to his unusual wife. She
may not be conventionally beautiful, but she has that special something.
It appears that all will be well. But the best laid plans and all that.
Devon and Gina bear all too much resemblance to stock characters. He is
the haughty aristocrat, caught up in maintaining appearances and proper
behavior. He does possess the good aristocratic quality of caring about
his land and his people. And, of course, he is the unhappily married
widower who will never love again. Gina is not only an American, but
one who has known hard work and values it. She has no patience with the
pretentious propriety of the English aristocracy. Her spontaneity
begins to melt the rigid rules and to challenge the outdated notions
that her husband espouses.
While Heath offers an unusual twist to the traditional “marriage of
convenience” story, this is not enough to set the book apart or to make
it memorable. Heath’s Texas books packed an emotional punch that is
simply missing in To Marry an Heiress. They also conveyed a
sense of place and time that this story does not have. The characters
in her western romances were fully developed and often unique. All of
these qualities which made Heath’s books so good are absent here.
Heath is a talented author so that, even if To Marry an Heiress
does not live up to the standards she has set for herself, it is still
an acceptable historical romance. Perhaps my disappointment with the
book is a result of the high expectations I have of this author. I do
hope she will return home and regain her form in the future.