An Uncommon Courtship

The Artful Heir

His Lordship's Swan

The Magnolia Tree

Miss Maitland's Letters

Miss Wilson's Reputation

The Noble Nephew

The Rake's Fiancee

The Scandalous Heiress

The Seductive Spy

Three for Brighton

An Inconvenient Heir by Martha Kirkland
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-207710-8
I suppose that if one can overlook the improbability of the plot and the disregard of the conventions of Regency behavior, one might enjoy An Inconvenient Heir. After all, it has a daring hero and a brave heroine who doesn’t act foolishly all that often. This was not quite enough for me.

Major Mitchell Holcomb is in high dudgeon. He has just been informed by his uncle’s man of business that some calculating harpy is clearly trying to take advantage of his uncle’s grief. After all, Sir Allister’s only son has been recently murdered and now this Cordelia Barrington is claiming that William was married and had a son. Well, Mitchell will put a stop to her extortion. He will go to West Sussex and force the harpy to issue a retraction.

Of course, Cordelia is no impostor. Rather, she is William’s late and secret wife’s best friend and has been caring for his child since his mother’s death. She also witnessed William’s murder and has fled to her friend’s grandmother in fear of her life. Delia does not want Mitchell to find the child; she fears that the major will harm the babe who now inconveniently stands between him and his uncle’s fortune.

Mitchell arrives in Sussex to discover that his cousin’s supposed wife’s grandmother is a gypsy. He also encounters a lovely young gypsy woman who claims to no nothing of the letter or of Miss Cordelia Barrington. Before either party can clarify the situation, they are attacked by two ruffians and have to flee. The major manages to extricate them from a very dangerous situation and the two make their way to his residence. Once Delia discovers that the major is himself a wealthy man and thus unlikely to wish the baby harm, she plans to tell him the truth. But before this can happen, she is unmasked. After clearing up the inevitable misunderstanding, the two set out to discover why William was murdered and to foil a plot against the state.

There are innumerable problems with the story. Why did Delia - the stepdaughter of a lord and a wealthy heiress with good connections - decide to flee London rather than seek help? How did the major, described as still suffering from the wound that forced him to leave the army, manage to perform all those daring deeds? Why did the unmasking of Delia and the fact that she and the major had spent the night together while fleeing from the villains not lead to at least a suggestion that he owed her an offer? Why did they then travel together to London without chaperonage? Why would Delia choose to return to her home alone when she knew she was in danger? And why would the villains have concocted the improbably plot that the two sought to foil?

There are other unlikely incidents in the story as well. I do not require complete verisimilitude in the romances I read. I am well aware that I am reading fiction and am even willing to suspend disbelief if the story engages me. But when I spend much of my time scratching my head and saying “Huh?,” I can only conclude that the author sacrificed consistency to the plot.

Thus, despite the fact that there was lots of sexual tension between the major and Delia, despite the fact that each was in his or her own way an interesting character, I have to warn readers to “think twice” before reading An Inconvenient Heir.

--Jean Mason

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