The Heir is the story of an arranged marriage that is desired by neither party. Sabrina Lambert has come to London for a Season, one scraped together by her maiden aunts. She’ll be assisted by lovely Ophelia Reid, who is already the toast of society for her beauty and is enjoying a Season of her own. Ophelia has plans, however. Her parents have arranged a marriage for her with a future Marquis, Duncan MacTavish. He’s a Scotsman, a barbarian, no doubt. If Ophelia can manage to make him the laughingstock of London before he even arrives there, then perhaps her parents will be mortified and let her out of the engagement.
Sabrina is bemused by all these machinations, and soon finds out that Ophelia’s vicious tongue can spread gossip in all directions even over Sabrina, whose family history of suspicious deaths have led most to believe she’ll soon take her own life. The fact that most of those deaths were rationally explained means nothing. When Sabrina’s sense of humor and sunny disposition garner her a few too many dance partners at her first party, Ophelia’s true nature rises to the fore. Soon all of London has heard about the scandal.
Duncan MacTavish is in a bind as well. His English mother and Scots father are both long dead, and he has just been told by his Scottish grandfather that he is the heir to an English title of Marquis. Duncan is outraged. Leave the Scottish estate and travel to bleak England, all to please a grandfather he’s never met? And marry an unknown English girl into the bargain? Never. The most he’ll agree to is making a visit and looking over the crop of English misses. But he won’t marry to please his grandfathers.
When Ophelia and Duncan meet at his grandfather’s estate, neither is impressed. Ophelia insults Duncan, who declares he’ll never marry such a woman. Sabrina, however, soon becomes good friends with Duncan. When Ophelia decides to reinstate the engagement rather than face Society’s scorn for being dumped, events are set in motion that will be difficult to stop.
The Heir contains some of what readers might call Classic Lindsey. The dialogue is witty, most of the characterizations are clear, and the settings are well-drawn without overwhelming the story. The “falling in love with a friend” plot isn’t new, but here it works well, especially on the part of Sabrina. She’s easily the most engaging character in the book. Short, a bit plump, possessing remarkable eyes but little else in the way of traditional beauty, she’s well aware of her shortcomings and uses humor to cope. This approach wins her friends and admirers, though she’s unable to believe that men might find her attractive.
Duncan was much blander. Other than rail at his grandfathers for trying to arrange his life, we never find out much about what he does want. He’s handsome enough, and seems to be a nice guy, until a climactic point about two-thirds through when he does something so loutish that it left this reader’s mouth hanging open. I won’t reveal the plot point, except to say that his utter lack of regard or even thought for Sabrina’s welfare was inexcusable. That it helped set up Duncan’s and Ophelia’s re-engagement was contrived, weak plotting. From that point on, I didn’t care a hoot in Hades for Duncan. Marrying Ophelia would have been exactly what he deserved.
As for Ophelia, she’s a lead character too, for all the space that is devoted to her. A more self-centered and despicable character would be hard to find, and no doubt that’s exactly what she was intended to be. However, it says something about the book that her comeuppance was far more interesting than any romance developing between Sabrina or Duncan.
Ultimately, the romance in this romance novel misses the mark. Diehard Lindsey fans may not blink at paying $24.00 for The Heir, but my advice is to get it from the library. The story just doesn’t justify the price.