Adventures of a Scottish Heiress

Because of You

In the Bed of a Duke

The Lady is Tempted

Married in Haste

The Marriage Contract

A Scandalous Marriage

Seduction of an English Lady

Tea for Two

Temptation of a Proper Governess

The Wedding Wager

When Dreams Come True

 
Bedding the Heiress
by Cathy Maxwell
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-112180-7
**
This book is basically one big setup for the next book in the series. It’s a standard romance between two fairly foolhardy people who have Trust Issues, and there’s nothing new or memorable about it. And frankly, the element tying this book to the next isn’t interesting enough to make me want to pursue the story.

Lady Francesca missed her debut Season due to the death of her mother and her father’s hasty re-marriage to a woman Francesca’s age. Nearly a social pariah because of it, Francesca became entangled with a notorious rake, Lord Penthorpe, who attempted to elope with her. When Francesca refused, he tried to rape her, and she only escaped by kneeing him in the groin. In the struggle, she lost her late mother’s pearl necklace, and now Penthorpe is blackmailing her.

Francesca, using the kind of reasoning only an idiot would use, decides that she’ll meet Penthorpe on a dark terrace at a ball and seduce the necklace out of him. But when she throws her arms around the man on the terrace and kisses him, she realizes she’s made a mistake. The stranger turns out to be Justin Maddox, the newly appointed Duke of Colster.

Justin was kidnapped as an infant and raised in Scotland. He was tracked down by his twin brother, Phillip, in the first book in this series, In the Bed of a Duke. Since Justin is the older twin, the title belongs to him, but his Scots upbringing clashes with the proper manners and English viewpoint required of the Duke. Justin is a reformer, dedicated to improving conditions for the Scottish crofters. He also possesses the Sword of the MacKenna, a legendary weapon that supposedly has the power to unit the clans against England and bring about Scottish independence. Justin is at least smart enough to realize that such a move would virtually assure the annihilation of the Scots at the hands of the vastly superior English army. But the ownership of the sword is A Burden.

Francesca, realizing her mistake, rushes away before Justin can discover her identity. Later that night, dressed as a boy, she sneaks into Penthorpe’s lodgings to search for the pearl. In an eye-rolling set of coincidences, Justin just happens to live in the same building as Penthorpe, in fact, right next door, and he just happens to be awakened by Francesca and drags her into his rooms, where they find they can’t keep their hands off each other and indulge in a night of sex.

Justin discovers that Frencesca’s a virgin, he insists on marrying her via special license, she resists, she’s just like his whore of a first wife, he’ll never trust another woman, etc. Insert your own cliche. As for the Sword of the MacKenna, Justin stashes it away and refuses to tell anyone where it is, though several burly Scot types come looking. When he tells them he won’t give it up, they just go away. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens with the sword. It’s a plant for the next book, but took up too many pages here. When Justin gets a surprise visitor late in the story, she can’t even work up a good head of scheme. Instead, it’s all tragic looks about how much they once meant to one another, and can I please have the sword? By this time I had lost interest.

A good romance takes more than a headstrong heroine and a dark, brooding hero. Throwing in a mystical sword and a lot of tired romance cliches doesn’t do it. Bedding the Heiress is an unmemorable romance that fails to satisfy.

--Cathy Sova


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