Tempting the Heiress
Tempting the Heiress is an unusual mixture of the author’s raw talent and her disappointingly crude technique, which resulted in awkward moments that detracted from the overall success of this story. And that’s not including the fact that unfortunately absolutely none of this talent is at all apparent until the second half of the novel, when dramatic action picks up the pace.
Brock Bedegrayne, eldest son of a lesser but well-respected noble family, has spent the last few years of his life in exile, having brought scandal down upon his family name. Eventually we learn that, years ago, Brock fell in love with Amara Claeg, daughter of a baron. When her neglectful father betrothed her to the cruel Lord Cornley, who committed an act of unspeakable cruelty to Amara, Brock intervened before the marriage could take place. A brawl, and then a house fire ensued, and Lord Cornley was fatally wounded. Brock had no other choice but to flee the country. His motivations for going abroad were complicated; he feared Amara might never reciprocate his deep feelings and understood she might always associate him with her tormentor.
The novel picks up years later. Amara is once again betrothed to a man who seems to hold her family’s fortunes in his pockets, the charming Italian Conte Prola, who stalks her like prey. Though appearances may seem otherwise, to all intents and purposes, she must marry this man in order to rescue her family’s fortunes. We come to learn that her family are not a loving bunch as are the Bedegraynes, and her mother in particular vents a cruel temper on her. Amara is a strong heroine who resists her fate and does not allow her family to direct her life the way they wish. In her own deceptive way, she evades their attempts to throw her and her suitor together.
Meanwhile, Brock has returned to stake his claim. He is determined that despite Amara’s resistance, he will do everything in his power to at least get her to acknowledge their chemistry, and ideally to unite as man and wife. Amara, however, avoids him like the plague. This was one of the areas where the novel falls down – her reasons for doing so are never really made clear. Various allusions are made to his scandalous involvement with her former suitor, and certainly her mother would rather gouge her own eye out that let her be courted by the man who ruined her previous chances, but Amara’s motivations are never clear. Despite her strong personality, her obvious attraction for Brock, and her repulsion towards Prola, she spends the novel prevaricating and alternately leading on and then rejecting the dogged Brock.
As this is part of a family series, we learn of many secondary characters who pop in and out with varying degrees of impact on the plot. Brock’s siblings appear to have made unsuitable marriages in his absence, though these niggles are quickly resolved. One of the obvious problems with this book is the sudden insertion of scenes between characters from previous or future novels in the series. This seriously distracted from the main plot and deflated the dramatic tension of the novel.
The plot thickens as we learn that Prola keeps a dark secret from Amara, and Amara’s own intrigues puts her in danger. In many instances, this leads her into such breathtakingly foolhardy situations that I slapped her with the damning TSTL label – running across a busy road, though it may enable the dashing hero to rescue you, should be left to innocent three-year olds – and Amara’s sudden unconvincing lack of common sense grated. Eventually Brock takes drastic action in order to convince her of his feelings and she is reluctantly faced with the turmoil of her past and must as well confront the fact that her family is a den of vipers. Meanwhile, Amara and Brock are in danger from another angle as well.
There are several aspects that spoiled this book. The most serious thing had to be the first half of the novel, which is slow and generally not very well written. The stiff “ye olde Englishe” type dialogue didn’t have that ring of truth which accompanies better-written Regency historicals, and sentences such as “Remove your cloak before a spark turns you into a thrashing conflagration” seem overdone and rather hammish. And even though the writing picked up later on, the confused characterization continued throughout. For example, Amara’s parents would suddenly out of the blue turn from normal parents into violent abusive monsters, in order to add some sadly lacking drama. I also felt that the plot, largely centered around Brock’s desire to woo the unwilling Amara, limped along and suffered from a decided lack of interesting incidents. The intimate scenes between Brock and Amara were also unconvincingly wrought, and she quickly goes from tormented rape victim to kama-sutra vixen in the amatory embraces of her lover.
Brock himself suffered the same sort of split personality as Amara’s parents, one minute the tender, patient suitor, the next an impatient jerk. For instance, “Brock grabbed her hand, and crudely brought it to the crotch of his breeches…” Also, the reliance of the plot on old chestnuts, such as the kidnapping, revenge, and evil villains, did nothing to elevate this otherwise staid novel which did not deviate from the norm in any burst of originality.
Tempting the Heiress isn’t all bad, but it lacks passion, action, and magical prose. One can only hope for a better book the next time around.