To Catch An Heiress
Julia Quinn is an author known for her lighthearted, humorous romances. To Catch an Heiress definitely fits that description, with a touch more angst, making for a more involved read.
Caroline is almost twenty-one – the age that she gains control of her inheritance and is finally free from the last of a long list of guardians. This particular guardian, Oliver Prewitt, is determined to get his greedy claws into her fortune, no matter what the means, and forces his weak-willed son Percy to attempt to rape her so that she will be forced to finally say yes to his numerous half-hearted proposals. Caroline, a self-sufficient, confident lady (my favorite kind) puts a bullet into him in self-defense. She then makes her escape in the dark of the night, straight into the arms of Blake, a man working for British Intelligence.
Blake has been watching the Prewitt household for several days, knowing that Oliver is involved in a smuggling operation that includes selling government secrets. Blake mistakes Caroline for the mysterious Carlotta, a diabolical foreign spy. Caroline, needing to hide somewhere for six more weeks, sees no need to tell him the truth. When Blake takes her home to question her, she manages to keep silent for several days, until Blake’s comrade and friend James, who has seen Carlotta, doesn’t recognize her. The truth comes out, and Caroline becomes an engaging houseguest whom the staff adores while she attempts to make herself useful by doing several improvement projects on Blake’s estate.
Blake, meanwhile, having promised himself never to marry after his fiancée was killed during a mission for British Intelligence, fights his attraction to Caroline and plots to catch Oliver in the act – the sooner the better, so that he can get Caroline out of his hair and then retire. With James’ help, and eventually Caroline’s, everything eventually comes together nicely.
Caroline is a first-rate heroine. She is intelligent, opinionated, kind, generous with her heart, and has a positive outlook despite being shuffled off to several unworthy guardians. I loved how the whole staff, including an overly familiar butler and a motherly housekeeper, immediately switched loyalties to Caroline, even refusing to provide adequate nourishment to Blake or any of his guests if Caroline wasn’t present. I loved how Blake and Caroline squabbled. The secondary characters – especially James and Blake’s sister Penelope – added just enough to the story to round it out a bit. The secondary smuggling plot was well done, and added quite a bit of suspense.
The hero in the story gave me some difficulty. Yes, he was dashing, honorable, and bellowed like the best of them (a worthy trait, in my mind), but he was obviously intended as a more tormented hero, and ended up being more full of self-pity than anything. There was a moment when he knew he was breaking Caroline’s heart, and yet he asked her to accept his best friend’s upcoming proposal. Arrg. I almost put the book down right there, although he redeemed himself very quickly. I might also add that I didn’t respect him for almost having sex with Caroline a couple of times even knowing that he would never marry her. I have to add, though, that when he came around, wow! He was attentive, funny, tender – definitely worth the wait.
Despite the hero, who managed to be pretty heroic at the end, To Catch an Heiress has what we expect from Julia Quinn. Some funny moments, some touching moments, and lots of quality dialogue. Sometimes the humor felt a bit forced, but all in all, To Catch an Heiress is very good fun.