* Plus a little bit about Book 2: Scotsmen Prefer Blondes at the very end.
- Title: Heiress Without a Cause
- Author: Sara Ramsey
- Series: Muses of Mayfair, Book 1
- Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
- Publisher: Spencerhill Associates, February 2012
- Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($3.39 ebook)
- Length: 314 pages
- Trope(s): In Disguise, TSTL, Mistorical
- Quick blurb: Spinster agrees to chaperone disgraced lord’s sisters – but when he recognizes her actress alter ego, she must pretend to be his mistress.
- Quick review: A hot mess of a premise and a TSTL heroine, slightly redeemed by a few flashes of compelling writing.
- Grade: C– (really more of a D+, but it’s not a Lady Alexandra level of bad)
The entire premise of this book is a big ol’ Hot Mess, with all the requisite confusing plot contrivances to force the action and motivations into something vaguely resembling logic.
I came very, very close to DNFing, but some swoon-worthy sentences (and the irrelevant fact that the author claims to be an Iowa girl) gave me hope that the writing might somehow overcome all the early red flags.
Regency London. The fantasy-land Mistorical Island version (see below).
Our heroine, Lady Madeleine Vaillant, is half-French, orphaned by the guillotine because her parents stayed behind to protect their chateau. Or something like that. She lives in London with her aunt and cousins, desperately yearning for someone – anyone – to adore her (more on this later).
Our hero, William Avenel, is the newly-titled and very reluctant Duke of Rothwell. He’s edging his way back into the ton nearly ten years after purposely getting himself exiled to Scotland to escape his humorless father. The duke has three sisters – two are much-younger twins in need of a society chaperone, the other a scandalous widow.
This is going to get a little hairy. Please be patient and save all your questions until the end.
Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, ca. 1885-1900
Believing herself to be trapped in a “boring but comfortable prison,” and being desperately desperate for adoration (see below), our heroine decides her only option is to become An Actress.
Here, in a white muslin ball gown, with her brown hair tucked into a spinster’s cap, no one spared her a first glance, let alone a second.
Last night, wearing breeches and a wild, unkempt wig, everyone cheered at her feet.
The breeches and wig are part of her costume for her role in Hamlet. To be more specific, the LEAD role.
Our hero, who just happens to own the theater, is naturally stunned stupid by Lady Madeline’s amazing acting (performed under a French pseudonym, of course). Naturally, he accosts her in her dressing room, where he immediately recognizes her as the quiet Mayfair spinster he hoped to engage as a chaperone for his young sisters.
This recognition leads to our heroine (in her actress persona) pretending to be the duke’s mistress. For scandal-proofing and safety reasons, of course.
If you’re thinking that all these contrivances to get them into bed defy logic and reason, you are correct. All this happens in the first third of the book.
What made it even more frustrating is that our happy couple’s backstories are revealed too little, too late. Instead, we’re immediately dumped into the characters’ heads, where inexplicable things are happening. My “oh, really???” bullshit-o-meter was starting to veer off the charts to the Land of DNF. But once I understood Madeline and Ferguson’s motivations, I was much more willing to keep reading.
Of course, I still held a grudge throughout the rest of the book. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. Usually. I occasionally relent if the sexy times are hot.
There was nothing too painful about the predictable “Oh NOES, I’m RUINED, no wait, NEVER MIND” road to the predictable baby-filled epilogue. In fact, the calming of the craziness allowed for some really good writing and characterization to peek through – just enough to make me feel a teensy bit guilty for my petulant snarking.