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An Heiress at Heart (Love's Grace) Mass Market Paperback – October 30, 2012
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In debut author Delamere’s clever historical and subtly inspirational romance, Lizzie Poole moves to Australia in 1846 after having an affair. When her lover marries a wealthy miss, Lizzie’s brother ends up fighting a duel. Certain that he has killed his opponent, he flees with his sister. Five years later, Lizzie returns to England masquerading as Ria Thornborough, who left England herself after marrying the brother of her fiancé. She and Lizzie met in Australia and look identical. After contracting a fatal disease, Ria begs Lizzie to go back and make amends with her family. Lizzie steps into Ria’s privileged life and finds that Ria’s in-laws, especially Geoffrey Somerville, capture her attention and emotions. Bits of her own former life seep into her new existence until she is threatened with exposure. Delamere does include Christian elements, but the classic historical plot will appeal to many readers. The romance is filled with emotion and sexual energy, but there is no explicit sensuality, filling a current genre gap for readers who prefer inference. --Amy Alessio
The strictures of 1851 England are revealed in Delamere's debut, in which a woman tries to overcome her past and ensure a secure future. . .The romantic tension between Lizzie and Geoffrey is ever-present, but graphic love scenes are entirely absent, which will delight those historical romance fans who prefer a more delicate approach. -Publishers Weekly
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The years pass and tragedy strikes -- and on her deathbed Ria extracts from Lizzie a radical promise that will change her life forever. She begs Lizzie to return to London as Ria, make amends with her estranged grandmother, the formidable Lady Thornborough, and in so doing reclaim the birthright denied her by the stain of illegitimacy. With nothing to keep her in Australia, and a burning desire to discover the truth about her parentage, Lizzie agrees. Arriving in London as Ria, Lizzie finds herself captivated by her would-be family's kindness and acceptance. The one thing she didn't anticipate were her blossoming feelings for Lord Geoffrey Somerville -- Ria's, and now her own, brother-in-law -- and as such, the one man forbidden to her by law. When a man from Lizzie's past threatens to destroy her by unmasking her scandal-ridden past, Lizzie must decide if she is brave enough to reveal the truth of her identity -- at the risk of destroying her relationship with her new family, and with Geoffrey, forever.
When An Heiress at Heart was released last fall, it caught my attention as being the sole inspy mass market release from Hatchette's Forever imprint. As such, I have to wonder if its trim size and release were perhaps overlooked by many members of its potential target audience. In a mass market-sized novel of this ilk I never expected to find a story as sparkling and well-developed as any trade-length romance. This is a remarkably assured debut that should mark Delamere as a rising star in the genre.
From the opening pages of Lizzie's story I was captivated by its unique setting and premise. In my reading experience, the Victorian time period is often overlooked in favor of the earlier Regency, and to incorporate Australia and its reputation as something of a haven for the lawless -- or, as in Lizzie and Tom's case, those fleeing the law -- adds a refreshing dash of exotic color to the setting.
Delamere's characters are wonderfully realized, springing to vibrant life on the page. While Lizzie's assumption of Ria's identity is pure soap opera, such a trope has a rich literary tradition (i.e., Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask), and as such can be wildly entertaining. I loved her tasteful, yet unflinchingly honest portrayal of Lizzie's unsavory past -- she is very much a fallen woman by the standards of the day -- a refreshingly honest portrayal of the emotional consequences of sin and the glory of forgiveness and redemption. Likewise Geoffrey is a multi-faceted hero, one in the unique position in "drawing room" romances of this type who was first a vicar, until tragedy forced him to assume the family title and its responsibilities. His abrupt change in circumstances provide a nice, organic opportunity for an examination of the tension between duty and desire, and legalism and grace.
An Heiress at Heart was a delightful surprise. It is no stretch to state that it is one of the strongest inspy romance debuts I've had the pleasure of reading recently. Delamere displays a commendable aptitude for pacing, characterization, and a knack for incorporating relevant historical data (here, the wonders of the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace, and the Victorian penchant for social reform) that deftly enriches the storyline. Peopling her world with colorful supporting players (I can only hope that Ria's cousin James takes center stage in a subsequent story!), Lizzie and Geoffrey's is a sweetly realized romance threaded with grace and a dash of gritty adventure that leaves me eager to read more of Delamere's work!
Geoffrey Somerville was a third son and became a clergyman, never expecting to inherit his father's title. However, when his two older brothers die, that's exactly what happens. He never understood why his middle brother had eloped with his older brother's fiancée either. After all, duty, responsibility, and family should always come before some notion of love. Yet, when Lizzie comes home pertending to be the middle brother's widow, he's drawn to her in ways he can't explain. As their relationship blossoms, he begins to realize love is more powerful than he ever imagined, and he just might throw all his duty to the side to marry this lady. The complications of the situation impede that possibility, however.
This was a compelling story, clean in the way it's written and the content. I had only two criticisms. The faith thread needed to have been a stronger part of the story, and the ending seemed rushed. Although it ends well, additional paragraphs, where Lizzie at least answered Geoffrey's question would have made it better.
This book is intelligently written. Some problems kept it from getting 5 stars: The 'hero' waffles in a less than heroic manner. He loves her, he hates her, he loves her, he's appalled--he can't seem to make up his mind. Then there are all these people presumed dead who keep popping up alive in the oddest places at the most inconvenient times. All in all, the story is engaging. The characters are people you can care for, for the most part. Though in the end, when everyone but the hero and heroine professes to have known about the deceptions all along, well, that seems a bit of a stretch! Still, this is a reasonably priced offering well worth checking out. Get it and see what you think.
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