Since the holidays are upon us, I decided a relatively short, uncomplicated read was in order. Seducing the Heiress
is the first in a new historical series by Olivia Drake (a pen name for Barbara Dawson Smith) featuring a family of wealthy commoners recently returned to London from India. (I think the father made his fortune in shipping, though it's never really discussed much. I guess it doesn't matter where the money came from — it all spends the same.)
Portia is the eldest of three sisters with a mama who is anxious to use her husband's wealth to buy her daughters' way into the upper echelons of society. While growing up in India, Portia was often in the company of the Maharaja's son, Arun, and their friendship deepened as they grew older. When Portia's family returned to England, youthful promises were made and Arun gifted Portia with a marigold-hued sari and a miniature of himself. Since arriving in London, Portia has been plotting and planning her return to India to be with the
man boy she loves. Her mother, of course, plans that her eldest daughter should marry into the aristocracy and is thrilled when the Duke of Albright begins his courtship of Portia. Also attempting to seduce woo Portia is Colin Byrd, Viscount Ratcliffe, a man whom society believes killed his own father. I'll give you three guesses as to which suitor is Portia's True Love.
Look, it all plays out pretty much exactly as you think it will. There aren't any real surprises here, though the reason for the animosity between Albright and Ratcliffe is not commonly used and was a nice change of pace from what are usually seen as causes of these types of feuds. Once Arun appears on the scene, his and Portia's relationship is wrapped up a bit too quickly and emotionlessly for my taste, but at least he didn't linger off stage as some vague ideal that Portia continues to compare to Ratcliffe. There's also a duel which ends differently than I expected and leads to all sorts of secrets being revealed (secrets that any keen-eyed reader figured out several chapters earlier).
Seducing the Heiress isn't deep or complicated. It is, however, a charming read for a winter's night when you need a bit of an escape. It's the kind of book to be enjoyed with a cup of cocoa and a plate of cookies while wrapped in your favorite quilt and taking a break from the holiday madness.