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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Lost Heir of Devonshire by Grace Gibson

The Lost Heir of Devonshire by Grace Gibson
Publisher: Musa Publishing (Aurora Regency)
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (178 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When an aristocratic rake faces either prison or rustication with a 'rabbity brown-haired' country miss, he seriously considers taking his chances with the law...

Perhaps the term 'profligate' is too kind for Robert, Marquis of Denley. He has gambled away his fortune, publicly dueled, and earned a reputation as a cur. Desperate to staunch the family's financial hemorrhage, Robert's uncle forces Robert to rusticate in Yorkshire for the purpose of marrying him to the squire's daughter. This uninteresting alliance would permanently remove his reckless nephew from Society.

But Mary Fanley, a country miss who thinks the pretensions of the bon ton are absurd, has no idea Sir Robert is being coerced into marrying a 'veritable nobody'. From their first encounter she infuriates him with her dismissive wit. So begins a war of horrific insults and unvarnished contempt.

Yet just as Mary begins to seem quite palatable, a smooth dandy arrives to settle an old score, forcing the Marquis to pay for his past.

With sparkling wit, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a touch of sarcasm, country girl Mary Fanley and Robert Allensham, Marquis of Denley, play at one-upmanship from the moment they meet.

Robert arrives at the Fanley’s Greenly Manor with his life in shambles. Harsh, dissipated, and careworn he has no patience with “rustic” living. But his uncle, Lord Eversham, now holds all of Robert’s assets in trust and has a plan for saving his nephew from self-destruction. Robert’s fear of becoming mad like his father has fueled his rakish, reckless ways up to now. His debts and crimes have put his life in danger.

Robert’s highborn hauteur rubs Mary Fanley the wrong way. She's well-educated by standards of the time, but more importantly, she's intelligent, capable, and blessed with common sense. She manages her absent-minded father’s household with servants who took care of her as a child which creates a unique relationship. Mary is somewhat one of the bunch rather than the lady of the manor. Although she has a dowry, she’s resigned to spinsterhood.

The influence Robert and Mary have on each other makes captivating reading.

Some of the secondary characters have a strong impact on events. The humorless Lord Eversham directs Robert’s life with a heavy hand and with good reason. However, some of the situations Robert finds himself in are humorous. Will, Mary’s brother, unwittingly brings the evil, cunning Oscar Neville to Greenly Manor which is like setting the fox among the chickens. Of course, Mary’s father, who lives in his own world of agriculture and notices little else, offers Robert a lifeline as he helps the young man bring Treehill, one of Robert’s properties, back to being a prosperous estate.

The confusion of names and the need for clarification in a few places pulled my attention away from the story at times, but the unfolding of plot and the interesting characters soon had my full attention again.

The extent Robert exerts himself to extract Will Fanley from a critical situation, the bombshell Lord Eversham drops on Robert, and how Robert takes control of his own life give the story some surprising twists and turns. Best of all, the steadfast love that grows as Robert and Mary move from carping at each other to caring for each other, then to loving each other with a sweet, true, forever love makes The Lost Heir of Devonshire a delightful story.