Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Musings: The Heiress Companion

The Heiress Companion
I was very excited to receive Madeleine Robins' The Heiress Companion from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program because I love the author's Sarah Tolerance mysteriesThe Heiress Companion is a reissue of a Regency romance Robins wrote in the 1980s, and I was excited to get wrapped up in the complex world and witty interplays that define Madeleine Robins for me.

The Heiress Companion is about Rowena Chartwell, a wealthy and independent 27-year-old orphan who decided to become paid companion to the widowed Lady Bradwell rather than be forced to live under the chaperonage of old tabbies.  We meet Rowena as she's planning a party for the widow's second son, Mr. Lyndon Bradwell, who has been away on the Continent for several years but is now returning home.  As you might expect, Mr. Bradwell comes upon Rowena unexpectedly, the two mistake each other's identities, dislike each other and then fall in love.

If I make it all sound inevitable, that's because it is.  Miss Chartwell and Mr. Bradwell meet around page 10 of this book, and from that moment, readers know exactly what is going to happen.  But then it takes about 200 pages to get there.  Or not quite- it takes about half the book for us to get to that point, and then the second half of the book is spent dealing with miscommunication, crossed wires and (IMO) unnecessary drama.  By the end of this short book, we have three romantic couples settled, all of whom overcame romantic obstacles to get to that point of true happiness.

But there's really no tension in this book at all.  The couples are happy together, the parents are happy with the couples together, and the readers know what all the couples will be as soon as they are introduced to us.  There are so many characters in so few pages that we hardly even see Rowena and Lyndon fall in love at all- in fact, it seems like one page, they dislike each other, the next page, they are wary of each other, and then all of a sudden, they're madly in love with each other.  There are a few characters that are unlikeable in this story, and the three of them are just so absurdly unlikeable that you know they'll be defeated in the end and love will triumph.  There is very little that is original or unexpected or memorable in this story, and I was very disappointed after my great love for the author's Sarah Tolerance mysteries.  Those stories are detailed, rich in history and character development, with relationships that develop over slow embers and plots that are deep and involved and satisfying.  The Heiress Companion had none of these elements.  To be fair, the book was written about 30 years ago; clearly, Robins has developed into a far more sophisticated and capable author over that time.  I'm so glad that she continued writing and provided us with such a strikingly fabulous heroine such as Sarah Tolerance.  Maybe it's because Sarah is so wonderful that Rowena just doesn't impress at all.

Note:  I received this book for free to review.


  1. Yeah...pass ;=) I do not like the sound of them suddenly being in love and you have no idea how that happen. Seems to be a lot going on in this book, and the same time nothing going on

  2. Oh, yes, this does sound rather predictable and not all that enthralling to me. It's hard to believe that the Sarah Tolerance books were so good when this one just seems like such fluff. I am sorry that this one was so unsatisfying for you. It would probably bore me too.

  3. Sometimes I need junky, fluffy, doesn't-tax-the-brain reads, and this could be one of them.

  4. Definitely sounds like this one is a bit of a clunker...there has to be tension for a romance to work for me. I still want to try the Tolerance mysteries but am having a hard time finding them.

  5. Bummer. Even with utter fluff I still expect to be entertained in an intelligent way. But even great hitters go through batting slumps now and again -- I expect the same goes for authors. I haven't read the Sarah Tolerance mysteries, and it does sound like I should give those a try at least!

  6. This is one book I'm definitely passing up. Is it me or does the girl on the cover look like the main character on the tv show Bones?

  7. Sounds dull but I plan on reading the first Sarah Tolerance book.


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