Seducing the Heiress by Olivia Drake
Portia Crompton is the belle of the ton in her debut season because, despite her "lowly" origins, her father's trading business has made tons of money and she is quite the heiress. Portia and her two sister's had grown up in Bombay, India, and she intends to return there to marry her childhood sweetheart/ friend Arun, who is the maharajah's son. This of course has to remain secret from her family as her mother is desperate for her to marry a peer so that the entire family can be secure in their place in society. Colin Byrd, Viscount Ratcliffe, is a penniless peer who has decided that he must marry Portia in order to dig his family out of some immense debt. Once Colin places Portia in his sights, the Duke of Albright suddenly decides to shower her with his affections and quickly informs her that Colin is a rake, a wastrel, and a murderer. Years ago, Colin's father had died in an accident while Colin was supposedly cleaning his gun, and while a court had exonerated him, the ton has never quite forgiven him. Portia is horrified that the man she had found desperately intriguing could be so wrong for her and vows to stay away from him.
Although her mother is thrilled that Albright is paying attention to her, Portia cannot get Colin out of her head, and Colin can't stop thinking about Portia- her money and her spirit. He is horrified that Albright is paying court to her as he wants her to himself and he knows that he is just going after her to get back at the Ratcliffe family. Ratcliffe's mother had been engaged to Allbright and had left him at the alter for Ratcliffe senior. However when Albright proposes Portia accepts, thinking that Ratcliffe is not worthwhile. He is furious and decides to kidnap her and hold her hostage at his estate. It is there that Portia realizes it is not Colin who is a wastrel, but his mother who is addicted to gambling. She learns that he is caring as he has taken in an urchin off the street, saved a pirate from the high seas, and that he has hired his ex-mistress as his housekeeper after she was knocked-up and thrown away by Albright. Portia knows that it is only Colin she wants, but he wonders if she can have a better life without him. When Albright comes to "rescue" Portia she does not want to give up Colin without a fight and after a deadly duel, Portia discovers there is still so much she has to learn with the man she has fallen in love with.
Portia is quite a young heroine and there are definitely times that it shows, but it also serves as the impetuous for the major changes she undergoes throughout the novel. Her childish infatuation/ love with Arun serves as a great counter point to the passion and romantic love she ends up feeling for Colin. Her feelings towards Colin progress in a completely thorough and understandable manner and she learns more about him and gets to know who he really is behind the wastrel he presents to the rest of society. Her relationship with her parents adds a really interesting element to the story as sometimes you so want to hate them, but Portia loves them despite their faults and their sometimes inability to understand what she needs. There are some brief scenes told from the parents point of view and they are some very intriguing parts of the story. Portia and Colin are very attracted to each other but they really don't get it on until almost all the way through the story. While hot enough, it wasn't exactly super steamy and there really wasn't enough sex overall in my opinion.
The extra plot really involved Colin and his relationship with Albright and his mother. While the reader is clearly informed that there is something very shady in their past, we really are left guessing for quite awhile. It turns out that Colin had been covering for his mother in more ways than one and while at first glance that seems admirable it also comes across as just ridiculously crazy of him. The way things turned out, it was clear that from the beginning if he had just bothered to tell the truth so much of the awfulness he endured would have been circumvented. However it was very nice that his feelings for Portia were so noble. While he made no bones about his attraction for her being based solely on her money at the beginning, the reader is taken on quite the journey as his feelings undergo the same changes hers did as the two of them get to know each other. This was certainly a romance novel where the relationship was developed very well and it was very well explained why these two fell for each other so hard.
Rating: Great romantic development to accompany some great characters and quite an interesting side plot. This book is highly recommended although I wish there had been more steam and that Colin had been a little more realistic about some things.