Reviewed by Charlotte alias Charmian (Goodreads).
Hell will freeze over before Miss Philomena Aubrey willingly marries the insufferable Honorable Luther Whyte. Her mother had angled Mina’s quite hefty dowry in front of the vicar and secured him, but Mina still resisted. When Mrs. Aubrey threatens to force her into the marriage, Mina’s father hides his daughter with a friend of his as he leaves for an extended business trip.
A wounded war hero, burdened by guilt after inadvertently sending his French fiancée to death, Lord James Darling keeps his family as far away from his tormented heart as possible. But as he keeps bumping into his mother’s new lady’s maid, he grows suspicious—is she a spy?—and sets out to expose her, only to find himself mesmerized by her feistiness and her warm heart.
Mina, short for Philonena, steps to the stage as the archetypical young heiress of the Nuevo riche in the Regency era. Presumably her father became extremely wealthy from timely investments and good business dealings. It must be said as history tells us, a great many of the Nuevo riche were so wealthy their daughters were sought by aristocrats as a timely means to bolster ailing funds for sons who were wastrels. Many a rich heiress gained a title from brokered deals cut and dealt across tables at Gentlemen’s clubs in real life as they do with regularity in Regency romance novels.
Funnily Mina’s mother has set her marital scheming eye at humble bait, the local vicar no less, and oh lord, shades of Jane Austen’s Mr Collins leapt to mind straight off. And thank serendipity Mina is an only child and has a father who dotes on her. Mina can do little wrong in his eyes, and her mother sees only a wilful minded daughter who refuses to marry the man of her mother’s choice, ha ha.
While this is a common mother daughter conflict for Regency novels, the story for me becomes a little contrived with a father who looks to the help of a childhood playmate, a duchess (ha) who conveniently has bachelor sons in need of wives. It was all a little twee perfect and unrealistic but it’s a bunny out of the hat magical fairy tale and what’s wrong with that.
And then there’s the tortured James Darling. He’s a secretive man and with Miss Curiosity Mina kitten on his patch in the guise of a lady’s maid he doesn’t stand an earthly in resisting the vivacious young madam who seeks to inveigle her way under his skin. Throughout a theme of will he or won’t he fall in love with Mina makes this romance a fun read with little touches of haunting sadness from James’s past. For all her silly childish antics I liked Mina a lot. James was more a muddle of conflicting caricatures and didn’t materialise as a solid character, not for me at any rate. An Heiress in Disguise is what it is, a well written fun romance with a few raunchy pulse driven scenes.