Title: The Unwanted Heiress
Author: Amy Corwin
Release Date: July 2013
Length: 328 pages
Series?: The Archer Family #1
Genre: Historical Romance
An American heiress nobody wants; a Duke every woman is after, and a murder no one expects.
When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he’s suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him. However, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes.
Unfortunately, a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered, and his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect. On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aid, not realizing that her actions may place her in danger, too.
Both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte, and that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel’s carriage.
Some nights just don’t go as planned.
Charlotte Haywood is an unfortunate American in England. She has bounced from relative to relative who have cast her off, waiting until she is of age to take control of her inheritance and properties. She is extremely intelligent, a bluestocking, and she is outlandishly out of place in England as a tall, red-headed woman who stands out and above the crowd. She is passed over time and time again. It is a lonely, dejected life of misery for Charlotte, knowing her relatives don’t want her – despite her wealth. Her guardian, Westover, uses her heiress and wealth factor to use as ante in a card game, and when John Archer wins the pot with all aces (despite his nephew holding an ace in his hand). When Charlotte arrives, she is sure she will be sent away.
John Archer and his wife are an adorable couple, but he seems to have a little meddling on his hands when it comes to his nephew, Nathaniel, who recently came into a dukedom. They hatch some incredible schemes together. The Duke has so many women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber or coach, that he is at risk for being roped into an unwanted marriage. He is dodging and hiding out from women. Then debutantes start dropping like flies around the Duke – and a murderer is on the loose.
Miss Charlotte Haywood – an American colonial heiress who requires a guardian until she is of-age
Lord Nathaniel Archer – the Duke of Peckham, recently inherited; Archer’s nephew
John Archer – Nathaniel’s uncle; aka Archer
Lady Victoria Archer – John’s husband
“Then let me clarify my position, Your Grace. I would rather get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors for eternity in Hades than marry you.”
The Highs and Lows
- Charlotte. Poor girl. Her physical characteristics make her off-putting and overlooked in London society. She is a tall woman with red hair. Not what a man is seeking in a darling debutante. She is a bluestocking and wants to pursue an Egyptian excavation – not just fund it, either. She wants to be on site! Charlotte is a woman out of depth in her time, but she is extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for her in London society, she’s an American colonial heiress. It’s a blackmark against her already, in addition to her features and intelligence. The stark contrast only furthers the notion of how alone Charlotte is in the world as an orphan. She has been booted from family member to family member as her guardians until the time comes when she is eligible to take hold of her inheritance.
- The Archers. The couple is adorable! They obviously love one another, and wife is looking out for her husband. I could see why with some of his hair-brained schemes! Archer has a gambling problem and apparently cheats at cards, so it brings into question the state of the Archer finances if he has to resort to cheating.
- The Winnings. Charlotte’s current guardian has had enough of her, so he includes her in his ante. He will be rid of her and her disreputable antics and someone else will be left to manage her property and finances. While her wealth seems like a coup, her manners will have Londoners seeing red. The Archers gain Charlotte by “winning” a game of cards. Unexpected, but they are determined she not find out how she came under their guardianship. It would be humiliating and devastating. Not to mention they’re not even related.
- The Murders. London ladies start popping up expired in the most unusual circumstances – and the Duke of Peckham is always around. He is a self-proclaimed misogynist and hates women. He has not interested in marrying, despite the dozens of women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber to compromise her, forcing a marriage. When the first woman is found dead in the gardens, there are a few who staunchly point fingers at the Duke and continue to do so when the second lady is found murdered in his own coach. While the murders themselves are gruesome and sad, there was something odd about them. As I said, it seemed only a finger pointing game. One individual kept dogging Scotland Yard and the scandal sheets, who didn’t seem to have any real evidence besides witness testimonies and hearsay. There didn’t seem to be much of a true investigation, but I suppose they were different in the days of nobility. The Duke repeatedly commented that SY would not dare arrest a duke. Once was enough, but the repetition only brought out the disconnect he had with the gravity of the murders and highlighted how his sudden dukedom had gone to his head. It didn’t seem anyone was really taking the murdered women seriously aside from their families. The murders do motivate the Duke to become engaged, though. If he’s engaged, he can’t be a misogynist and therefore not the murderer.
- Lady Beatrice. When Charlotte was sent to boarding school, she met Lady Beatrice, who was the ugliest person ever. She makes a wonderful villain. She is evil to her core, stamping a footman’s hand into broken glass, and as a child throwing ice water out the window onto Charlotte in the freezing cold. She has her sights set on the Duke and has an unnatural hatred for Charlotte.
- Downfall. After doing his job as guardian, Archer discovers some major discrepancies with Charlotte’s inheritance and colonial property. What was once a lucrative inheritance and holdings, over the years gross oversight and impropriety and sticky fingers have left Charlotte with only a third or so of what her inheritance and holdings were. It is a devastating blow that cripples her dreams of an Egyptian archaeological dig. She is also kidnapped and held for ransom. After it is all over, it seemed very staged – as the investigator thought as well. Where she was held was very interesting. That idea backfired and had the opposite result of what was desired.
I found this to be an odd mix of character and plot lines. It seemed like things were off to a good start and then the tracks were secretly switched. Things started spiraling in too many directions at times. I thought Charlotte’s character was unique and fresh. Her feeling of displacement is a little heartbreaking. I’d want to go on an Egyptian dig, too! Nathaniel, on the other hand, was a narcissistic snob. An eligible duke is always going to garner more attention than the lower gentry, but I found it highly out of place that young women of the ton would be hiding in his bedroom. Perhaps once it could happen with a brazen and bold lady, but not every night. There were some inconsistencies that caused a bit of confusion as I read, and I would have liked to have seen the kidnapping more fleshed out. Archer intrigued me, though. He could have his own book! I can’t imagine what else he could get up to without supervision.
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.