Release Date: July 3, 2012
Source of my E-ARC: author
Series: Fitzhugh #2 (standalone)**
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Millicent understands the terms of her arranged marriage all too well. She gets to be a Countess by marrying an impoverished Earl. And in return, the Earl Fitzhugh receives the benefit of her vast wealth, saving his family from bankruptcy. Because of her youth, they have agreed to wait eight years before consummating the marriage—and then, only to beget an heir. After which, they will lead separate lives.
It is a most sensible arrangement. Except for one little thing. Somehow Millie has fallen head over heels in love with her husband. Her husband, who has become her very best friend, but nothing more… Her husband, who plans to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful and newly widowed Isabelle, as soon as he has honored the pact with his wife…
As the hour they truly become husband-and-wife draws near, both Millie and Fitzhugh must face the truth in their hearts. Has their pact bred only a great friendship—or has it, without either of them quite noticing, given rise to a great love?
I love reading romance novels in which there's already an established relationship between the hero and heroine and that what drew me to Ravishing the Heiress.
Our heroine, Millie, fell in love the moment she laid eyes on our hero, Fitz. Unfortunately for her, Fitz was in love with someone else. But they have to marry: Millie's merchant-class family desperately wants her to marry into the nobility and the Earl Fitzhugh (aka Fitz, who only came to the title because a distant cousin died) was on the verge of bankruptcy and needs Millie's money to save estates and title. Millie knew Fitz would never love her and to protect her heart, she asked that they wait six years until they consummate their marriage and then only to produce an heir (as was Millie's father's wish--Fitz could care less whether there's an heir or not to succeed the thing he blamed for ruining his life). Fitz insisted on waiting eight years as he was still reeling over the fact that he can't ever be with the woman he loves.
But despite their shaky beginning, over their years of platonic marriage Millie and Fitz became the best of friends. And then just as the moment to consummate their marriage draws near, Fitz's childhood sweetheart Isabelle comes back, newly widowed and wanting to take up where she and Fitz left off in their relationship. And Fitz seems to want the same thing. So, Millie and Fitz strike a new bargain. They will have six months to conceive and after that he will take up with Isabelle and they could finally be together as they were meant to be. But could Millie just let the husband she loves go? Does Fritz truly feel nothing but friendship for his wife?
What I Liked:
I just love how Sherry Thomas can take a typical romance plot and make it her own. Ravishing the Heiress was refreshing in that it's not the usual how-they-fell-in-love story: Millie already loves Fitz but he still had ways to go in realizing that maybe his true love was right under his nose.
Millie was not your typical bold, brassy, outspoken historical romance heroine. She was quiet and tend to stay in the background but she's not weak. She's smart and had a quiet strength and confidence about her--she's the rock that held Fitz together throughout their marriage. But I felt sorry for her. She was feeling a lot of guilt for coming between Fitz and the woman he loved--in the novel, she's sort of the "other woman" despite being the one married to Fitz.
I liked Fitz as well but at times I wanted to shake him and tell him to forget about Isabelle and to really look at Millie!
A few minor issues:
For more than half of the book, the author went back and forth from the past (eight years before when Millie and Fitz just married) and the "present day". Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the scenes set in the past where we see how Millie and Fitz's friendship was developed. I just didn't like being wrenched back and forth from past to present time. I'd be totally immersed in the present and then the next chapter, it flashes back to the past. It was a bit jarring, especially since there would be little cliffhangers at the end of the present-day chapters and you have to read a whole chapter before you can get to see what happens next.
I wish it was a little bit longer. The ending was rushed. I was reading the e-ARC and I was at 98% and they were still not really, truly together and I had my doubts whether the author can pull off a satisfying HEA with just a few more "pages" left. I should not have doubted her. She did. But I still wish that last scene was extended at least one page longer.
Ravishing the Heiress was very engaging, original and beautifully written. I love Sherry Thomas's sparse yet elegant writing style. I practically inhaled the whole novel as Millie and Fitz's story captured me from the start and didn't let go until the end. I read the last word with a happy sigh and wished there was more. I cannot wait to read the next book, Tempting the Bride--the hero and heroine of that novel was in Ravishing quite a bit and I cannot wait to read their HEA.
If you're looking for a smart historical romance with layered, multidimensional characters, Ravishing the Heiress is it.
**Although Ravishing the Heiress is book two in the Fitzhugh series, I can be enjoyed without reading the first novel in the series.