The Heiress’s Homecoming by Regina Scott

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To keep her cherished childhood home, Samantha Everard must marry by her twenty-fifth birthday. Yet she refuses to marry on a whim, not even to save her fortune. When she returns to Dallsten Manor to say goodbye, the last person she expects to see is her handsome, disapproving neighbor William Wentworth, Earl of Kendrick.

Will is certain the scandalous Everard family is nothing but trouble. He shouldn’t care about Samantha’s predicament, but her feistiness and kindheartedness intrigue him—as does her refusal to wed. He wants to help, especially when he perceives the threat that surrounds her. Soon his greatest wish is to persuade Samantha that her true home is with him.

Rating: C+

Although The Heiress’s Homecoming is the final book in a series of four, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have read the other three – although given that I enjoyed this one, I may well give the others a try.

The series deals with the Everard Legacy and follows its four heirs – three brothers and their younger female cousin; and it’s her story which is told in this book.

In order to keep her part of the legacy (which includes her childhood home), Lady Samantha Everard must marry before her twenty-fifth birthday. She’s beautiful, clever and much sought-after, yet in spite of several proposals and the encouragement of her family, she is still unwed as her birthday approaches. But Samantha is troubled by certain events in her past – the death of her mother and the murder of a former suitor among them – which have made her decide never to marry, even though it will mean forfeiting her inheritance.

Having spent the past eight years out in society, Samantha returns home to Dallsten Manor to host the traditional Summer Fete for the last time. On arrival, she is reacquainted with a childhood friend James, (Lord Wentworth) , who at seventeen believes himself to be in love with her. He introduces Samantha to his father, William, the Earl of Kendrick, who is immediately able to see which way the wind blows and is worried that perhaps she has designs on his son.

It is not long, however, before William falls under Samantha’s spell himself. He likes her intelligence and her independence, and soon sees that she is not some designing miss out to land herself a titled husband; in fact her determination never to marry intrigues him. He also realises that she is carrying a heavy burden of secrecy, some of it somehow related to the death of his elder brother. William wants to help her in any way he can and proves himself her friend time and again; a fact Samantha comes to appreciate more than she will initially admit.

This is a relatively short novel, but the author has managed to flesh-out her principal characters fairly well; William especially, I thought. He is very sensitive to the needs of others and is doing his best to make up for the years he spent apart from James after the death of his mother. Samantha is also an attractive character – she’s witty, kind, and insightful, although her stubborn streak threatens to deprive her of her inheritance, and her fear of the past stands in the way of her personal happiness with the man she has come to love. During the course of the story, we also meet Samantha’s cousins and their families; the playfulness and informality between them all is engaging, as is the way William’s interaction with them enables Samantha to see a different, more mischievous side of him.

I had a couple of reservations with certain aspects of the story, however. The mystery/secrecy element started to get frustrating by the time I reached the half-way point. Samantha’s refusal to open up to Will (or anyone) or ask for help did get rather annoying, even though I’m sure we’ve all done this at times because we wanted to solve our own problems or didn’t want to appear weak. The villain of the piece was also rather obvious, and the final chase through the woods rather melodramatic, but I suppose it was no more so than some of the other dénouements I’ve read.

All in all then, I found The Heiress’s Homecoming to be a gentle, easy read. It’s essentially a tale of two people whose tendency to look backwards threatens to deprive them of a future and how they eventually let go of the past. William was widowed at the age of eighteen when his wife died giving birth to their son; and Samantha is haunted by the death of her mother, a woman who took her own life when love went sour. But through friendship, trust and faith – this is a “Love Inspired” title after all! – both Samantha and William are able to leave the past behind and make a future together.

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