After an excess of mystery-reading, I was ready for some romance. And you can’t get more of a romance-concentration than in an HP. And Dani Collins being one of my favourite HP authors, I was set. I stayed up way past my bed-time to finish A Hidden Heir To Redeem Him and it wasn’t because it blew me away. Rather, there’s something so viscerally satisfying in the HP that even a less-than-stellar effort from a favourite author keeps you glued to the page. Is it over-the-top-ness? Is it every wish-fulfillment fantasy for safety and devotion? Is it pure escapism and thus a respite from this surreal, frightening year? Probably all of the above. Hidden Heir hit the notes, but Collins didn’t always hit them as perfectly as her Cinderella’s Royal Seduction, which is as perfect an HP as Sarah Morgan’s Playing By the Greek’s Rules or Lynne Graham’s The Greek’s Chosen Wife. These three titles distill the best of the HP. They’re tightly focus on the couple’s relationship. A Hidden Heir, on the other hand, lost its way when the hero’s and heroine’s painful backgrounds overwhelmed their romance.
In other words, to make the reader feel for them, Collins turned Val and Kiara’s childhoods into such misery-fests there wasn’t much left for them to romance their way to an HEA. Even Collins’s usual penchant for Baroque fireworks love scenes came across as desultory.
Val and Kiara spent a night together three years ago. When Val’s estranged father dies, he is forced to return to Greece for the will reading, where he sees Kiara (having never forgotten her, in typical HP fashion, love being incipient in the hero from the encounter). But he hates her. Because she’s a gold-digger. Turns out Kiara, yes! had Val’s secret baby. And then, destitute, turned to his father for help. And she and her daughter, Aurelia, lived with the old man until his death. Now, she inherits and Val inherits and his hated brother does too. But the will reading also brings out Val’s step-mother, also mercenary and hated. And his mother, a gold-digger. So much is made of Val’s miserable childhood, a mercenary mother and harsh father. And Kiara’s wasn’t a picnic either: an orphan, abandoned and unwanted.
Collins’s signature razor-sharp dialogue is, even in a weaker effort, like Hidden Heir, one of the romance’s most redeeming qualities. Her heroine’s sass and wit also make an appearance. Her hero’s brood is intense. There just isn’t enough of it, though the HP trappings are present. Defective condom. Secret baby. Hero who denies feelings though they run rampant through him. Heroine made up of feelings. Adorable moppet. Stars-bursting love scenes. All the HP pieces, but they never quite come together to make a whole and the inordinate misery making up the hero’s and heroine’s childhoods borders on the caricature (so easy to tip into in the HP). Though Hidden Heir provided diversion for a few hours, it won’t linger in category romance glory like Cinderella’s Royal Seduction. With Miss Austen, we concur Hidden Heir offers “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.
Dani Collins’s A Hidden Heir To Redeem Him is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in April and may be found at your favourite vendor. I received an e-galley, from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.