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The Heartbreaker    by Rexanne Becnel order for
by Rexanne Becnel
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2003 (2003)
*   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

James Lindford, Viscount Farley, is besieged by trouble. First, his fiancée dumps him, and then he loses a prestigious government post - all because his conscience belatedly provoked him into bringing his natural-born children to live with him. London society is scandalized by such improper behavior and James forced to beat a retreat to his country estate along with the children. Once there, he finds himself utterly perplexed by his two daughters. Infant Leya never seems to stop crying and Izzy is a tough, foul-mouthed London brat given to stealing - and Lindford still has his people searching for his third natural child!

Raising her gentle young niece Helen alone, Miss Phoebe Churchill ekes out her life tending to her dilapidated farm and bartering for goods. Catching Izzy stealing from her, Phoebe observes and understands the deep conflicts which rage between the rebellious girl and her hapless father. Phoebe's firm handling of both his girls prompts James to offer her the post of governess; at the same time he is tempted by Phoebe's beauty. When his notorious reputation combined with her own sister's scandalous conduct make Phoebe refuse his lucrative offer, James grows even more determined. Will this heartbreaker break her heart too, or will James learn a lesson he will never forget?

The Heartbreaker is full of passion and conflict, to which the children add humor and pathos. Though the story is entertaining and not altogether predictable, the characters could have been more interesting. While his laudable but bumbling efforts to be a proper father provide comic relief, it's difficult to admire James, who is completely ruled by his passions. Phoebe appears to be a steadfast young woman, so that it's not entirely reasonable that she succumb to the seduction of a practiced rogue. Overall, the tale is enjoyable but not entirely satisfying.

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