The handsome Jamie Montgomery has a title and two sisters (the blind Berengaria and the hoydenish Joby), but he doesn't have land or monies so he hires himself out to escort the fabulously wealthy Maidenhall heiress to her betrothed.

She may have riches galore, but Axia Maidenhall has been locked away from the world her entire life. Axia longs for a few days of freedom, so when Jamie mistakes her beautiful cousin, Frances, for the heiress, Axia seizes the opportunity to be an ordinary girl who someone would love more than gold.

Though Jamie finds Axia a trial, there is something that draws him to her. But it is the heiress he must convince to marry him. Frances favors him, but every time he think about marriage, thoughts of Axia gets in the way.

Vain, foolish Frances adores playing the role of the pampered heiress and watching Axia masquerade as her shrewish cousin. She happily agrees to Axia's plan to stage a kidnapping in order to get Frances and Jamie married.

But when Frances is really kidnapped and Jamie forces Axia to accompany him on the rescue mission, Axia finds herself trapped in her own scheme and wed to the man she loves. But what will happen when the truth is revealed?

THE HEIRESS is a sprightly, humorous fairy tale of a romance with that rare blend of sardonic wit, passion and brilliant storytelling. Ms. Deveraux has out done herself in creating a unique cast of characters-including Berengaria, Joby, and the crippled Tode-as well as a real romp of a romance. To read THE HEIRESS is to immerse yourself in a bubble bath of pleasure. SENSUAL (Dec., 368 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin