Publisher: St Martin’s Paperbacks
The Heartbreaker is the fourth story in a series of 4 books written by Rexanne Becnel. It tells the story of the relationship between James Lindford, Viscount Farley, a recovering rake and Phoebe Churchill, a country woman with a good heart. Although this book has the above hero and heroine, they seem to play second fiddle to three little children. In James’s attempt to mend his rakish ways, he hunts down his various illegitimate children and essentially buys them from their mothers. When the story starts he has managed to acquire potty-mouthed Clarissa (Izzy), a 10 year old that he rescues from the stews and has seen the evil side of life, and Leya, a chubby, blue-eyed baby with dark skin whose mother died in India. James’s open acknowledgement of his illegitimate children causes his fiancee to break their engagement and therefore James’ hope of a political career. Izzy’s shenanigans drive most of James’ London staff away and finally he escapes the gossips by decamping to his country estate.
Phoebe has spent the last eight years taking care of her mother and her sister’s illegitimate daughter, Helen, on the family farm. They barely make ends meet and when things start disappearing, Phoebe is determined to catch the thief. When she discovers that her thief is the 10 year old daughter of the Viscount Farley, she marches Izzy to Farley Park to meet him. Phoebe, who has never felt much attraction to men finally feels the lust her mother has always warned her about upon meeting James. Over the next few days, Phoebe quickly finds the solution for Leya’s stomach upset and starts to show progress with Izzy’s behavior. James is determined to have Phoebe as governess to his girls despite his growing attraction. He is actually determined to make Phoebe his mistress as well as his girl’s governess. At this point, I feel, the story falls apart. Several reviewers comment on the fact that if James is indeed trying to mend his rakish ways and has learned his lesson, he wouldn’t even be considering trying to make Phoebe his mistress, he would be trying to find some way to marry her, despite the class differences.
To add insult to injury, Phoebe’s sister shows up and we find out that her daughter, Helen, whom Phoebe has been raising, is actually James’s 3rd illegitimate daughter. Is there anyone James hasn’t slept with?? To make matters worse, his ex-fiancee shows up again wanting him back – or at least not wanting to marry the old man her father is pushing on her. She doesn’t seem like much of a catch and doesn’t even seem to react negatively to Phoebe being the object of James’ affections.
What starts out a wonderful, meaningful story about a rake trying to reform seems to be derailed about 2/3rds of the way through and even the inevitable happy ending doesn’t completely recapture the feeling at the beginning of the story!
The Romance Reader gives The Heartbreaker 3 stars and says the following: “As I was reading The Heartbreaker, I felt that this was a solid three-heart book –nothing particularly special or memorable about it but nothing really awful either. Three weeks later I can second the nothing particularly memorable part – I’d pretty much forgotten the details of the plot in that short length of time.“