cover image The Heiress Bride

The Heiress Bride

Catherine Coulter. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (303pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13778-5

This byzantine conclusion to Coulter's Bride trilogy ( The Sherbrooke Bride ; The Hellion Bride ), set in 1807 Scotland and loaded with sex, splinters under the burden of its foolish and two-dimensional characters. Colin Kinross, seventh earl of Ashburnham, faces daunting problems: his castle is decaying, villainous clansmen are usurping his land and unmanageable debts keep mounting. But Joan ``Sinjin'' Sherbrooke, at 19 one of England's wealthiest women, has fallen in love with him and proposes a financially rewarding marriage. In order to escape Sinjin's two protective brothers, they elope to Colin's Scottish castle. There Colin presents Joan with two surly stepchildren and a pair of malicious sisters-in-law--it seems he has kept a previous marriage secret. Complications abound. An anonymous letter writer accuses Colin of throwing his first wife off a cliff--are murderous kinsmen seeking vengeance? Even ghosts are pressed to intervene at crucial moments as th e disjointed plot veers out of control. (Jan.)