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If it weren't for the fact that you want to show the navigation controls in the help pane then I would have recommended KeyHelp ( http://www.keyworks.net/keyhelp.htm), which makes it straightforward for developers to fetch the contents of an HTML Help topic and display them in an embedded window.
What you want to do looks achievable because Rob Chandler's publication "Delphi Programming for the HTML Help API" provides some guidelines on how to do so. The procedure seems to involve using the HTML Help API command HH_SET_WIN_TYPE to create the help window, the attributes of which are defined using an HH_WINTYPE structure, and then embedding this in the application window. See this page for documentation and code samples:
Rob is active in the following forums, so you may want to pick his brains further on the subject.
microsoft.public.helpauthoring newsgroup (news://msnews.microsoft.com/microsoft.public.helpauthoring)
Help 2.0 discussion group on Yahoo
Developer Documentation and Help System forum on MSDN
The MSDN forum could be a good place to request further ideas, as it is largely populated by developers rather than authors.
If you're not tied to RoboHelp, then Madcap Flare offers an outupt type called DotNet Help with an SDK to tie in directly with desktop apps written in VB.net. It does require installing the Madcap help viewer on the end user's machine which may be a drawback. This is similar in concept to Adobe AIR, that is, the use of a separate proprietary help viewer.