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REVIEW: An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett

heir

Dear Ms. Everett:

This had two elements I normally loath in a Regency romance: a punning title, and a mystery. I love the title, which is both elegant and appropriate. The mystery… not so much, although my reasons may not apply to other readers.

Lina, Lady Radbourne, is shocked when her young husband dies trying to win a drunken bet; she tells the magistrate there won’t be an heir while barely knowing what she’s saying. By the time she realizes that she is in fact pregnant, the presumptive heir, Winstead Vaughn, has already arrived at Belryth Abbey with his young daughter and teenaged brother in tow. (A rather endearing albeit idealized portrayal of how mild Aspergers Syndrome might express itself during the Regency: Freddie is a very straightforward, “peculiar” lad obsessed with breeding pigeons. I was pleased with the authenticity of Win and Freddie’s relationship, and not at all surprised to learn that Freddie was inspired by family members.)

Initially Win and Lina see each other as obstacles to their security. Both come from poverty and have a lot of shame around it, and both feel that their futures are riding on the sex of Lina’s unborn child. But not only are they attracted to each other, they have a great deal in common. Each is the responsible one who takes care of everyone else. Each has been accused of being a fortune hunter. (In Lina’s case, this is arguably true, though no more than for most woman of her time.) And neither was entirely happy with marriage. Win fall in love with an upper class woman who never forgave him from taking her away from luxury. Lina’s marriage was the kind you’d get if one of the heroines of a Heyer novel actually married the besotted younger man who courts her: she was fond of him, and grateful to him for rescuing her, but there was always something missing. In Win she discovers what it is: he’s a man she can rely on, not a boy she has to take care of. And she badly needs a person to rely on, because someone is making coldblooded efforts to rid the world of her baby — or her.

Lina feels extremely guilty about having strong feelings for another man just two months after her husband’s death, and both characters struggle with their pride, but there’s really not a lot of tension between them; when conflict does arise, it felt contrived to me. Most of the tension in the story came from the mystery, which I’d say is above par for a romance/mystery combination: it’s genuinely puzzling, and there’s a reasonable cast of suspects and some meaningful clues. Still, I had issues with it. Note: I won’t reveal the villain, but my commentary in the following spoiler may make it easier to guess who it is.

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

My feelings about the mystery reminded me of this quote from A Talent to Deceive by Robert Barnard: “In Patricia Wentworth we invariably find a pair of young lovers, whose love is in one way or another obstructed until the final chapter. One knows from the beginning that neither of these two will be the murderer: wet though they may be, Patricia Wentworth is involved with them, wishes them well, and will provide them with a well-heeled future. One can never know this with Agatha Christie: her young lovers are never angled to produce warm feelings in the reader. They are pieces on a chessboard, to be calmly considered along with all the other chessmen…”

This story takes the Christie approach, but the lack of sentimentality that’s clever in a classic whodunnit seemed out of place in a genre focused on character and emotion. The villain and motive are very upsetting, yet the story treats the ending as if it were mainly a puzzle solved, rather than a devastating betrayal. In my opinion, it needed more foreshadowing and considerably more repercussions to work.

The tone of the story is quiet and graceful in the style of a traditional Regency. (With a little steam.) I’m not well informed enough to be super fussy about period details — as long as a historical isn’t fluffy and doesn’t deliberately flirt with anachronisms, I’m pretty happy — but the information around posthumous inheritance seemed solid. (I did look up a few words that sounded out of place, and they were all reasonably appropriate to the period.) But between the lack of tension and my discomfort with the mystery, my overall impression is, meh. Readers who enjoy the Regency/mystery combination might well like it more than I did. C

Sincerely,

Willaful

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Willaful

Willaful fell in love with romance novels at an early age, but ruthlessly suppressed the passion for years, while grabbing onto any crumbs of romance to be found in other genres. She finally gave in and started reading romance again in 2006, and has been trying to catch up with the entire genre ever since. Look for her on twitter or at her blog at www.willaful.wordpress.com

6 Comments

  1. Liz Mc2
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 16:08:46

    I didn’t read the spoiler because I will probably read this one.

    Like you, I am not often a fan of mystery in my historical romance (or contemporary, for that matter)–I prefer mystery with romantic elements or straight-up romantic suspense, both of which strike a better balance for my taste. I find mystery/suspense in something labeled romance is often there INSTEAD of real conflict between the couple, which is what I prefer in romance.

    But I really like Everett’s voice, and as a result I’ve enjoyed elements in her books that I usually dislike, so I think I’m still in for this one.

  2. SonomaLass
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 16:13:21

    Oh dear, now I want to know whodunnit!

    This has a lot of elements I usually would like; slightly older/experienced heroine, kids written like real people instead of plot moppets; even a mystery is okay (makes a nice change from the obvious villain plot). But it sounds like these don’t quite gel into a really good book.

    Still, I think I’m going to read it. I’m yearning for something with a Yorkshire setting — thanks for featuring it!

  3. Willaful
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 16:51:26

    @SonomaLass: You might well like it for those factors, though I don’t recall a strong sense of Yorkshire setting. I wasn’t really reading for that, though.

  4. Kaetrin
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 19:33:53

    @Willaful: I’m off to Twitter to hit you up for spoilers!

  5. Marianne McA
    Mar 11, 2014 @ 11:31:34

    This sounded exactly what I was in the mood for, and I am (at half way through) really enjoying it.
    I did especially like that the heroine married her husband for his position. Sensible girl.

    Thanks for the review.

    @SonomaLass – it’s not, so far, a book with a strong sense of place. I hadn’t noticed it was set in Yorkshire.

  6. Willaful
    Mar 11, 2014 @ 12:23:12

    @Marianne McA: I’m glad you’re enjoying it — it does have many good qualities.

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