The Wicked Heir
I’m always looking for new historical romances to lose myself in, and after reading the blurb for The Wicked Heir, book three in Elizabeth Michels’ Spare Heirs series, I was pretty sure I’d found one. Unfortunately however, the story didn’t live up to my expectations, making this book one I can’t recommend.
Lady Isabelle Fairlyn is sure she’s found the love of her life. True, she’s only met him a handful of times and she knows practically nothing about him, but his smile makes her feel things she’s never felt before, and that’s enough for her. And then, everything goes sideways in what seems like an instant, because instead of being betrothed to Isabelle herself, her beloved is betrothed to her twin sister, Victoria, leaving Isabelle feeling utterly bereft. But she is not one to stay down for long and is determined to find a man every bit as wonderful as the one she lost before the season is over. He’ll have to meet all of her requirements, which, in this reader’s humble opinion, are quite ridiculous. He must be utterly dashing, have a gorgeous smile, and be a great dancer – just to give potential readers an example of our heroine’s shallow nature.
One evening at a ball, Isabelle meets Fallon St. James. They have a rather humorous encounter over a platter of refreshments, and Isabelle decides right then and there that she and Fallon are destined to become the very best of friends. For his part, Fallon’s mind is on other, more important things. He finds Isabelle attractive enough, but she also strikes him as quite silly, an opinion I wholeheartedly shared. They converse for a while before Fallon takes his leave.
Fallon is the mastermind behind the Spare Heirs Society, a group of aristocratic second sons who live and work just on the wrong side of the law. At least, that’s how I understood things, although perhaps I might have had a better idea of the society’s role if I’d read the two previous books in the series. Anyway, Fallon basically lives and breathes the Spare Heirs. He feels responsible for each of the men who live with and work for him and quite honestly, he’s a bit of a control freak. Granted, he has some good reasons for his desperate need to be in control, but these reasons didn’t go far enough to fully redeem him in my eyes.
Fallon is hunting the one man who can put the Spare Heirs out of business, but unfortunately, his prey is proving rather elusive. At least, he is until Isabelle sets her sights on him and decides he – the villain – will make a great husband. Again, I’m not sure how she knows this, since her meetings with him have been quite brief. Still, I decided to suspend belief and just go with it.
As one might expect, things don’t go nearly as well as Isabelle imagines they will. In fact, not terribly long after Fallon first meets her, he finds her very seriously injured with an incriminating letter by her side which seems to link her to some art missing from a local museum. Of course, Fallon somehow knows Isabelle doesn’t have a thing to do with the theft. He decides instead that she’s in grave danger from his nemesis and spirits her away to the headquarters of the Spare Heirs, a place never before opened to a lady. He figures this is the only place she’ll be safe, and just to make extra sure of her safety, he locks her in his bedroom.
Over the next month, Isabelle and Fallon are forced into extremely close proximity as they work together to understand exactly what’s going on. It seems our villain is not simply intent on ruining the Spare Heirs, but he also seems to have it in for Isabelle and her family. I understood his beef with Fallon and the other members of the society, but his reasons for wanting to harm Isabelle were very difficult for me to buy into. That part of the suspense plot seemed contrived as a way to ensure Fallon and Isabelle spent lots of time together. Which is what happens. Fallon soon begins to have deep feelings for Isabelle, which terrifies him, as he’s sure there’s no room in his life or his heart for anything besides the Spare Heirs. I mean, this is a man who rarely eats or sleeps because he considers these necessities to be a waste of time he could be devoting to his society. So, how is he going to come to terms with the fact he’s falling in love?
Isabelle is also struggling with her feelings for Fallon. He’s not the man of her dreams; in fact, he doesn’t meet any of her requirements. Well, maybe he’s the tiniest bit dashing, but that’s about it. He has very little to do with polite society, and Isabelle isn’t sure he’s good husband material. Plus, it’s clear to her that Fallon is up to no good. He works hard to keep the real purpose of the Spare Heirs a secret from her, and she’s desperate to figure out exactly what the group of men who live with him are up to.
At nearly 450 pages, The Wicked Heir is about 100 pages too long. I was tempted to skim in several places, but restrained myself for the sake of this review; and if this had been a book I’d picked up to read for pleasure, I doubt I would have been able to get through it. Isabelle is entirely too naïve and silly, and Fallon’s need to control absolutely every facet of his life and the lives of those who are important to him drove me crazy. The suspense plot simply isn’t very compelling, and there isn’t much in the way of sexual tension between the leads. I was a little curious about what the Spare Heirs actually do, but this curiosity isn’t strong enough to entice me to read any of the other novels in the series. Sadly, this is a book I was glad to see the back of.