According to her website, by the time Grace Burrowes was first published, she’d written a lot of books already. Apparently, her agent/publisher sorted through her manuscripts and picked out the Windham trilogy beginning with The Heir as a starting place. Those books are good and they show off her talent, but man, does it mess with the chronology of the series which we’ll talk about when I get to The Heir.
It also makes it difficult to get through the Lonely Lords series of which many were written prior to her Windham novels (the trilogy about the brothers followed by the quintet of sisters). These books are just not as good as the Windhams. Her writing style and everything I love about her is present, but the plotting and character work just isn’t as well done. Reading Gareth and Andrew halfway through the Lonely Lords, nearly fifteen books into her publishing career, doesn’t work.
It also doesn’t work because there are things in The Heir that are soooo much better once you’ve read this book and its follow-up, Douglas. I think we’ve finally exhausted material Grace Burrowes hadn’t published already which is a relief. Her universe is intricately connected which is lovely, but because they were written chronologically and published wildly out of order, it makes it more difficult to appreciate the way they build upon each other. If they had been written out of order, there wouldn’t be nearly as much interplay between the characters and callbacks.
Anyway, that’s just mostly to say that I liked Andrew more with the realization that this is Grace Burrowes at the beginning of career, not several years in and this is a theme we’re going to come to for most of this reread. I understand the decision not to publish them in order, but I definitely don’t agree with it in a lot of respects.
Back to the Book - Overall Impressions
Because Andrew and Gareth’s characters are both motivated by the same backstory, it’s not surprising they both follow the same basic linear plot. Tortured by a drowning incident that destroyed most of the male members of the succession, the Alexander brothers have both decided they are not worthy of love and the Worthington sisters tempt them into forgiving themselves.
That’s it. That’s the romantic throughline in both books. There are subplots that differentiate them both, but not wildly. So all that matters here is asking ourselves is Andrew a better book than Gareth, and if so, why?
So it is a better book and that’s because Andrew’s role in the backstory (he was on the boat, rescued his mother, but no one else) is a bit more understandable than Gareth’s overwrought survivor’s guilt. There are still oddities we’ll get into during the spoilers, but I found Andrew to be a more convincing martyr-hero than Gareth.
Astrid is fine. She doesn’t really do much, to be honest, and I find her a little less interesting than Felicity, but not in a bad way. Their romance is also fine as is the subplot about her first husband’s family maybe trying to kill her and/or the unborn child she’s carrying.
This book is important to the next few in the series — it plants the seeds for both David and Douglas, who both appear here. It also even sets up the Windham brothers trilogy. It’s also a decent romance with an interesting hero and mystery. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.
The big problem with the tragic backstory is that there is a lot of pressure put on the character of Julia, the fiancée that died in the accident. Felicity discovered her existence in the first book because there was a portrait of Gareth and Julia. But here, Gareth claims there was no engagement, only an unofficial agreement because Julia was trying to seduce her way into the family, through either their grandfather, their elder cousin Jeffrey, or Gareth, and as we discover, Andrew. All of them, save maybe the grandfather, slept with this young woman who claimed she was pregnant. And...there was time for a portrait...?
It’s an odd choice to give so much evil to a character who never appears in the book. Andrew was also apparently seduced by Julia, believed it was his child, and for thirteen years, he has believed he chose his mother to save rather than his own child. I don’t like how much big bad type stuff Grace Burrowes throws Julia, but I also think Andrew torturing himself over being responsible for the death of his own child makes a lot more sense than whatever Gareth was dealing with.
The subplot of Astrid’s in-laws was slightly more interesting, and this time through, I read with the knowledge that it was Henry that was the ultimate big bad though the book was written to make you think it might have been Douglas. I knew it wasn’t Douglas because this book was published out of order and I’d already met Douglas in another book with his wife. See what I mean about that choice coming back to bite the books in the ass over and over again?
But I did think Burrowes did a sort of an okay job keeping us in the dark as to Douglas’s motivations, even if there are pieces that are overdone. When Astrid falls down the steps, Douglas apparently comes across her right away and then yells at her while she’s still on the ground? It leans heavily on trying to make us suspicious of Douglas, but she draws it back for the rest of the book and there’s more ambiguity. I’m looking forward to rereading Douglas’s book now that I’ve read it in the proper order.
I liked this book though because the romance was as good as Gareth, with a better hero to match it.
A Note According to her website, by the time Grace Burrowes was first published, she’d written a lot of books already. Apparently, her agent/publisher sorted through her manuscripts and picked ...