by Maya Rodale, historical (2007)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21763-4
The Heir And The Spare is one of those debut works that leaves me with a better impression of the author's style than the actual story. I can't say I am impressed with the story, but I am impressed nonetheless with the author's prose to think that I may like her future books better than this one.
Emilia Highhart is an American heiress in London, literally tripping her way into infamy. Our clumsy heroine is rescued from falling flat on her face in a party one evening by a handsome gentleman whom everyone at the party believes to be Phillip Kensington. She's pretty much in love. However, that fellow isn't Phillip. He's Phillip's twin brother, Devon, who has spent his life being the spare whose function in life is to shoulder all the responsibilities when the heir does something naughty and do anything that the heir deems undesirable in the heir's place, such as attending parties as Phillip. Devon is attracted to Emilia, but complications arise when Phillip also decides to court Emilia due to the size of her dowry.
The main problem I have with this story is that, as lax as I can be when it comes to accepting historically accurate behavior in this kind of historical romances, I cannot get over the fact that Emilia would have happily slept with "Phillip" pretty much immediately in their first encounter and would be happily ruined were not for the fact that Devon still has some shred of decency in him. Emilia is so willing to get ruined in this story and, coupled to a deliberately negligent chaperone, she gives me this feeling that I am about to watch a train wreck in the making. This is a story of mistaken identities, so poor Emilia is also rarely in control of any situation, much less her hormones, so it's not very enjoyable on my part to follow the poor dear as she's either fidgeting with hormonal jitters or getting flustered by her apparently bipolar beau.
As a result, The Heir And The Spare comes off like a story so focused on the mechanics of its mistaken identity shtick that much of everything else in this story feels like an afterthought. However, there are some scenes in this story that have me thinking that the author is capable of doing a bit more than contrived comedy of errors. For example, Devon's dysfunctional relationship with his father is a little bit deeper than the usual bitter father-son thing that I initially expected. It's a pity, really, that the author's debut is pretty flat because I think she is definitely capable of doing better.
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