Rating: 3.75 stars
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Archie Bank, body guard and driver for Henry Walker, scion of the powerful and wealthy Walker family, is also Henry’s childhood friend and secret lover. Archie has used his job to help pay for his education and help support his mother and is now poised to graduate college. But graduation means a change in jobs and leaving Henry behind. Henry doesn’t want to lose Archie, but he doesn’t know how to come out to his family or make a stand for their relationship. All Henry sees is Archie slipping away from him forever.
Then a kidnapping goes horribly wrong, ending with Henry in the hospital and Archie under suspicion. Together Archie and Henry must unite in order to uncover the mastermind behind the kidnapping before more lives, including their own, are threatened.
I love Tere Michaels. Her Faith, Love & Devotion series is among my top all time favorite contemporary m/m fiction. In The Heir Apparent, I see all the components that make her writing so enthralling and addictive, along with some minor issues that bring it down a notch or two. First, the plot. It is full of suspense, well balanced with romance and hot, sexy scenes. There are several layers to the mysteries here, not just the person behind the kidnapping. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story, even though I identified correctly early on exactly who the person was behind the plot. While some may find it frustrating that the characters did not recognize where the threat was coming from, I thought Michaels handled the reasons behind that gullibility with rationality and sensibility.
The two main characters are well defined with Archie probably being my favorite, a kind of Upstairs Downstairs sort of thing. Archie’s mother was a servant as well and they were part of the Walker home for a long time, albeit in their strictly defined roles. I do wish Michaels had given us more of a past recollection of Archie and Henry’s childhood together. It would have helped provide a firmer foundation to their current relationship than the one we are given. Henry’s father at one point talks about the boys’ misadventures as children, with Archie in the role of the child who always led his precious son into scrapes. But other than a tidbit here and there, nothing really substantial is relayed to the reader about their back history. Henry takes a little bit longer to come to grips with. He will not acknowledge his romantic relationship with Archie nor tell his father he is gay. To be sure, Michaels has made Mr. Walker a powerfully intimidating personality, however Henry shows little spine with regard to him or his father’s close associate (almost an uncle figure here). With Henry’s insecurity and passiveness, it takes some time before the reader connects with him, and that hurts the story in the beginning.
The Heir Apparent really picks up and delivers powerful, emotional scenes once the kidnapping begins. This is when the story and all the characterizations gelled for me. From that moment on, Henry’s father becomes a person with whom we identify and connect emotionally at the most basic of levels, that of a father who loves his son and fears for him. Powerful stuff indeed. Even shadowy characters, like Henry’s stepmother, come forward with a greater presence and impact once this traumatic event takes place. Michaels builds the story, layer upon layer, until all the pieces fall into place at the end, and the criminal is identified and caught.
Do the men get their HEA? The plot points in that direction but, in my last quibble, the resolution to their relationship issues, doesn’t seem entirely satisfactory. It ends with some things a little unclear and some readers will find that frustrating. I know I did.
But with all my quibbles aside, do I recommend this story? Yes, absolutely. A Tere Michaels book is always something to be grabbed up, you never know what marvelous things to expect inside. And some of the issues I had with the story, others might find not objectionable at all. To tell the truth, I did go back and forth between a 3.75 and a 4-star rating but the quibbles won out in the end. Pick up a copy and make up your own mind. I would love to hear what you think.
Cover art by Dar Albert has got two gorgeous torsos to look at but what it has to do with the story is anyones guess. Call this a miss.