Well, even though past Reading Challenge Months at Joyfully Jay have always brought little gems to the surface, I must say my “New-to-Me” author for the 2018 challenge month pushed all the right buttons. To let you know just how much I adored Frank W. Butterfield’s story, The Unexpected Heiress, I immediately went out and bought the second in the Nick Williams Mystery series and fully intend on buying every single one of these delightful mysteries, which I believe total somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen. Set in the 1950s in San Francisco during a time where being gay was not only dangerous, but career ending, we meet Nick Williams, the richest man in town who works as a private detective when he actually decides to take a case. Mysteries, mayhem, and murder tend to fall into Nick’s lap and this particular case hits home when his own sister (and the only person he likes in his family) ends up dead from a horrific car accident that happens due to cut brake lines.
To give us a real understanding of Nick, the author crafts a fascinating back story that includes a gay uncle who made a fortune in some not so legal ways and left most of it to Nick upon his death. Nick’s father contested the will and failed in his bid to get the money, as did many of Nick’s relatives. His father is selfish, cold, and abusive in many ways and Nick takes great delight in thumbing his nose at the old man. However, it’s Nick’s ‘husband,” Carter, who often steals the scenes in this novel. Carter is a fireman who had an unfortunate run in with a fire truck and is recovering from knee surgery. Standing much taller than Nick and massively larger in a delightfully muscular way, there is no doubt of the love that exists between these two men. Neither man tries to hide their relationship, primarily because Nick’s wealth and status allow him to be free with flaunting it. However, as Nick will come to realize during the course of investigating just who murdered his sister and why, being gay can mean anything from public humiliation to a loss of job in this very homophobic time era. When his tendency to put homophobes in their place ends up creating collateral damage to his friends, we see just how determined a man Nick is to safeguard those he loves.
Butterfield creates this delightful community around Nick and Carter, which includes a fellow gay fireman, Nick’s ex-boyfriend and personal lawyer, a gay cop who is Nick and Carter’s best friend, and a crackin secretary who can hold her own with Nick’s quick wit and hectic pace. Honestly, I cannot begin to tell you how this author manages to recreate an era that was exploding with Hollywood stars and some real political intrigue; after all, this was the era of the cold war and witch hunts were rampant. The author takes great care in recreating this point in time and the players he puts in place in his novel all feel very genuine. However, the strength of this story wasn’t just in its attention to details, but in the relationships of the characters who walked its pages.
This story simply sang as it moved rapidly through the mystery surrounding the death of Nick’s sister. Nick is a smart guy and as he moved from clue to clue and cracked open the real reason his sister was murdered, it all pointed back to a past he was loathe to think about. Through this entire story we are constantly reminded of how kind Nick is and that he is generous to a fault and very aware of how his actions affect those people he associates with every day. When his mouth causes a few of his friends to lose their jobs after being outed as gay, Nick spins a solution at the end of this novel that is brilliant and effective, not to mention it sets up the following installment quite nicely. But I have to tell you that it is the relationship between Carter and Nick that really makes this novel shine. They are just beautifully written and with every interaction you find yourself wanting more and more. Be forewarned, if you are one who must have intimate sex scenes in your novels you will not be finding them in this book. While there are many instances of fade to black moments and mention of lots of showers that end in cold water, there is actually very little on the page sex. Honestly you will not miss it—I guarantee you will fall in love with these characters and be completely satisfied by the way this story is crafted.
I am thrilled with my new to me author choice! The Unexpected Heiress by Frank W. Butterfield is outstanding and I highly recommend it to you!
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New-To-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of six $20 gift cards to NineStar Press. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-To-Me Author Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.