Growing up, Wren Porter never knew his father, Warren Ritcherson. Warren had dated his mother and she became pregnant, but Warren abandoned her to marry his society wife and have three sons with her. Once Wren was an adult, Warren wanted to get to know him and bring him into his family’s billion-dollar business, but Wren wanted nothing to do with Warren or his money. Now, however, Warren has died and the secret is out about Wren’s parentage. Warren has not only left Wren a pile of money, he also wants him to get to know his three sons and take a place in the company. Wren doesn’t want the money, and he definitely doesn’t want to be part of the family, but something is drawing him to know more about them nonetheless. While Wren has had a wonderful life with his mother, it doesn’t change the fact that he is the bastard son, the one who grew up with a single mom, while Warren’s other sons lived a life of wealth and privilege. Wren is particularly intrigued by Darcy, who is almost the exact same age, and whose life Wren could have lived had Warren chosen to marry his mother instead of Darcy’s.
While Darcy’s brothers are clear they want nothing to do with Wren, Darcy is determined to give him a chance and to convince him to get to know the family and the company. Part of it is practical — the massive corporation requires the majority shareholder to be the eldest child. Now that the truth about Wren being Warren’s son has come out, if Darcy dies, Wren would be the eldest and run the company, something he is in no way prepared for. But Darcy also has a massive secret, one that would rock the company to its core if anyone ever found out… Wren is actually the legitimate oldest son and heir, and Darcy is the bastard.
As the men work together so that Darcy can teach Wren more about the company, they find a surprisingly easy friendship. What makes both men wary, however, is that there is also an attraction between them. Darcy knows that Wren isn’t actually related to him by blood, but he also knows that it would be impossible for anything to actually happen between them, especially as Wren still believes they are half-brothers. And Wren is horrified by his feelings toward Darcy, but can’t stop the blazing attraction he has toward him. However, when Wren learns the truth about their parentage, the men can no longer hold themselves back from secretly acting on their feelings for each other. The world thinks they are brothers and they can’t reveal otherwise, because if anyone finds out Darcy isn’t the real heir, the company would fall apart. Darcy and Wren have fallen in love and dream of a life together, but a future as a couple is too impossible to even consider. Yet now that they have found one another, the men are not ready to give up on their chance at happiness together.
The Bastard and the Heir was such a great story, I totally tore through it and couldn’t put it down. I absolutely loved Wren and Darcy together and found the book so engaging and well done. I think what I loved most here is that while this big secret is looming between Darcy and Wren, the focus of the story is not that conflict between them. In fact, we as readers learn the details fairly early on, and Wren learns the truth not long after. From then on, these guys are committed to each other and working as a team to face the external conflict of what to do given that the whole world thinks they are brothers and they can’t tell anyone the truth. It takes the conflict from being between the men to an external conflict they fight together, and it works really well.
And what a conflict it is! The Ritchersons own this massive, billion-dollar company and it requires the oldest heir to be the majority shareholder. Darcy may be overwhelmed and exhausted and working way too hard, but he loves the company and is determined it not fall apart. And fall apart it would if the shareholders and the public learned the truth so soon after Warren’s death: that the actual heir is a construction worker who has no idea how to run the company he is now in charge of. So the men can’t tell anyone the truth, but if they don’t, how can they possibly be together when everyone thinks they are blood-related brothers? It is an impossible conflict, and I love that the book makes it seem impossible to solve. The potential resolutions are all acknowledged and it is made clear why they won’t work. There truly doesn’t seem to be a way out (though never fear, they do find one), and I like that there wasn’t a magic solution that just makes it all go away, but a hard earned resolution they ultimately figure out. I also like that it all comes together with the help of the other two Ritcherson brothers, Junior and Toby, who at first are at odds with Wren, but ultimately band together. It is a nice case of the younger generation making it work when the older one can’t get their act together and I loved how it all resolved.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story for me was how Wren and Darcy’s situation parallels that of Warren and Wren’s mother. Wren’s mother was the woman Warren loved, but he chose obligation (and the arranged society marriage to Darcy’s mom) over the love he could have had with her. Then we have Wren and Darcy caught in this same bind; Darcy is torn between his love for Wren and his obligation to his family and the company. It ties the plot together so nicely and I appreciated the many layers to the story. I also really loved the way both men have this sense of what might have been if things had gone differently. At first, Wren is super resentful of Darcy, whom he sees as living the life he could have had. If Warren had chosen differently, Wren would be wealthy and powerful and have had a father in his life. And Darcy looks at Wren and imagines a life where he wasn’t groomed since birth to take over the business, where he had choices rather than expectations.
I found Wren and Darcy to be such a great pair. They are so good for each other and support each other. The authors do a great job really building that intense connection and it is just palpable, especially as the two are pining for each other and can’t have each other. I don’t want to get into too many specifics about how the whole bastard/heir dynamic came about, so you can enjoy watching it unfold in the story. However, let me be clear that these guys are not blood related, nor did they know each other at all growing up.
I’ll admit I didn’t quite know what to expect when I picked this one up, but I was really delighted by the whole story. I loved Darcy and Wren, found the plot super engaging and well done, and the story just so entertaining. This was just a lot of fun and highly recommended.
Note: Fans of the authors’ work may recognize some cameos here. Wren’s cousin/roommate/best friend is Remy from Up in Flames, and Émile from The Husband Hoax is one of Darcy’s former potential arranged marriage partners.