The Hesitant Heiress
By Dawn Crandall
The Everstone Chronicles, #1
Whitaker House, 2014
After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.
Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn't who she thought at all.
I'm so glad author Dawn Crandall gave me the opportunity to review her impressive debut novel because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Hesitant Heiress is a historical romance set in 1890 New England - from Boston's Back Bay to Maine's Bar Harbor. The prose is polished and realistic for the times, characters are complex, the plot captured my attention, and . . . well, let me just say that fans of tender romance will find much to enjoy here!
Aside from the pure entertainment factor of this story, The Hesitant Heiress stands out to me because of its uniqueness and complexity. Although not a Regency, it features the polite social mannerisms, quiet humor, and expectations of behavior - especially where women are concerned - of writers like Georgette Heyer. Other factors - such as the setting, hint of mystery, and first-person point of view - are evocative of Gothic romance writers like Victoria Holt. Being a long-time fan of both of these styles made me feel right at home, often with a smile on my face as I turned the pages.
The way Dawn led into each chapter with a classic quote also added much richness and insight. For instance, it's great the way this quote from The Three Musketeers leads into a scene between Amaryllis and Nathan: "You are very amiable, no doubt, but you would be charming if you would only depart."
Castle Rock, Nahant Island
Dawn did a great job at creating a sense and feel of place, making locations come alive. One of my favorite chapters describes a social outing north of Boston to a place called Nahant Island, home of one of Bram's hotels that looked like "an oversized cottage with walls of windows overlooking the coast." A touching and memorable scene takes place on the rocky coast and a boulder named Castle Rock. To get a feel for all the visual images created by this story, be sure to visit Dawn's Pinterest board for The Hesitant Heiress.
Amaryllis and Nathan are likeable lead characters who immediately drew me to them. Amaryllis, a talented pianist who wants to establish her own academy of music, is frustrated to discover that she must marry in order to inherit. Nathan, born to wealth, has come to realize that there is a lot more to life, as evidenced in his words to Amaryllis: "The impressiveness that comes from having such a large amount of money is quite overrated. Were you aware that all anyone really cares to know of me is the fact that I am born into the Everstone family, and that I am therefore wealthy beyond reason?" Nathan's father, Bram Everstone, is Amaryllis's nemesis and part of her reason for seeing men as controlling and undependable - and cause for her recurring nightmares. Although we don't see Bram until close to the end, he is a major character who casts a compelling shadow throughout.
The part that music played in this story was something else I really connected with. As a former student at the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis often had to entertain at the piano, and I loved how Dawn seemed to find pieces that expressed Amaryllis's mood at the current time. Nathan once commented to Amaryllis: "Your piano playing has become alarmingly turbulent as the months have gone by. . . . Not once have you played anything as calm and relaxing as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata since the night of Claudine’s dinner party back in March."
"There are moments when, whatever be the attitude
of the body, the soul is on its knees."
- Victor Hugo
Faith is the backbone of this story, and we see that God has transformed Nathan from the man he used to be. For something that should be as natural as breathing for the Christian, I don't know why a scene like this surprises me, but I found Nathan praying over Amaryllis so in character and moving:
Nathan reached out and put his arms around me, bowing his head close to my shoulder, and whispered, "Lord God, I thank You for bringing Amaryllis into my life. Please watch over and protect her while I’m unable to be with her in these coming days. Strengthen her heart, Lord, that she may trust me as she trusts You. For I’ve taken Your commands to heart, and I strive to love her as You have. I would do anything for her."
Writing this review has made me want to go back and read The Hesitant Heiress again. Character-driven stories are my favorite, and I highly recommend this novel to all who enjoy gently-paced stories with charm and character depth. 5-star rating because of its uniqueness and how much I enjoyed it.
The Hesitant Heiress can be purchased online at CBD, B&N, and Amazon. Book 2, The Bound Heart, releases November 2014. Book 3, The Captive Imposter, releases February 2015.
A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and aformer bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.
Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.
The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.
Meet Dawn online at dawncrandall.blogspot.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Thank you to Dawn Crandall for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.