Tere Michael’s new novel, The Heir Apparent, is a tightly written, absorbing mystery-romance. The characters have depth and the relationships grow beyond typical expectations. The mystery portion is interesting and could have been pretty suspenseful, unfortunately there is only one option for villain and the story doesn’t even try to offer other options. Thus the end reveal is too easy and obvious, which ruins the pacing and suspense. However, I found this to a pretty minor problem and enjoyed the story regardless.
Henry Walker is the son and heir of some kind of global industry company. He and his driver/bodyguard Archie Banks have been friends since childhood and turned into friends with benefits as they grew up. Now Archie is looking to leave and start his own career in business while Henry is expected to take up the reins of his father’s business. A sudden accident throws everything into turmoil and Henry doesn’t know what to think or whom to believe.
The main thrust of the story is the evolving relationship between Henry and Archie, framed by the chaos of the kidnapping attempt and it’s aftermath. Henry begins the story weak-willed and submissive. He’s deeply afraid of his father while craving the man’s affection and pride. Henry is mired in his own self-doubt too much to ever really acknowledge his relationship with Archie. The kidnapping and subsequent actions force Henry to define his life and wants. It makes him grow up and be his own person, finally. These events actually go a long way towards establishing and building Henry as an independent, likable character.
The other characters are decent and the females feel supportive without smothering or collapsing. I liked the warmth and concern of those who worked for the Walker estate, a kind of old world charge even as Archie realizes how ridiculous and superficial it all is. Archie feels genuine and makes a good counterpoint to Henry without being overbearing or too invisible. He straddles the line between partner and deference well but will likely flourish out on his own. There’s a hanging thread on whether he finished his degree or had to repeat the semester but that’s a small detail.
On the other hand the mystery of who arranged the kidnapping is laughably obvious. The story only offers one possibility and basically puts up a neon sign saying who is responsible. The fact that the characters don’t realize this really put a stretch on my ability to suspend disbelief. Numerous details and overwhelming evidence got too much towards the end, making the eventual reveal thin and tired before it even started. I wish the story had offered other options to really make the suspense sing and get readers questioning who might be the villain.
Although I easily guessed the ending, this is still an enjoyable read. The writing is tight, characterizations interesting and the various relationships grow and offer more depth at the end than the beginning. Whereas characters may feel wooden at the start they definitely change and deepen by the end, which makes the story interesting despite the failure at creating suspense. The ending is slightly too easy but no real complaints. I’d recommend this one for fans of Michaels but those new to her writing should definitely read others first. This is a good read but not her best.