Publisher: Summerside Press
Publication Date: 2011
Author: Susan May Warren
Series: “Daughters of Fortune” (book 1 of 3)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Historical
Synopsis: two privileged sisters living in the gilded age fight for their way of life… and hearts. One sister, the elder Esme believes in a cause. She feels deeply for the people less fortunate than she and wants to make a difference in their world – to share the wealth she has. Her father comes into society with new money having made it in the publishing world but all he wants is to marry off his daughter to a respectable match that will ensure the family’s place in society. Restless and with no desire to marry – especially a match born out of convenience and not love, Esme determines to become a journalist following in her father’s footsteps, but her plan is forbidden and instead of entering the loveless marriage her father assumes she will abide, Esme flees the glittering New York society for the western frontier.
Younger daughter Jinx would do anything her family asks of her. Often jealous that she wasn’t the daughter with the birthright, she is only too ready to pick up the pieces her sister’s foolish romance and headstrong notions left their family in. Marrying the man her sister spurned – the man Jinx herself loved, Jinx is soon hardened to her idea of duty when cruel circumstances leave her bitter.
Will these two very different sisters learn that prestige and wealth cannot bring true happiness… or are they destined to never again come together as family?
My thoughts: Susan May Warren is a first-class author in my opinion. Her novels are always skillfully penned and although I have as yet to read a couple of her more recent series, I have read several of her more popular series like the Deep Haven novels and the pulse-pounding Team Hope series. To be honest, Heiress gets off to a rough start. The writing is confusing and as the reader, I was unsure whose thoughts I was reading – was it meant to be Jinx or Esme? All of those doubts were gone by chapter two as the novel settled into an easy pattern. What this novel is reminiscent of is Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South or the acclaimed ITV series Downton Abbey, so much does it mirror the latter (by its setting), one has to wonder if the author drew on the series as inspiration. Needless to say making that distinction only fueled my enchantment with this novel. I adore that series… and I loved this book. Heiress is rich in period detail and that perhaps, is its crowning achievement.
The better part of this story is dark; it’s depressing – more than just through a minor subplot. Its backdrop is that of a fairytale world but its characters are living anything but a fairytale life. Before even five chapters are gone, we’ve learned what miserable lives a handful of characters have endured, yet at the same time, parts of the story are relatable. It’s divided into four parts or “sections.” The first is about the sisters, and then each gets a section of pages devoted to their individual story before it closes with their lives intertwining again. One minor complaint I would have is the alarming rate at which the novel moved. It begins in the late 1800’s and nears the roaring twenties era before it reaches completion. Knowing there is to be subsequent stories, I wish Warren would have slowed the novel down – it spans about twenty years, a time-frame that seemed expanded far beyond the expectations the story required. The series is going to be generational as I understand it, so that likely played a role in Susan’s writing, but nevertheless, I’d have preferred the entire series spanning ten or twenty years as opposed to one novel – the sequel already is set-up for more broken hearts and bitter emotions. Additionally, the likelihood of such tragedy – and through such sobering events, occurring in both sisters’ lives doesn’t hold a ring of realism. I tolerated it in its few instances in the first quarter of the story, accepted it as more sorrows entered these engaging character’s lives and was downright annoyed by it before I closed up the book. Still…
I cannot remember the last time I was so enthralled with a novel. It had been weeks – months even since I devoured one so quickly. I could not put this book down. In-between my other responsibilities, my thoughts would somehow drift back to this story. It’s powerful yet enchanting, and that is good storytelling. Not much of the story relies on faith or a personal relationship with God. Neither Jinx or Esme can accept that God might bless them because of their past "sins." What they are naïve of is the truth that He doesn't "punish" their lives by "allowing" tragedy whether they've asked forgiveness from Him (in repentance) or not. The one conversation that explores this topic is brief but impacting. Heiress is a riveting read. Susan has concocted another beautiful novel with the ability to move her reader to tears but yet, even with an ending bordering on depressing it leaves us with a ghost of a smile in the closing paragraphs. A must-read for any historical fiction aficionado. Heiress is story-telling at its best – and it’s in the capable hands of one very talented author.