Here's a description of the book from the author's website:
"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."
Despite my poor computer-fried eyes, The Hesitant Heiress held my interest, kept my gaze glued to the Kindle screen, and stole some of my sleep. The descriptions of the setting and era are exquisite, and the scenes flow from one romantic scenario to another, keeping me happily intrigued. I enjoyed the pace very much.
I will confess, though, that while I was an engaged reader, I was also a very frustrated one. With all suspense/mystery novels, there's a fine balance between showing all the cards too soon and not giving the readers enough of a peek to feel invested. I think this particular story skews a little more toward the latter. Maybe I was too sleep-deprived to pay as much attention to the details as I should, but I felt left in the dark for quite a while. I wanted a foundation at first, something to help me really grasp the characters and their relationships with one another (if not all the intricacies of their circumstances, naturally). And with the first-person point-of-view limitation, along with some holes in the back story that don't get filled in until later, it's hard (or at least it was for me!) to get entirely grounded in the story world right away. Just bear in mind that the nature of the relationships and their histories make more sense in time.
Another point of frustration, though, goes along with that first-person POV, and the voice behind it. I smacked my head (wishing I could smack the characters) and groaned at Amaryllis's self-assurance that completely defies her lack of perceptiveness. Her naivete could be more easily forgiven if only she didn't come across as being very self-absorbed. Not that she's an entirely unsympathetic character; I just would have loved to see her have a little more genuine interest in others (beyond attraction or lack thereof) to endear me to her.
Now, Meredyth (a friend) on the other hand shone as a secondary character. She's carefree and considerate - at least the glimpses we're given of her - and I look forward to reading more of her story in Book 2 of "The Everstone Chronicles" series, The Bound Heart!
Coming back to this first installment, though, I did quite enjoy it. I love the cast of characters - the friends with all their underlying feelings and interesting connections. I did appreciate the mystery, even if I would have liked just a bit more grounding to begin with. The suspense that builds at the very end is epic! The scenes at that point jump without much emotional resolution, as so many revelations happen one right after the other, but it's still highly entertaining.
And the romance... I wanted to smack them often for interrupting one another and not finishing their thoughts! So, be forewarned that a lot of drama comes from misunderstandings. Also, I personally found some of the hero's motives suspect. But still... Well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that remark. ;)
My feelings are obviously all over the place, so let me sum it up: Intriguing historical romance with plenty of drama and a dash of suspense. Frustrating communication and character flaws, but engaging characters, nonetheless. Great writing, and a story that sets the stage for a promising sequel.
*With thanks to the author for providing me with a PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*