Runaway brides, secret babies, family secrets, blackmail and alcoholism. Those elements would make for enough drama for one story all by themselves. However, in An Heir of Deception by Beverly Kendall all of that is just backstory to the actual novel. In this case, it’s the revelations and their aftermath that drive this story. And what a story it is!
Charlotte Rutherford abandoned Alex Hastings at the altar five years ago, and ran away to America. Not because she didn’t love him. But because she loved him too much to expose him to the social censure that would result if the secret of her parentage was revealed.
Now she’s back. She received a letter that her twin sister is deathly ill. The letter was fake, but the damage is already done. Charlotte is back in England, with her four-year-old son Nicholas. Alex’s son.
Her return sets a chain of events into motion that no force on earth could stop. Alex, heir to the Duke of Hastings, moves his considerable powers to claim his son. But instead of a custody battle, he chooses to falsify their marriage, re-claiming Charlotte as well. Even as he tries to pretend to himself that he has “recovered” from his love for her, just as he “recovered” from the alcoholism he sank into after she left him. Knowing full well that the drink still tempts him every day. And so does Charlotte.
Meanwhile, Charlotte still has a devastating family secret yet to be revealed. And the blackmailer that drove her from England the first time is still out there. As she and Alex begin to build a new relationship, built partly on their old passion, and partly on their shared love for their son, they still face demons of jealousy, anger and betrayal. Until the blackmailer is finally revealed.
Escape Rating A-: I stayed up late to finish this one, because I had to find out who the blackmailer was. And I’m not going to spoil it because I was very surprised at the person’s identity. I will say this, the blackmail is not about some minor, or even major, peccadillo of Charlotte’s, this is a “skeleton in the family closet” type of secret, not about some sin she committed.
The story, ultimately is about trust. Charlotte didn’t trust Alex to stand by her if he knew, not because he might think less of her, but because society’s censure would ultimately wear him down, and he would resent her in the long run. She might have been right. What she was, certainly, was young and unsure of herself. She did think she was saving everyone, and she did not find out she was pregnant until after she reached America. By then, returning seemed out of the question. And probably was. It would have added more fuel to the already scandalous fire.
The number of relationships in this story built on rather shaky trust foundations is actually scandalously high. The shifting of those bonds, seeing them re-build between Alex and Charlotte, build between Alex and his son Nicholas, finally form between Alex and his own parents, and yet fall surprisingly in other quarters, is what deepens this story.
An Heir of Deception is book 3 in Ms. Kendall’s series, The Elusive Lords. I am now sorely tempted to go back and read the other Lords’ stories; Sinful Surrender (book 1), A Taste of Desire (book 2) and All’s Fair in Love & Seduction (this mid-series novella is currently free at Amazon, B&N and ARe). If they are anything like Heir, they must be delicious.