Amaryllis Brigham wants nothing more than to return to her home on Whidbey Island, in Washington Territory. A bright and talented young twenty-five-year-old, Amaryllis has spent the last eleven years after her mother’s death transferring from school to school. When she unexpectedly is removed from the The Boston Conservatory’s music program after a slanderous letter from her mother’s former fiancé, Amaryllis joins her cousin, Lawry, and her great-aunt, Claudine, for a summer of high-society parties and travel along the New England coast. Her summer is anything but quiet, however, when Nathan Everstone, the son of the slanderous letter writer, joins her and Lawry at Hilldreth, her family’s ancestral home. Amaryllis discovers over the following months that wealth means little, even for those who stand to inherit family fortunes, when a heart is not open to love.
The Hesitant Heiress, set in various places in the late 1800’s New England, follows Amaryllis Brigham and her family and friends as she strives and struggles to find her place in high society. From the beginning of the novel, when readers first meet Amaryllis as she leaves the Boston Conservatory, to the end of the novel, far away from ritzy Boston, author Dawn Crandall’s main character is captivating and amusing. Readers will enjoy Amaryllis for many reasons—she is witty and quick on her feet when responding to her friends and enemies; she is relatable in her struggles against guilt and shame over circumstances that she had little control over; her determination to be a strong, self-sufficient woman is admirable, especially given the setting of the novel; and her complete love and devotion for her other half is heart-warming.
Amaryllis, aside from her numerous positive points, is not without fault, which makes her an even more appealing character because every reader will find some sort of connection to her. Crandall’s female protagonist searches for her place in the world after a childhood of numerous homes where she does not feel she belongs. She also faces demons of many sizes and shapes as she struggles to understand her parents’ deaths, the villains who instrumented her disrupted childhood, and her own grief and guilt at the way her life has played out. Consequently, Amaryllis’ journey throughout The Hesitant Heiress is filled with self-doubt, frustration, and confusion from many characters as she interacts with her family, friends, and acquaintances not always looking out for her best interests. The depth of emotion that Crandall utilizes throughout all of her characters is superb but shines brightest in Amaryllis because of the challenges she must overcome.
The Hesitant Heiress stands out as an exceptional novel because Crandall develops all of her characters in equal measure, whether main or secondary, male or female, villain or hero/heroine. There is no doubt between the various settings and plot lines that every single character will grab readers’ attention and hearts. Even characters who appear for brief moments are significant to the story and have their moments to make an impression upon readers. The male protagonist, Nathan Everstone, charms his way into the page from the very first moment his character enters the story. Handsome, intelligent, charismatic, and persuasive, Nathan is a man who is used to getting what he wants when he wants it. Readers know, therefore, from the beginning of the story that he is out to win Amaryllis’ heart in The Hesitant Heiress. Crandall breaks away from the usual boy-wins-girl through heroic acts of valor that are so prominent in historical fiction novels with her style of linking characters in unique ways through numerous plot lines. Reading Amaryllis and Nathan’s story gives a push-pull of emotions because the author is skilled at developing situations that leave endless possibilities of good and bad opportunities that affect the protagonists, antagonists, main, and secondary characters all at one time. Crandall’s skills at developing her characters is exceptional in that she leaves just enough of the story lines open to ensure her readers will want to return to the next two books in the series to follow through with the remaining protagonists and antagonists sure to evolve in the coming months of The Everstone Chronicles.
The Hesitant Heiress is a beautiful story of forgiveness, redemption, and love. While reading Amaryllis’ and Nathan’s stories, readers understand Crandall’s message of God’s forgiveness and mercy for his people. Through lyrical writing, symbolism, description, and dialog the author shows the power of love, both on Earth—our relationships with others—and from our Heavenly Father. The novel is recommended for adult readers who enjoy Christian fiction, historical fiction, and any combination of the two.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Whitaker House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.