In the 14 years since we last visited Edward Deravenel (introduced in 2006's THE RAVENSCAR DYNASTY), he has come into his own as lord and master of the family empire. Business is good, and every day brings a new opportunity for wealth and success. While his professional life is stellar, the same unfortunately cannot be said of his personal life.
It is now 1918. World War I has ended, and while relief and rejoicing should be the order of the day, another scourge threatens the English countryside --- an influenza epidemic that is no respecter of persons. Luckily, the Ravenscar estate provides a safe haven for the family from disease if not from family intrigue and politics.
Stuck in a loveless marriage, Edward and his wife, the cold and calculating yet beautiful Elizabeth, manage to produce child upon child thanks to a continued physical attraction that somehow transcends their antipathy toward one another. The emotional closeness that cannot be derived from his relationship with his wife, however, is available to him through a variety of other channels.
One of those channels is Jane Shaw, Edward's longtime mistress. Where Edward receives only criticism and condemnation from Elizabeth, comfort and refuge are found in the arms of the lovely Jane. The older woman offers him unconditional love and a haven where problems take a backseat to fun and affection.
Other rewarding relationships in Edward's life include a close and warm connection with his mother, Cecily; a fondness for his younger brother, Richard; and the affection he lavishly pours out onto his many children, both from his current marriage and from a previous liaison. Several lifelong friends and associates from Edward's social set also fill the emotional void he experiences in his relationship with his wife.
Unfortunately, as anyone knows, when one loves deeply, one is also open to hurt and pain when bad things happen. In the life of the Deravenels, there is no shortage of intrigue or tragedy.
George, Edward and Richard's younger brother, is a never-ending source of trouble for the family. His drinking, gambling and carousing create an endless string of catastrophes for Edward to clean up. His lack of business acumen jeopardizes relationships that Edward has worked hard to establish, and his animosity toward his older brother also creates a need for Edward to be vigilant, as George is capable of one scheme after another designed to force Edward from the seat of power.
Not only are there known and obvious enemies to the Deravenels, one has to wonder if there is more taking place here than meets the eye. As one misfortune after another befalls this family of wealth and privilege, it begins to look as if a curse could be upon them. What else could explain the string of calamities that impact the Deravenel men of not only Edward's generation but those preceding and following?
THE HEIR begins in 1918 and ends in 1974, giving us the opportunity to further know Edward and his immediate family as well as the Deravenel children and grandchildren. It is delightful to see this family grow and how one generation carries on the hopes, dreams and accomplishments of the previous.
Readers who were sorry to see the end of a tradition begun with A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE and who miss the exploits of the Harte family will be ecstatic to delve into the lives and loves of the Deravenels in this fascinating Ravenscar series set in the Edwardian era.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 22, 2011