Title: “The Heiresses”
Author: Allison Rushby
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre(s): historical fiction, some romance, some intrigue
Part of a Series: No
Why I read it: Because it looked good
Summary: Set in 1920s England, three young women are brought to London by a mysterious aunt and learn they are triplets. Their mother died in childbirth and their father sent them away to be raised by distant relatives, hopefully to never be heard from again. But when their father dies, the aunt sends for them to tell them about their inheritance from their late mother. It is in the hands of their half-brother and he refuses to acknowledge them. The girls must band together to win back what is theirs and solve the mysterious surrounding their birth.
Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so, I found myself reading large portions at a time—even when my reading time was limited by work and a cold.
The main characters are interesting leads, the three sisters representing the three components of the psyche according to Freud. Clio is the superego, the moral center of the girls. Thalia is the id, focused only on fulfilling primitive and basic needs and desires. And Erato (aka Ro) is the ego, the logical one who tries to find balance between the superego and the ego.
My personal favorite is Clio because I feel I identify with her the most. She struggles to hold onto her morals in the decadent society her newfound parentage places her in. And to try to keep her sisters (especially Thalia) straight. Meanwhile, my least favorite is Thalia. I understand why she is who she is—Rushby does a good job of explaining why she is a wild child. Thalia has a difficult childhood and it has shaped who she is in the book. It still doesn’t mean I have to like her. I like Ro but I wouldn’t call her a favorite.
It is listed as romance but the romance doesn’t really drive the plot. The mystery surrounding the girls do. But the romance is still intriguing. Especially between Clio and Edwin, though it may be because she’s my favorite character. And it’s an interesting dynamic—Edwin is a member of the society Clio feels uncomfortable in. He’s drawn to her because she’s different and is something he wants to be. Or rather, being with her allows him to bring out another side of him he doesn’t let the others see. He puts on the appearance of a bored, just wants to have fun aristocrat (though he does just want to have fun) though his first meeting with Clio shows he wants more from himself. And Clio gives him a chance to do so, even if it takes awhile for him to prove it to her.
Ro also has a romance of her own with a science professor named Vincent. They seem evenly matched—both are intelligent with an interest in what we now call genetics. And they have an easy chemistry. (No pun intended) With Vincent, Ro abandons her logical side and embraces her passion and impulses when she’s with Vincent. But there is more to him than Ro sees at first and she may not like what she learns about him.
For the most part, Ro is also the one most focused on solving the mystery of their birth. Thalia is off having a good time while Clio is focused on her adoptive mother’s failing health. Ro presses their newly found aunt, Hestia, for more information. She goes to meet with the midwife present at their birth. And she goes through their mother’s belongings for any clues. Thalia does do something digging of her own and Clio does find one clue, but neither does the same amount of work Ro does.
There’s not much more I can discuss about the characters without giving critical pieces of the plot away. But I will discuss the plot as much as I feel comfortable to without spoiling anything. It is an interesting plot, one that keeps the reader engaged. You want to know what happens next. There are a few moments where the reader might have to stretch his or her suspension of disbelief but not too much.
Rushby does a great job with the setting as well. She evokes the 1920s with every detail from the clothing to the changes sweeping the world. Hestia is campaigning for her father’s seat in the House of Lords as well as trying to secure the vote for all British women, not just the ones of the upper class. And the parties Thalia attends are full of alcohol, drugs and sex. I feel there could’ve been more about pop culture pulled into the story—music, early cinema, etc. Given Thalia’s lifestyle, it seemed off these didn’t creep in a bit more.
Bottom line: A great novel which will be a great read.
Sex: A few mentions, but nothing graphic.
What is your favorite historical era?