The Pregnant Heiress, by Eileen Wilks
I don’t know how long I’ve had this book in the TBR mountain range, but I believe it’s probably a few years.
I became aware of Ms Wilks’ category titles back in 2008, and even though I knew even then that she also writes Urban Fantasy (hell, I probably own at least one of these books), I haven’t read a lot of her stuff.
At any rate, I was looking for shorter stories to read this month for SLWendy’s TBR challenge, and happened to see this book on the shelf.
I didn’t like it as much as two other categories I read this month, though, which is why this review is coming to you later in the week.
The Pregnant Heiress is the second book in The Fortunes of Texas: The Lost Heirs continuity. (Amazing fact: the entire Fortune’s Children series, with all related sub series and offshoots, was published during a period of almost exactly ten years—we are talking 69 books!)
Ms Wilks handles well all the limitations of category length plus continuity requirements–a number of characters from other books, both previous and future, must appear, and at least a few clues for future events must be included in this installment.
Still, this story suffers from those constraints, notably in the category shorthand that stands in for a lot of the characterization and most of the plot.
Warning: there’s mention of past physical violence towards the heroine, though not rape.
Here’s the (gah) blurb from my print copy:
Her passionate protector…
Seven-months-pregnant Emma Michaels had come to Texas seeking a safe haven from her stalker. But she soon faced a greater danger from darkly handsome Flynn Sinclair–her round-the-clock bodyguard. Though duty-bound Flynn tried to ignore their smoldering attraction, pent-up desire soon gave way to passion. And when the present danger had passed, could Emma convince her fearless guardian to face his greatest challenge…and entrust his heart to her safekeeping?
The Fortunes of Texas: The Lost Heirs discover that membership in this family has its privileges…and its price. What a fortune can’t buy, a true-bred Texas love is sure to bring.
Thirty plus years ago, sixteen year old Miranda Fortune ran away. Not too long afterwards, she gave birth to twins, which she promptly abandoned at an orphanage. Because reasons, the babies were separated immediately, so neither of them knows about the other.
In the present, Flynn has been hired to find Emma, her twin brother Justin, and apparently a number of other long-lost illegitimate Fortune cousins. Despite how little is known about all of these people, Flynn is–of course!–an excellent PI, who finds the lot of them in a matter of weeks.
Now his actual problem is convincing these people that they want to be part of one of the wealthiest, and obviously quite dysfunctional, families in a state that is noted by its many rich dynasties (in romance-land, at least).
And, because this is a category continuity, at least three of these newly found relatives are quite wealthy in their own right.
Emma just doesn’t happen to be one of them. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The story starts as Flynn finds Emma, who happens to be five months pregnant and on the run from her ex-fiancé. We learn later that the ex was less than pleased with the pregnancy, which resulted in his assaulting her. At the moment, Emma is working under the table at a truck stop diner in the middle of nowhere, Arizona.
Flynn is befuddled, and this reader utterly unsurprised, when Emma is less than thrilled to know that she has a mother who a) is filthy rich, and b) wants to “take Emma in.”
At any rate, and more to meet her twin than for any other reason, Emma does travel to Texas. While there, she intends to find work, have her baby, and live as obscure and anonymous a life as she would have in Arizona.
Just a tad naive, wouldn’t you say, considering the public curiosity and news frenzy that surround any and everything to do with the Fortunes, particularly all these new heirs.
In short order, Emma’s picture is on newspapers and news outlets everywhere, along with enough information to, basically, invite her stalker back into her life.
The smartest course of action at this point, naturally, is for Emma to hide somewhere with only Flynn for protection.
From the beginning, Flynn thinks of Emma as flaky/kooky, because she’s into chakras and numerology and the like. Being skeptical about all of that nonsense myself, I can’t quite blame him for it. He also comes across as utterly dismissive of Emma’s capacity to make decisions about her future and her safety for most of the novel, and with good reason.
Such as when Emma suggests being the bait in a trap for her stalker. When Flynn questions her common sense, she counters that she would wait until after the baby is born. Because that makes the suggestion all the more sensible, I’m sure.
Emma’s fixation with not accepting any help from her family takes her into TSTL territory a couple of times. Woman, you are on the run from a stalker who just happens to be a bounty hunter, with contacts in the police force. As a result, you don’t dare use your social security number or even driver’s license to get a job. You are also almost seven months pregnant, just moved to a new place, without friends or savings or anything of value other than an old car about to give up the ghost. When your newly found and wealthy-beyond-the-telling mother wants to settle money on you, it’s stupid to say ‘no’ out of hand. Because, remember that baby? The hospital bills alone–on the run, no job, no money, no insurance?
Honestly, Emma, your own mommy issues only carry so much weight when the well-being of your child is at stake.
At this point, you would think that I would have chucked this sucker across the room, and I might have, were it not for Ms Wilks’ writing voice, which is definitely too good for the plot and characters in this book. For example, we have this line:
“Oh, that was unfair. His face was all craggy and interesting when he wore his usual dour expression. When he grinned, the mismatched parts fell into place in an unreasonably sexy way.”
While the suspense thread is terribly contrived, it does serve its purpose, as it provides a lot of the impetus for intimacy between the characters.Which in turn forces them to examine their own motivations and emotional baggage.
Flynn’s attraction towards Emma, despite her being pregnant, is well done. This is saying something as I’m one of those people who don’t think most men find pregnant bodies sexy or arousing–sue me.
It probably works for me well in this story because, back when they first meet some two months before, he muses a lot on how her smile and cheerfulness make her attractive, while also noticing her legs and ass. His lust has built up over time, based on more than just her appearance, and it’s all the more realistic for it.
As for the characters themselves, and excluding Emma’s lack of common sense in some areas, they grew on me.
Emma is self aware enough to realize that she doesn’t have any real experience with relationships and love–both romantic and filial. After falling in and out of love so often through the years, how does she know whether her feelings for Flynn are different, i.e., the real deal? After all, not half a year before, she thought she loved the man she’s now hiding from.
Flynn has his own issues. After his father’s untimely death when he was twenty, he became the de facto father figure for his two much younger half-sisters. Though he loves them and his stepmother, he has had enough of responsibility for a good long while. The last thing he wants is a serious relationship, let alone one involving someone else’s baby.
To say that he fights his attraction to Emma–who he sees as both deserving and needing of permanence and dependability in her relationships–is an understatement.
Which makes the characters’ inner dialogue, both wanting to ‘do the right thing’ (not hurting the other) yet also wanting to get what they want, ring true.
At the end of the story, Emma and Flynn have spent enough time together, and talked honestly enough with each other, that I felt they had a good chance to make a relationship work. This made the last separation and syrupy ending annoying.
The sum of all of the strengths and weaknesses in writing, plotting and characterization, makes me give The Pregnant Heiress a flat 6.00 out of 10