Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: The Hidden Heir by Debra Webb

The Hidden Heir The Hidden Heir by Debra Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this! I chose it because of the "metro" hero, and was immediately happy I picked it up. It might be a bit closer to 4.5/5 stars, actually. I've read others in the Colby Series, and this was by far my favourite one, and it exceeded all expectations.

The story centers around a young woman, Ashley, hiding from an abusive ex-boyfriend, and the somewhat geeky research-pro-turned-PI who is sent to find her and the child she's been sheltering. The PI has been told the ex has only months to live, and is desperate to see his son, who's being ruthlessly withheld from him by a gold digger. Through the course of the story, he realizes all Ashley needs is someone to believe her side of the story and help her free herself from her fugitive state.

The story has some extremely hot moments, and the need and chemistry leaps off the page at you. The hero was quite distinct from your typical romance PI, though we learn oddly little about him beyond his character under pressure (and, on the score, he's pretty wonderful). The writing is quickly paced and modern, and the editing strong. The secondary characters are fine, and the world feels lived-in. Ashley's struggle as a mother is heartbreaking and touching, while still realistic and pragmatic, with very little excess emotional manipulation. There is also one hell of a horrific twist that ties in some minor details throughout the book and makes for a rather exciting climax. All in all, both the romance and the suspense elements are quite vivid for such a short, quick story.

I read it practically in one sitting, even though I knew I had a cart load of work to do! It was that good.

In many ways, this book is a rather timely read. I've been watching the 50 Shades of Grey trend, and have noted the horror some critics have expressed over the abusive and controlling nature of the "hero" - misogynistic domination veiled as romance. In this book, we see a more realistic image of a billionaire sadist, and the lengths the heroine must go through to free herself from his abuse once she discovers his nature. Cheers for her!

While there are aspects of this book that might read like "poor girl must wait in purgatory until saved by a big strong man," this is not the totality of the book. True, the entrance of the PI, Keith, is what brings about the resolution to her troubles, but it's less about sexist stereotypes than it is about how difficult it is for an impoverished person to stand alone against the wealth and cruelty of her hunter. It's about what having extra help willing to listen to her story and trust her can mean to someone in a jam. Aside from this, Ashley is one seriously resourceful heroine who is depicted as far from helpless, and Keith becomes more of her partner than her rescuer. This is a refreshing change from many HQ Intrigue "damsel in distress" storylines, and one that should appeal to many women.

My quibbles are quite minor, including a wish that we'd learned more about the hero, and a stronger hook at the beginning. The first pages were rather weak, mostly dedicated to establishing a link with the rest of the Colby series. Since I am not a fan of series in general, I skimmed a lot of it, along with the final pages, which returns to the Colby theme. If you're into the series, you might not feel the same way, but if you're not a series fan the first chapter might leave you cold. Nevertheless, it's a book well worth staying with past this slow opening.

Recommended, enthusiastically, for fans of shorter, m/f contemporary romantic suspense with sensual heat.

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