The Heir and the Spare

Image of The Heir and the Spare
Release Date: 
January 1, 2016
Merit Press
Reviewed by: 

The heir is Evie, an American college girl sent on a quest through her dead mother’s letters. It leads her to Oxford University in England and discovery of her surprising birthright.

The spare is Edmund, second in line to the British throne, who has no questions about—and no escape from—his own birthright.

They fall in love at first meeting in Oxford, where transfer student Evie is welcomed into her dorm mates’ clique, which happens to contain Edmund. He and she find that having a relationship is okay in class and among their classmates, but social class prevents the partnership they desire. What they can do together is explore the secrets of Evie’s family history. Their discoveries just might change the equation.

For the prince, Evie is a dream come true. He finds in her not only a bright and pretty girl who shares his interests, but also one who does not initially recognize him and likes him for himself. When she does learn his identity, she still likes him and doesn’t change her behavior toward him. That attracts him to her even more.

Evie appeals to readers, as well. Although more naive than some of her classmates, she is confident and forthright—standing up to snotty rivals, bullying aristocrats, and the paparazzi who hound her and the prince. She never wallows in angst, despite being thrown far off stride by her rapidly changing circumstances.

(But hey, she’s a believably drawn person, so she suffers setbacks and doubts, and vacillating moods. “Self-consciousness seeped into the crevices my excitement had just dribbled out of,” she confesses when facing a new challenge. Her honest self-evaluations pepper the narrative, but she never backs down when she must carry on.)

She even manages to keep up with her coursework while juggling a treasure hunt for her heritage and meeting the king and queen of England. When she recognizes that she’s really and truly in love with a prince, and she’s just a commoner who will ultimately lose him to his obligations (as in, marry a peer), she doesn’t crawl away and cry. Instead she thinks: “There was only one option: take the leap, enjoy the ride down, and pray the landing didn’t kill me. My heart’s going to get so mangled.”

But she takes the leap anyway. And we read on to find out if she’s going to splat against the ground or soar into the sky.

The royal characters in the novel are obviously modeled after today’s royal family, whose second son, Prince Harry, is often called “the spare to the heir.” However, the author makes no attempt to reflect the living British aristocracy beyond this. The story is pure fiction, with sharp observations about classism and human nature woven through.

The Heir and the Spare is a delightful read for adults as well as the teens it’s squarely aimed at. Who doesn’t dream of a fairy-tale romance? This one delivers a classic with an upbeat, realistic feeling and a modern twist.