The Inheritance by Michael Phillips

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When Macgregor Tulloch, laird of the Shetland island of Whale’s Reef, dies unexpectedly, his great-nephew David, the clan chief, is the presumptive heir. Most everyone on the island adores David and looks forward to having him for their landlord, rather than his cranky old uncle. But Macgregor died before writing his will, leaving the door open for David’s cousin, Hardy Tulloch, to make a grasp for the lairdship. When the probate court hires an heir hunter to determine who Macgregor’s rightful successor should be, an unexpected member of the family (an American! a woman! – gasp!) is discovered, throwing the little Shetland island off its kilter and bringing long-buried secrets to light.

The Inheritance is the first book of Michael Phillips’ newest series, Secrets of the Shetlands. I wanted to read this book because 1) it’s set in Scotland (well, the Shetland Islands) and I love Scotland! and 2) I remembered reading Phillips’ The Heather Hills of Stonewycke (a gothic-style novel set in, of course, Scotland) when I was in my early teens, and I loved it! Unfortunately, The Inheritance didn’t live up to my remembrances of Stonewycke. I did, eventually, kind of enjoy the story, but it took me so long to become in any way involved with the myriad of storylines and flashbacks, that I considered giving up (which is a huge deal for me – I very rarely give up on a book).

I understand that this is just the first book in what I’m guessing is going to be a Follett-esque epic story, but chunks of the story felt very contrived rather than organic – like Phillips was trying to force leather strips into a tapestry of silk threads. It seemed overly complicated at times, and I found myself tuning out portions, going through sometimes whole pages without paying attention, but still not seeming to miss anything important.

And, unfortunately, I didn’t find the characters very unique or compelling – Phillips tried to build interesting backstory, but it’s hard to make silk purses out of prosaic sow’s ear characters. Maybe the next book in the series will bring more depth and dimension to the orphans and blowhards that populate this tale, but I don’t think I’ll be reading on to find out.

While the story wasn’t horrible, I can’t imagine myself recommending it to a friend. There are other stories set in Scotland and other generational epics that I’d suggest long before this one. Bummer.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the free copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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