The Inadequate Heir
by Danielle L. Jensen
Published by CLA
Book 3 in the Bridge Kingdom series
A soldier raised as heir to an empire, Zarrah is motivated by two truths.
The first is that the Veliant family murdered her mother. And the second is that her pursuit of vengeance will put every last one of them in their graves.
The Endless War between Maridrina and Valcotta has raged for generations, leaving thousands of Zarrah’s people dead and countless more orphaned. So when she’s given command of the contested city of Nerastis, Zarrah is prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy the Maridrinian forces who oppose her. And to kill the Veliant prince who leads them.
Yet a chance encounter with an anonymous, and handsome, Maridrinian causes Zarrah to question whether the violence she’s perpetrated is justice or a crime. And as she continues to meet the nameless man each night, she finds common ground - and fiery passion - in his arms.
But when identities are revealed, Zarrah must decide whether to embrace a chance at peace…or march to the drums of war.
The Inadequate Heir is the third book in Danielle L Jensen's hit series, The Bridge Kingdom. It centers around Zarrah, the heir to Valcotta empire, and powerful Captain in the army stationed in Nerastis, and Keris, heir to the Maridrina throne, and reluctantly Captain to the Maridrinian forces in Nerastis. After the horrific murder of her mother by the Valcotta family, Zarrah has been on a path of vengeance. But it isn't until she meets a handsome , mysterious Maridrinian that she begins to question if this war is really justice, or murder. And every night when she meets the mysterious man, she opens up her mind a bit more, and their feelings for one another, while forbidden, grow stronger. But when Zarrah learns who the man who has captured her heart is, she must decide if she can open herself up enough for the sake of peace, or march her armies to kill the Maridrinian's once and for all.
I'm going to start this out by saying this: I went into this thinking there was no way I was going to love this book as much as I loved The Bridge Kingdom and The Traitor Queen. But I loved it. I FREAKING LOVED IT! Like ... one of the best books I have read this year loved it. Loved it so much I can't CHOOSE my favorite amongst the series. Storyline - perfection. Despite it being set in the same timeline as the last end of The Bridge Kingdom, and all of The Traitor Queen, I was never bored. Just enough information was given to let me know where in the timeline we were at, so there was no repetitiveness. Hell, even Keris's and Aren's conversations when Aren was captured didn't feel repetitive. It shows how good of a writer Danielle is.
It's not just the story that was amazing, but the characters! I didn't think I could love Keris and Zarrah as much as I loved Aren and Lara, but I did. They are all unique from one another, and their traits and backgrounds are all so different, it was easy to love all of them, and not feel pit them against each other. And their individual flaws, make them that much more wonderful to read, and more relatable. Aren's commitment to his people, his country, and the constant fight to keep them safe. Lara's love for Aren and her new kingdom. Keris's ultimate wish of peace between all kingdoms, and his hatred of his father and the death that surrounds him. And Zarrah, who understandably wants justice, but much like Lara in The Bridge Kingdom, is a pawn in her aunt's game, and is missing vital information until its too late. SOOOO GOOD!
As for book boyfriends ... Keris is in my top 10.
Not only will you get sucked into this story, and not be able to put the book down, but the emotions you will feel for these characters will pull you in and not let you go. The characters, the bonds between them (because not only do I love Keris and Zarrah together, but I want Keris and his sister to make up) will live in your brain rent free, just like they are mine. The romance ... wow. Danielle has upped her game in the romance department, and the steam is SIZZLING in this book. And I honestly can't wait for the next book. Please Danielle! Please don't make us wait long! That cliffhanger ... ughhhhhhhh.
Raina: “Lovely. There is nothing I like better than escorting drunk Maridrinian pricks.”
Keris laughed. Her head jerked sideways, gaze lighting upon Keris where he leaned against the wall, far away from his companions. After coughing to clear his throat, the old Ithicanian said,
Man: “This is Crown Prince Keris Veliant. The Queen’s elder brother.”
The woman inclined her head.
Raina: “My apologies, Your Highness. I regret you overhearing my comment.”
But she did not regret saying it. Keris liked her already.
Keris: “Given I’m quite sober, I assume you’re delighted to escort me.”
Her hazel eyes flickered with amusement.
Raina: “Sober… but you are a Maridrinian.”
Keris: “And a prick, as luck would have it.”
He smirked at her.
Keris: “I hope your king pays you well.”
Raina: “Not well enough.” Raina: “She makes His Grace very happy.”
Keris: “You’re only saying that because I’m Maridrinian, which means that I must think the sum of a woman is whether she makes men happy.”
The corners of her mouth turned up.
Raina: Am I wrong?”
Keris: “Oh, yes. I’m far more selfish than you’re giving me credit for—I only care if they make me happy.” Keris: “Peace is like a dance. It only works if both partners are listening to the same music.” Raina: “Where are you going?”
Keris: “To find you.”
She huffed out an amused breath.
Keris: “Because you’re the only person in this cursed bridge whose presence I find tolerable.”
Raina: “Tolerable, is it, Your Highness? Such a compliment! My cheeks are burning.”
Keris: “Impossible to tell, given that mask you wear. If a blush is to be the reward for my kind words, I’ve been robbed.” The Empress: “Tears will not bring your mother back. Put all your sorrow and all your rage and all your passion into becoming a weapon, and fight to prevent this fate from ever befalling another Valcottan child. I promise you, we will make Silas Veliant bleed for what he has done.” Keris: “Given the odds of me surviving are low, it seems unkind to take a wife, never mind a whole harem of them. Paid girls don’t weep when their customers meet untimely ends.”
Her head cocked.
Zarrah: “How interesting that you believe your wives would.”
Despite himself, Keris laughed.
Keris: “Careful, girl. I might decide to keep you for another few hours if you’re not more sparing with your wit.” Zarrah: “Why should you care for the life of your enemy?”
Keris: “Because I’ve seen enough death to last me a lifetime, and if I have my way, I’ll never be the cause of it.”
His eyes, rendered colorless in the darkness, regarded her steadily.
Keris: “And just because Valcotta is Maridrina’s enemy doesn’t make you mine.” Zarrah: “If you had any concept of what your people have done to mine, the number of orphans they’ve left in their wakes, you’d—”
Keris: “I do understand, because your people have done the same to mine. And you must take a hard look at yourself if you think a child of Maridrina is worth less only because they don’t bend the knee to the same crown.”
He gave a sharp shake of his head.
Keris: “Back and forth and back and forth, and all it yields is corpses, their children growing up with hate in their hearts to take up weapons and continue the cycle anew.” With the horses tethered to some trees, his brother pulled out his sword. Keris eyed the weapon.
Keris: “Must we?”
Otis: “Yes. There’s a difference between people believing you’re skill-less and actually being so, and that difference is survival.”
Keris: “I prefer knives.”
Otis: “Pretend it’s a very big knife.” Otis: “How someone as lean as you can be so godawful strong is a mystery to me.”
Keris: “Books are heavy.” Keris: “I thought you didn’t entertain Valcottans.”
Aileena: “Business is business.”
Keris: “And a cock is a cock.”
He went to the window and pulled aside the drapes to peer at the alley. She gave a soft chuckle.
Aileena: “I wouldn’t say that, Your Highness.” Zarrah: “How did you know I’d be here?”
she called across the rushing water. His memory of her voice had been a pale comparison to the reality of it. A voice he could listen to for the rest of the night. And for many nights to come.
Keris: “I didn’t. Only hoped that fortune would favor me with your presence.”
She tilted her head.
Zarrah: “You’re the first Maridrinian to ever call my presence a favor of fate.”
Keris: “With a face like yours, I cry false. I’m sure you leave half-cocked Maridrinian corpses everywhere you go, Valcotta.”
She burst into laughter, easing the tension that had been seething through him since the raid. Calming his heart even as it made his pulse race.
Zarrah: “That is the worst compliment I’ve ever received in my life." Keris: “I like to read about what other people think.”
Zarrah: “Think about what?”
She picked up a piece of what appeared to be a fried bread of sorts, taking a delicate bite.
Keris: “Anything. Everything.”
He examined the food, feeling disarmed by her question, though he didn’t know why.
Keris: “If one only knows one’s own mind on things, does one really know anything at all?” Keris: “What is it that needs to end, Valcotta? What part terrifies you so much? Because I don’t think it’s me.”
Her shadowy form shivered.
Zarrah: “You don’t understand. I need to be a certain way. I need to think a certain way. Because if I don’t, not only do I risk losing everything I’ve worked for, but I risk losing myself.”
Keris: “Or maybe you’ll find yourself.”
His hands fisted, and he wasn’t sure if he was talking to Valcotta or to himself.
Keris: “You told me once that if you truly believe in something, you should be willing to suffer for it. To die for it. Well, I think that if you truly believe in something, you should live for it.” Zarrah: “You really ought to spend more time in the sun.”
A slow smile rose to his face.
Keris: “But all the best things happen at night.” Keris: “Some things I won’t be robbed of.”
He kissed the inside of one of her knees, and then the other, making her shiver.
Keris: “And being the one to make you come is foremost on that list.” Keris: “You’re going to break me, Valcotta, and my pride can’t take passing that front desk with less than an hour gone by.” Keris: “Fight to live, and you will live to fight.” Lestara: “Why is there a Valcottan in our house?”
She said Valcottan like Keris might say worm, and for no reason other than to goad her, he said,
Keris: “I finally decided to get married.”
Lestara’s amber eyes bulged, but the joke was ruined as a voice belonging to an older woman said,
Coralyn: “He’s teasing you, girl. Not even Keris has the balls to marry a Valcottan. Mostly because he knows I’d chop them off myself if he ever did so.”
Keris: “What an awful thing to say, Auntie Coralyn.”
He tugged Valcotta into the room.
Keris: “You know how attached I am to them.” Coralyn: "Do you have any notion how many of the harem’s sons have been lost to the Valcottans? This woman personally murdered your brother.”
Keris made a face.
Keris: “You yourself said Rask was an idiot and a sadist, Auntie. Don’t go pretending to be morose over his loss.”
Coralyn opened her mouth, but the retort in her eyes never reached her lips as Zarrah said,
Zarrah: “I didn’t murder him. I met him blade to blade on the field of battle, and while fate favored my life over his, he died with his weapon in his hand, cursing my name.”
Silence fell over the room, and Keris clenched his teeth as he waited for wrath to fall upon her. And him. But Coralyn only lifted one shoulder in a shrug.
Coralyn: “Better a weapon than his manhood, I suppose. We’ve had a few lost in the brothels over the years, and it’s truly embarrassing for all involved.” Keris: "Matters of the heart do not bow to logic or reason. Anyone who does not understand that has either never lived or is devoid of a heart themselves.” Keris: “I’m too drunk to fuck, but thankfully not so drunk I can’t think. I’ve had an idea.” Zarrah: “To be a warrior, one must be willing to venture beyond the walls and face one’s fears. And though no one has given you a weapon, you are still a warrior, Sara.” Keris: “Mag, mag, mag!”
Keris mimicked a magpie call, laughing inside as the man’s eyes lighted with fury. He hated the moniker, and especially hated the woman who’d given it to him.
Keris: “No wonder the harem wives christened you so, Serin. Your voice truly does grate on the nerves.” Keris: “I’d fallen for you before I knew your name. You are everything I can never be. You are powerful and strong and brave. You make me believe I can be better. You give me hope. You are my hope.”
He moved his thumb, pressing it to her lips.
Keris: “No matter what the future brings, know that you hold my heart.” She’d once believed there was no going back to the way she’d felt about him when he’d been the anonymous Maridrinian reading her stories about stars. Believed that moment impossible to reclaim. And in that, she’d been correct. Knowing the truth about him, seeing the true him, had created a storm of emotion in her heart that was a hundred times more intense. Of all the stars mapped in her mind, his burned the brightest. Keris: “God help me, Valcotta, you undo me like none other.”
Zarrah: “Because you are mine.”
She didn’t care that logic said such a dream was impossible.
Zarrah: “And no one else’s.” Keris: “Good morning—”
Coralyn: “It’s early afternoon, you lazy creature. You keep the hours of a prostitute.”
Since Otis’s death, his nights had been spent in the city, stirring up dissent against his father, his days trying to find a way to get Aren alone, though he’d had no luck with the latter. And when he did sleep, it was only to be jerked awake by the sickening thud of his brother’s body hitting the ground. He was exhausted beyond reason, but Keris didn’t want her knowing why.
Keris: “There’s a reason I keep their hours; it makes it easier to—”
She leveled a finger at him, silencing the rest of his quip.
Coralyn: “Don’t even go there, young man. Knowing of your habits is enough. I don’t need the details.” Keris: “That’s a piece-of-shit plan, Coralyn. What if the guards checking them for weapons notice they aren’t the same women?”
She glared at him.
Coralyn: “For someone with an enormous vocabulary, you do tend to dig from the bottom of the barrel. Keris: “He’s chained to a stone bench. Just how feeble do you believe I am that I can’t outpace a man chained to a bench?”
Guard: “His Majesty—”
Keris: “Is not here. You two are close enough to be part of the conversation, and from this brief exchange, I can already tell that I’ve no interest in further discourse with either of you. Plus, you are in the way of my little sisters’ practice. Move.” Keris: “Truth from the mouth of a trained liar.”
Coralyn: “She’s got no reason to lie to me.”
Keris: “I’m sure that’s what Aren said while he was thrusting away between her legs.”
Coralyn: “Keris, shut your goddamned mouth, or I swear, I’ll get every woman in the harem in here to hold you down while I wash it clean with soap.” Keris: “I do want to remake the world so that I can be with you. So that I can get down on my knees and ask you to be my wife. So that I can put a crown on your head and make you my queen. So I can build a shrine and worship you as my goddess. I want all of these things, yet I face a future with none of them, and I don’t know whether I want to fall on my own blade or burn everything to ash because I do not want to let you go.” Keris: “A lifetime wouldn’t be enough. Eternity wouldn’t be enough. Not when I want to map every star in the sky with you in my arms.” Zarrah: “They might still hear.”
Keris: “I suppose that depends on how loud you scream my name, Valcotta.”
He let go of her with one hand, trailing a finger between her breasts and over her navel, slipping it between her thighs. She watched his eyes darken further as he found her sex hot and slick with desire.
Keris: “With what I intend to do to you, everyone hearing you is a very real risk.” She bent her head, wanting to taste him. Wanting to give him the same pleasure as he’d given her, but Keris’s hand curved around her cheek, lifting her face.
Keris: “Goddesses don’t kneel before men.” All she could see was stars, the map of their story in the sky of her mind, and her heart wept because without him, she feared there would be only darkness. Keris: “I love you, Valcotta. I will have you or I will have no one, because where you go, my heart goes with you.” Keris: “Whatever you decide, I’ll still love you. And wherever you go, if you decide to turn back, I’ll be there.” Keris: “I wish I could hate you,”
he said into her hair.
Keris: “Because then I could watch you walk away and not feel like… like…”
She felt him shake his head.
Keris: “If there are words for how I feel about you, I’ve never heard them. Never seen them written in any of the thousands of books I’ve read.”
With her head pressed against his chest, the sound of his hammering heart filled her ears, mirroring her own, and Zarrah’s grip on his coat tightened even as her resolve faltered.
I can’t lose you I can’t lose you I can’t lose you her aching heart screamed into her thoughts, and she clenched her teeth to keep from sobbing them aloud.
Keris: “I knew you’d never say yes. Knew that you’d never agree to running away when so much rode on your return. That your conscience would never allow it. And as much as I hate that, it’s also one of the reasons I love you. If you’d said yes, it would have made you like me. And I could never love someone like me.”
Her heart shattered, and Zarrah lifted her face, the words that had long been in her heart rising. But Keris pressed a finger to her lips, whispering,
Keris: “Don’t. It’s already hard enough not to fight for you, and if you say it, my selfishness will win.” The Empress: “You were supposed to be mine, dear one. Supposed to be the one who’d carry on my legacy. The one who’d ensure I lived on. But you’re still hers. Or worse, you’re his.”
Zarrah lifted her chin.
Zarrah: “I belong to no one but myself.”