The Prodigal’s Christmas Reunion, Chapter 1

As usual, I’m getting a late start with my Wintermas romance critique, but I’m excited to get going on this one, even if it will mean doing more than one chapter at a time, most of the time.

Again as usual, this will be a blind read for me, meaning I have not read the entire book and, in fact, will be just as far along as you are, every time.  So it should be some good Wintermas fun, discovering the book together.


Just a note on how I pick my Wintermas reads: I don’t do it based on how good or bad I think the book will be.  Mostly this is because I doubt anything can ever beat Christmas Town for shear Wintermas WTF-ery, but also because I like this think this is a bot of the holiday spirit in me, trying a book blind, and perhaps finding one that is good.  I merely go read back covers and blurbs until I find one that catches my interest.

This year, I decided to do something different by reading the final book in a series (Rocky Mountain Heirs).  Which, who knows, might be a mistake on my part: it means that there are five books worth of backstory to discover, including characters we are presumably meant to be familiar with.  I haven’t read any of these books (though I am intrigued, for future critiquing purposes, in this Thanksgiving–themed Christian romance), so I might or might not figure out who belongs in which story.

But on to this story in particular!  I like the idea of doing a prodigal story, mostly because I’ve always hated the story of the prodigal son.  This is mostly because I always felt so bad for the older son, who worked his ass off for his dad for years, but was never rewarded like the younger son was for—well, for wishing his father dead and then leaving home and screwing up and crawling back stinking of pig shit.  So the tale always seemed, to me, more about parental favoritism than God’s love.

Our own Prodigal is one Lucas Clayton, back in his hometown of Clayton, Colorado.  As you might guess, the Claytons were the founding family of the town, and now Claytons are gathering together because of the kind of bizarre term of a will so common to romance novels: Grandfather Clayton died in the summer, and his will specifies that in order to inherit, the grandkids need to return to Clayton and live there for a year.

Lucas has returned based on loyalty to an as-yet-unnamed sister, and there is a mention of vague animosity between the Rocky Mountain Heirs, and another branch of the family.  See, Lucas, the prodigal, ditched town at age eighteen, and now seven years have passed.  Just so we know what a prince of a guy Lucas is, we are told that for SEVEN YEARS, he has communicated with the family only “through emails and the occasional phone call.”

That way, he stayed in control of the relationships.

Then those aren’t actually relationships, Lucas.  Just so’s you know.

Lucas also muses about another “relationship,” this one with Erin Fields, the girl he left behind when he ditched town, which Lucas apparently prefers to think of as “choosing loyalty to her family over her love for him.”

Or, yanno, she was 18 years old and not ready to uproot her entire existence for her rebellious high school boyfriend.  There could be that possibility, too.

Now, by this point, you might be thinking, as I was, that there must be some dark secret behind Lucas’s desire to leave town.  Like there was some horrible abusive homelife or something.  But no, we are immediately told that the main problem was that Lucas’s mother wanted him to become a doctor and “serve God.”

Wow, what a bitch, eh?  I’m now interested to see the book’s take on this.  Because as of right now, Lucas kinda seems like a selfish brat.

But it seems Lucas did alright for himself all those years—he went to college, at least.  And now, the big homecoming surprise is that he’s got his college roommate’s adorable son as his own.  This kid was apparently kidnapped from his dying addict father during a drug deal gone bad, and Lucas friggin’ saved this kid, which sounds like an awesome story that we hopefully will hear more about.


But not before we cut to our heroine, Erin, for her take on the whole teenage-boyfriend-ditches-town situation.  She also seems to have done alright for herself since being dumped—she owns a cafe and adopts rescue horses, which is pretty cool.  Less cool is more stuff we learn about Lucas—that despite his internal insistence that she chose her family over him, he was the one who insisted their high school romance remain a secret…to keep her reputation unmarred by his “wild” one.

We also learn that the “choice” Lucas offered Erin was high-pressure and spur-of-the-moment: he showed up at her house in the middle of the night with a bag, and told her he was leaving town RIGHT NOW and did she want to come with him?

Nice guy, eh?  Nice, non-controlling, non-manipulative guy.

Apparently there were nasty rumors flying around, again involving this evil other branch of the family.  We are also told that this town has less that a thousand people in it, and what is it with small Christmas towns being hotbeds of viciousness and gossip?

Anyway, that’s Erin and her backstory.  And hell, we’re in the first chapter of a Christian Christmas romance and there has not been one mention of Christmas yet!





Posted on December 4, 2016, in The Prodigal's Christmas Reunion. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. It’s weird how we’re supposed to be sympathetic to the townspeople in these books, even though the towns are written as such unpleasant places to live.

    • Largely because Small Town America is an awful place of gossip and rumors, but the people who make it awful like it that way. And I know where I’m betting the authors of these books likely fit in Small Town America.

      • Yeah, my parents still can’t figure out why I hate small town. I’m sure not all small towns are like this, but the ones I lived in were all of busy-bodies who were so cliquey I could never fit in or make friends.

        • Heck, I grew up in a city of just a couple thousand and seriously, it still creeps me out how everybody knows everyone else’s business!
          (Though, to be fair, there are a couple perks to that — networking is a lot easier, people are almost scarily trusting if they know and like your family, and if you get your car stuck in ankle-deep snow they will come and help dig you out.)

  2. I’m shivering with anticipation.

    No, wait. The other one. Terror. And maybe a touch of nausea. Because there’s invariably something nightmarish about the towns and relationships in these books.

    And I’m already a little sympathetic toward Lucas because gossipy, judgmental extended family is best kept at arm’s length, if not farther. Grandpa here sounds like quite the example for the family to follow, what with demanding people uproot their lives, likely lose jobs, and strain or end relationships and friendships just to satisfy his whims after he’s dead. Cast in that light, Lucas’s mother sounds no less controlling just because she claims her demands are about serving God – how convenient that God wants what she does, after all. No wonder Lucas felt his main recourse was to leave and go turn into an educated, responsible adult on his own terms.

    Seriously, this inheritance would have to be pretty damn good for me to not just walk away upon hearing the terms, for reasons both pragmatic and principled. From these few glimpses the Clayton family does not sound like one I’d want to go back to, and Lucas thrusting himself back into the family mire for the sake of his sister sounds like a pretty non-selfish act. Plus, as long as he doesn’t turn into a creepy asshole about it, I can forgive Lucas having been an idiot kid who asked his girlfriend to elope and who in his mid-20s still misunderstands why she didn’t want to go.

    • Yeah, I can sympathise too. I guess it’s nice that mom didn’t try to force him into the clergy, but that does raise the question why being a doctor is “serving God”. It sure sounds like mommy dear wanted her son to pursue the specific high-pay and high-status career she picked out for him, and went all controlling and fire-and-brimstone-y when he wanted something else.

  3. So far I’m not finding much to like about Lucas, but it’s still early in the book. Grandpa Clayton’s ridiculous requirement that his grandkids have to return to town and live there for a year in order to inherit makes me wonder how controlling the rest of the Clayton family is.

    I’m not too terribly surprised at how small towns are portrayed in Christian books like these. Small towns in America seem to be more conservative, more full of gossipy, meddling busybodies, and less tolerant of differences in general than larger cities. I see all that as a reason to avoid small towns as much as possible, but I’m sure the authors of these books and their Christian readers see those things as good reasons to want to live in a small town.

  4. I never disliked the prodigal son story as much as many atheists seem to do. Taken as just a story, I don’t find it at all inappropriate to celebrate when your child manages to make it back home after narrowly escaping a disaster-stricken country. The I-told-you-so’s about his careless decisions in making that trip can come later.

    And taken as a theological point, it’s not bad either. Like the parable of the vineyard owner and his day labourers (where I find the plain story a lot worse BTW), this seems like a rebuke of early adopting Christians who feel they should get more status and perks than the people that converted later. Which is A, not really in the spirit of love and community with your new brothers and sisters. And B, given that they have been promised an eternity of perfection*, they can’t be expecting to get more rewards than have already been promised. What they want is for others to get less, for no reason other than that’ll make them feel superior to those others. Again, a dickish thing to do.

    *Assuming that you believe Christ’s contempories believed broadly the same about their heavenly reward as modern Christians.

  5. One problem of the prodigal, I think, is that it’s meaningless: according to the terms of the thing the story is meant to be about, the only thing that should matter is whether you’re in or out; there is no status to be had, so the celebration is camouflage at best.

    Yeah, if I had an oppressive parent who not only wanted to plan out my life for me but mixed that with Jesus talk, I’d probably be inclined to leave town too. Which isn’t to say there’s necessarily much good about Lucas, but he has at least shown some independence, which I’m sure will be crushed out of him now.

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