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!