Chasing a Dream

Rancher's Redemption

To Love, Honor & Defend

 
The Prodigal Bride
by Beth Cornelison
(SRS #1646, $4.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-373-27716-2
***
This is actually a good suspense story, but it is also one that has a difficult heroine. While I enjoyed the story, I was frustrated with her actions, which lessened my sense of satisfaction.

The Prodigal Bride is Zoey Bancraft, the youngest daughter of the Bancrofts of Lagniappe, Louisiana. Her two older sisters have always been more sensible, smart, etc. They had their own stories and apparently had some dangerous escapades which led to both of the HEA. But Zoey has never seen that. She has only seen that she is louder, brasher and is always more impulsive, which led her to more “trouble.” Other than her word for it, the trouble is really never described.

Zoey grew up with a best friend, Gage Powell. Gage was a young boy with abusive parents. Zoey was his lifeline and he often spent time at her home recuperating from beatings. On the night of their graduation, Gage finally stood up to his father, even though he still got some bruises. Zoey and he were overwhelmed with feelings and they ended up making love. Zoey, in her panic, left Gage in the pool house and left for a tour of Europe. Since then, she has hooked up with a man her parents despised and warned her about. Derek was a gambler and over the course of two years, he has run through all of her money including her inheritance from her grandparents. Zoey just found out she is pregnant and Derek has left, leaving her with more debt and a threatening loan shark at her hotel door. Zoey called Gage and all Gage could hear was what sounded like someone hitting her and the phone going dead.

Gage has loved Zoey since eighth grade and although he sees her as his savior, he also sees her as a beautiful giving woman who needed time to see the love he could offer her. He rushes off to Las Vegas to find her. He finds her in a shelter; a little battered and bruised, but basically whole. He offers her a deal – marry him to give her baby a name and help him to take care of his sister’s child Petunia. He currently has custody of 5 year old Pet while his sister dries up in a rehab center. Desperate and defeated, Zoey agrees with two caveats – no sex and they get a divorce once the baby is born.

Of course, Zoey has to crawl home and feel the heat from her family. She has to figure out a way to earn a living. She even has to discover what it means to be a mother. And all the while, she has to figure out how to keep Gage at arm’s length. She has very strong feelings for him that might be love, but she refuses to believe he wants someone as screwed up as she is. And when the trouble follows her home from Las Vegas, she has to figure out how to protect Gage, his niece and her own baby.

Zoey is an airhead. She is constantly doing dumb stuff. She even “borrows” money from Gage to pay off Derek and his hounds…knowing that he won’t be satisfied but talking herself into believing that she can handle it without anyone being wiser. Then when they come back for more, she uses her mother and sister to get money. I really struggled with a woman who had such a warped view of what is right.

Gage was a good hero on the one hand, but even his self-sacrifice grew old. At some point, he has to see that Zoey is just using him and the reader has to decide if his need for love and his definition of love is something that one can embrace. I never really saw what he saw in her worth loving, so when he just kept coming back for more, I really wondered where his head was at – or if he and Zoey deserved each other.

I struggled with the two characters and yet, the story is very readable. The author did a great job in moving the story and making the menace feel real. The climax is filled with tension and excitement. It is for the quality of the writing that this tale stays an average read. The Prodigal Bride features a good suspense story but a heroine that one has to stretch to root for.

--Shirley Lyons


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