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The Prodigal M.D. Returns
by Marie Ferrarella
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1775, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-24775-3
****
I have never read a bad Marie Ferrarella story and this one is no different. While no new ground is broken, it is fast paced and engaging. The Prodigal M.D. Returns is, according to an author’s note, the story of a brother mentioned in previous tales. Lucky for us, Ms. Ferrarella decided to write his story.

Ben Kerrigan was young and a bit of playboy in the small town outside Anchorage, Alaska called Hades. When he was growing up, his brother Shayne was as much a father as a brother. Shayne helped Ben get through medical school and they were going to run the local medical clinic together. But Ben’s flirtations masked a man who really wanted a relationship. Even as he was going from girl to girl, he was looking. He thought he found her in a girl name Lila. She convinced him he could have her, but only if he left Hades. So one night, they took off. Ben left Shayne behind with just a note. Unbeknownst to him, he also left a young girl who found herself pregnant from their one-night encounter at the lake.

Heather Kendall has two lovely daughters: Hannah, age seven, and Hayley, age five. Her deceased husband, Joe, was a miner who died in a cave-in at the local mine a couple of years ago. He loved Heather and while Heather cared deeply for Joe, she never really loved him. Her heart had been stolen years before by Ben Kerrigan, by the lake.

Ben has been in Seattle, involved in a lucrative private practice as a pediatric specialist and surgeon. One day, he woke up to find Lila gone. They had never married, at her insistence, and she decided she was bored and needed to move on. That was a year ago. Ben now decides he needs to go back to Hades. He is lonely and he hasn’t seen his brother in seven years. He wants to make amends and set down roots. Lila is past history and his future lies in Hades. He is even willing to grovel to make it up to Shayne.

Shayne is less than pleased to see Ben, assuming this is just one more of his reckless adventures. He is certain Ben won’t stay, even though he can use the help at the clinic in a town that is growing slowly but steadily. Shayne is now married, to the girl who had been writing Ben and who had come to Hades as his mail order bride. That was another thing Ben had left behind.

On his first day back, Ben meets Heather and her girls when they come to the clinic. He is intrigued by her and realizes he really did like her back then. Heather, meanwhile is amazed that her attraction to Ben still lingers, and yet she is scared to death that Ben will discover her secret. By passing off Hannah as Joe’s daughter, she protected Hannah and Joe from gossip. But she knows deep inside she must tell Ben the truth. How and when is the question.

The story revolves around the town of Hades and particularly Ben and Heather. They find they care for each other and explore the depths of their feelings. On the fringes in side stories are characters who have obviously been introduced in other books in the series. They really do not detract from this one. A major side story has to do with Heather’s invalid mother and a possible romance for her. Nothing new…but written in Ferrarella’s style, the story is well paced, enjoyable and a bit on the sentimental side. In this case, the sentiment is just at the right level and the warmth of the relationship between Ben and Heather kept me on their side throughout.

The Prodigal M.D. Returns hits just the right chords for an pleasurable afternoon of reading.

--Shirley Lyons


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