Destiny’s Lady

 
The Prodigal Son by Susan Grace
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7372-0
***
Eric Grayson, the prodigal son of the title, has returned to London after serving as a foreign mercenary. His twin brother, Trelane, is a newly-appointed Member of Parliament and the polar opposite of Eric in temperament. Eric is energetic and open to life’s adventures. Trelane is measured, reserved, and cool. They maintain a tenuous relationship but are not close.

At a party given for Trelane, Eric spots a beautiful young woman. Unfortunately, she turns out to be Trelane’s fiancée, Belle Kingsley. When Trelane is wounded in an attempt on his life, their mother proposes that Eric take Trelane’s place - at least long enough to flush out the attacker. This will mean fooling Belle, as well.

Belle can’t understand the delightful change that’s come over her fiancé. Where is the distant, polite man who always does the proper thing? Suddenly he’s looking at her with eyes that are full of desire and sensuality. He’s kissing her whenever he gets the chance. He’s flirting with her. At last, Trelane captures her heart.

Except it’s not Trelane, as her cousin Paris quickly deduces. Paris, a bit older and very sharp, can tell that something’s wrong. When Belle finds out the truth, can she and Eric find a way out of this mess? And can they do so before the attacker strikes again?

The answer is a resounding “yes”, and with a few unexpected twists that will please the reader. Trelane plays a role in bringing them together, and in doing so, finds love of his own with an outspoken American.

Belle and Eric are entertaining, and Trelane and Paris are refreshing. The story suffers from a lack of consistency, though. The attacker subplot is pretty much ignored until the last fourth of the book, when it’s brought back in to help the plot along. Add to this a style that lapses into “telling” mode fairly often, and the pacing becomes erratic.

Erick is quite delightful, however, as the restless son with a temper who never fit the mold. He’s happy to help out his brother, but really doesn’t understand him. Their eventual bonding is a highlight of the story as Eric and Trelane learn to deal with one another as adults.

Belle is a bit less interesting. She’s pretty, intelligent, and has a passionate side, but for all that, she’s rather bland. Her romance with Eric has a nice bit of steam to it, though.

Paris, the cousin, nearly steals the show and would have made a stronger heroine than Belle, simply because there are some quirks to her nature. She’s older than most debutantes, and doesn’t care. She’s blunt, smart, and isn’t afraid to tweak convention to suit her needs. I liked her immensely.

The Prodigal Son is an entertaining historical with a delightful, dashing hero. Susan Grace’s star appears to be on the rise.

--Cathy Sova


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