The Prodigal Hero
I’ve heard many good things about Nancy Butler’s Regency Romances, so I gave The Prodigal Hero a try. I have to say that, despite some minor problems, I thoroughly enjoyed this story of “the cripple and the malcontent” as our hero describes himself and his heroine.
Alexandra Prescott has fought her cousin Darwin Quincy’s attentions for a long time. It’s not love that draws Quincy to the hoyden who keeps besting him at every contest, but her money. Although Alexa is the daughter of an upstart shipbuilder, she is the daughter of a rich upstart shipbuilder, and Quincy is up to his ears in debt. When Alexa refuses to pretend she is betrothed to Quincy, he plots to have her kidnapped in order to force her into marriage. He doesn’t count on the mysterious MacHeath to overhear and take Alexa from right under his nose.
Alexa fights her abductor, but slowly she comes to believe him when he says he is her rescuer and to realize MacHeath is much more than a mere outcast. Macheath is, in fact, Simeon Hastings, a man who was her father’s heir years ago, until he was found stealing by none other than Darwin Quincy and sent to jail. A tender moment in a barn shakes Simeon to the core, and he can’t deny feelings of love, commitmment and a life with Alexa are surfacing in him. For Alexa, Simeon even sets foot on a boat, although he is still haunted by the boating accident that cost him a hand.
Alexa wants to reach her father’s house safely to tell her side of the story, but she doesn’t realize that she has seriously miscalculated where her father is concerned, for although Quincy is the villain of the story, Alexander Prescott is certainly no hero and is no help to his daughter. I wish he’d gotten more payback for all the years of suffering he caused Alexa.
Alexa may have been taught to be a proper lady, but her true spirit shines through. She instinctively believes in Simeon, so much so that when he wants to tell her what really happened between him and her father years ago, she stops him – it is simply not necessary to her, and she’d rather Simeon understand that she trusts him without actual proof of his story. Alexa is not perfect though. Her lapses in judgment had me shaking my head at times. She should know better than to go out alone when Quincy’s men are after her, but she does it anyway, with predictable consequences.
Fear and rejection have deprived Simeon Hastings of his real life. The scene where Simeon is completely undone by Alexa’s casual reaction to his fake hand is very sweet; she is simply admiring how cleverly the object works with none of the revulsion or rejection he’s expected. He realizes early on that Alexa is the woman for him, but when external forces conspire to keep them apart, it takes him a while to realize what his true worth is.
The Prodigal Hero is a different book in the sense that it is not the usual comedy of manners I associate with a Regency Romance, but its well-defined characters and rewarding plot will make it an enjoyable read whether you are a fan of Regencies or not.