The Return of the Prodigal
The Return of the Prodigal is the sixth book in Kasey Michaels’ Romney March series. I have not read any of the previous books, but I will be reading the next one.
Rian Becket was gravely injured at Waterloo, losing his left hand and forearm. In the four months since he has been recuperating at a French mansion and nursed by the lovely Lisette, who takes care of all his needs – including sharing his bed. Rian is content to let time pass him by, drifting along in a very unfocused way, disinclined to return to England and his family. Rian is also being drugged by the lovely Lisette.
Lisette grew up in a convent believing herself alone in the world, until a handsome man appeared and said he was Comte Beltane, her father. He took her to Paris, bought her anything her heart desired and then told her what happened to her mother twenty years ago: she was raped and murdered by the Comte’s business partner and fellow privateer, who then stripped him of all his possessions and set him up for treason. Lisette’s father has been looking for this man ever since and believes that Rian is his enemy’s son and will lead him to Becket père and thus his revenge.
Lisette is eager to believe what she has been told. It is every orphan’s dream to be claimed by a rich family and the story her father tells moves her to abet his plans and avenge her mother’s gruesome death. She has gotten close to Rian and helped to drug him, encouraging him to talk about his family and their whereabouts. But she went to his bed of her own accord, drawn to his boyish charm, moved by his suffering and longing to ease his pain. She also begins to have doubts about the full truth of the story her father has told, especially when Rian tells her the exact story, only it is his father’s wife who was raped and murdered, his father who was accused of treason. Who is telling the truth?
Rian joined the army hoping for adventure and glory, but things have not turned out as he’d planned. The only bright spot in his life is Lisette and as he begins to fight free of the drugs, he has to wonder at her motivation and just who is this Comte, this mysterious benefactor who has given him shelter and arranged for his care? Eventually he figures it all out, but does not hold Lisette’s actions against her. He gives her plenty of opportunities to confess what is going on, but never condemns her when she can’t bring herself to betray her father when she isn’t sure of the truth. I really liked this about Rian – he understands loyalty. I hear that Rian was pretty feckless and immature in previous books, but there is a growing competence and assurance about him here that was very attractive.
Rian and Lisette are already lovers when the book begins, and so we are treated to some pretty hot love scenes early on – something I don’t remember being a Kasey Michaels trait in previous books. Michaels also took a risk writing a character like Lisette. She is not always likable – especially in her dealings with Rian – and I think she’ll cause some controversy for fans of this series. But Rian enjoyed her teasing and abruptness and so did I.
There are a few overly-melodramatic moments, an improbable escape or two, and the last 50 pages or so dragged a bit, all of which kept The Return of the Prodigal from being a Keeper, but it is still an interesting and exciting read.
As I said, I’ve not read any of the previous books in the series. Knowing that I was jumping into the middle of a series, I braced myself for some confusion but had no problem working out what was going on. I can see that if you’ve been following the story for six books that reading this one could be a richer experience, for you will know the full story and you will have watched Rian growing up. However, I thought that Michaels did a good job of making it understandable for someone like me who hadn’t previously read her long-running series.
I don’t know if I’ll go back and read the previous books, but I do know that I will be reading Becket’s Last Stand, the final book in the Romney Marsh series, which comes out next month.