Last month, I posted The Prodigal Daughter as though written by my character, Meg Carmichael, and I asked if any of you had read other “prodigal” retellings. I didn’t get any bites, and I thought… I’m sure there must be stories with that theme out there. I know I’ve written some and read more! So I began to dig.
First, of course, is Meg’s story, The Cowboy’s Forever Crush, which you can currently find as part of the just-released multi-author Christmas box set, Once Upon a Starry Night. Meg has already returned to her childhood faith and her parents’ love when this novella begins, but she describes her journey to her love interest, Eli, as a prodigal’s journey.
In Dancing at Daybreak, part of my Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, you met Dixie Wayling. If you’ve read the series, you’ll recall that Dixie and her live-in boyfriend, Dan Ranta, were peripheral characters in the earlier stories, and I began to get curious about them. Dan came to faith and, at the beginning of Dancing at Daybreak, he’s just given Dixie an ultimatum: either they get married, or one of them moves out. Dixie is having none of that marriage nonsense and flounces out, leaving her three children, one of whom is Dan’s. She has quite a journey with a God who keeps pursuing her even while Dan, a brand-new believer himself, isn’t always sure what he should be doing and how he should be handling his relationship with Dixie.
Berry on Top, the final title in my Farm Fresh Romance, is also a prodigal daughter story. Liz has rejected everything due to a very unfortunate incident at her high school graduation. Now she is reluctantly back from Thailand after a decade away, but she’s not quite ready to meet Mason, the guy who wronged her, who now apparently is a nice guy, a single father, and a Christian. But Liz isn’t done running.
Elizabeth Maddrey’s novel Wisdom to Know features another female prodigal, Lydia, a pastor’s daughter who’s spiraling downhill quickly. In her case, Kevin has loved her from afar for a very long time, and he keeps trying to be her friend even while she rejects him and everything/everyone else reminding her of Jesus. All I can say about this powerful story is… “but God.” Read it if you haven’t!
Toni Shiloh’s novel To Win a Prince features Ekon Diallo, who is stripped of his princely title via a criminal sentence and must learn what it’s like to be truly noble. He goes from entitled, having anything/everything he wants, to learning what really matters and finding his way home. Ah, sounds like the prodigal son to me!
Emily Conrad’s An Awestruck Christmas Medley has about 5 POV’s, and one of them is Matt Visser, who is returning home to his parents after rehab. He’s still pretty rough around the edges and worried how they’ll receive him after all that happened while he was using drugs. This Christmas novella introduces the members of a band, Awestruck, and Matt’s redemptive story continues in book 4, To Believe in You.
Carolyn Miller’s hockey romance Big Apple Atonement features a pastor’s son who has lived hard and finally comes back to God and his dad.
Honorable Mention: Whatever Comes Our Way by Jaycee Weaver includes a prodigal mother, for a different twist! The heroine’s mom lived a selfish, party-hard lifestyle most of the heroine’s life but Christ turned her life around and she humbly sought to rebuild a mother-daughter relationship again.
There’s just something about the biblical account of the prodigal, found in Luke 15:11-32. You’ve got a character who has everything he (or she) needs. There’s stability and love, and yet our character decides they want more. Different things. Better(?) things. They throw off the shackles of their decent upbringing and go wild, spending all their money and ending up in despair, alone, wounded, at the end of his or her rope.
Isn’t that where God finds us? As long as we’re doing okay, proud of ourselves, carrying on doing good things and being polite, we often don’t feel like we need God’s intervention in our lives. But when we hit rock bottom, as the characters in the above mentioned novels do, God can say to us, “Are you done running yet? Are you done with your toddler temper tantrum? NOW will you give in and let Me love you the way I’ve always wanted to? Because, my child, I’ve never stopped pursuing you. I’ve been right here all along, waiting for you to realize what could be yours in Me.”
And so, I love writing novels about prodigal characters. I have two or three more that lean that direction, but less blatantly. And I love discovering this layer in the novels I read.
Because when God gets a hold of a person — whether he or she is real, or fictional! — there’s no end to the impact that can have on everything about that person. Their careers, their hobbies, and their romances.
Can you think of other CCRs with prodigal characters? Or, what other parables or Bible stories would make a great basis for a romance? Let’s talk!