This was my first Brenda Joyce novel, and as a result I am a little reluctant to read any more of her books. As I see it, there were three main problems with The Prize:
1. Virginia, the heroine, boards a ship from Norfolk, Virginia, to England to beg her uncle for money to save her plantation from being sold off. Adding to the high stakes of this sale are her best friend, Tillie, and her husband and children who are slaves on the estate. With the plantation sold, they would all be separated and subject to any kind of cruelty. On her way to England, Virginia's ship is commandeered by Devlin, who kidnaps her and holds her for ransom to avenge his father's murder. Virginia's people's lives depend on her, and she quickly loses focus. The plantation and it people are forgotten as Virginia falls in love with Devlin, and makes no move to save what she so desperately wanted in the beginning of the book. How can I respect a character who loses sight of the people that need her help?
2. The "hero" was a jerk. Other than his good looks and wealth, he has no redeeming qualities and he treats Virginia abominably. I just couldn't respect Virginia for loving a cold, robotic man who kidnapped her and dismissed what she loved most- her plantation.
3. The hero's brother, Sean, was just as handsome, but a nice guy who shares Virginia's love of the land. After being left in his care for five months, and after he admits he loves her, why wouldn't Virginia fall in love with a man like him?
Again, I can't respect a heroine who willingly walks right into an abusive relationship (with Devlin), forgets the lives that are at stake back on her plantation, and refuses the love of a good man.
Although I enjoyed Brenda Joyce's style of writing, if her other novels have characters as unlikable and amoral, this will be the last one I read.