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  • Writer's picturecaitlyncallery9

In Ben's best interests...

Updated: Jun 29

My son has Prader Willi Syndrome. It's a condition caused by a chromosomal anomaly, similar to Down’s Syndrome. Like Down’s, PW is lifelong, and impacts every aspect of life, not just for the person with the syndrome, but for those who love them.

Years ago, as Hilary Mackelden, I wrote the play, Sammy, which showed how PW affected one contemporary family, and their friends. I'm thrilled to say it won an award, and received very good reviews. You can see the script here.

In Regency times, neither condition had yet been given their name. Doctor Down wasn't even born until 1828, and Messrs Prader and Willi didn't come along until the twentieth century! The syndromes were not understood; many of the children born with them would have died in infancy, and most others would not have made it to maturity.

But a few did, and this could cause legal and financial complications, especially if they were in a family with a title, or an entailed inheritance. What if the person with the syndrome was next in line for the title? What would happen to them? To their family? To the legacy?

These questions led me to write, “The Earl Pretender.” It's the story of Robert, who grew up believing himself to be the heir to an earldom, but who discovers he has an older brother, missing since birth. An honourable man, Robert goes in search of his brother, Ben, who has Down’s Syndrome.

He finds Ben, who has been brought up and cared for by an adoptive family, including his “sister,” Jane. She loves Ben and wants what's best for him and, understandably really, she is not convinced that it is best for him to go back to a family who abandoned him as a helpless babe.

While Robert and Jane work together in Ben's interests, they try to overcome their growing, and inconvenient, attraction to one another. Meanwhile, it seems, somebody else wants Robert dead. By searching for Ben, has Robert also put his brother at risk? And what will happen when Ben is returned to his rightful place as the heir?

Knotty questions indeed.

The Earl Pretender is published by The Wild Rose Press, and is available here.

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