Sunday, December 1, 2013

#64 (2013/CBR5) "The Runaway Duke" by Julie Anne Long

I should know by now not to start reading any romance novels if I want to get anything done--especially good ones. I picked up The Runaway Duke (2004) by Julie Anne Long this morning and now it's evening. I haven't done anything useful all day, but I'm done with the novel. Sometimes I think I need days just for decompressing and stress relief. That's what I tell myself anyway.

So, this is the second book I've read by Julie Anne Long and I think I like her combination of likable characters, adventure, danger, and mystery. Sometimes the coincidences bringing everything together were laughable, but since I was being entertained, I didn't mind.

Rebecca Tremaine grew up in a proper family, although she was never a proper lady. However, when she is caught kissing a man in the garden, her father decides she must marry him. Since Rebecca ended up in the compromising circumstance entirely by accident and has no interest whatsoever in her groom, who is kind of a douche, she decides she can't let it happen. Fortunately for her, her father's groom (Connor Riordan) is a duke who pretended to be dead after the war because he hated his father and didn't want the burden. He's been working as Rebecca's father's groom for the last five years and because he's basically fallen in love with Rebecca and can't stand to see her marry the douche, he decides to help her run away. I realize that what I just typed sounds somewhat ridiculous, but the unrealistic elements didn't bother me. The characters had good chemistry and I was entertained, so I didn't mind suspending my disbelief for a while.

This isn't just a story of a woman running away from her wedding and falling in love. There's a mystery involving Riordan's past, some murders, and some attempted murders. At first I didn't think the secondary stories were really necessary, but Long kept them interesting and I appreciated that all of her characters had some kind of humanity. Even the villains of their story had a background and rational reasons for their actions.

Two quick notes about the love interests: On the one hand, I was not comfortable with their age difference. Connor was about 30 years old, maybe 29, I can't remember exactly. Rebecca was 17 and turns 18 (conveniently) before they have sex, although I don't think they had statutory rape laws back then. She's just so young. Rebecca did act relatively mature. As long as I ignored her age, I was fine, but when I actually thought about it, it grossed me out. On the other hand, I really appreciated that Julie Anne Long did not depend on the time honored romance drama of having one or the other not realize that they love the other, be afraid of it, or not want to admit it. SPOILER: It was so refreshing when Rebecca said "I love you," after they'd made love for the first time and Connor simply says it back to her. I can't remember any other romance novel where that happens.

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