Julie Anne Long – "The Runaway Duke"

30 Apr

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Warner Forever, 2004

The back blurb:
“No one could ever accuse Rebecca Tremaine of being a proper young lady. She’s wretched at embroidery, pitiful at the pianoforte, and entirely too informed about the human body, courtesy of her father’s scientific journals. And now she’s been compromise by a dandy she despises! When her parents arrange a hasty marriage, there is only one man she can turn to for help.
No one knows that Irish groom Connor Riordan is the fifth Duke of Dunbrooke, ‘killed’ in action at Waterloo, and he wants it to stay that way. But a true gentleman never turns away a damsel in distress. Soon Connor and Rebecca dash away – only to be pursued by bumbling highwaymen, a scheming duchess, and Rebecca’s fiancĂ©.
Being with the beautiful anddesirablee Rebecca jeopardizes Connor’s secret every day – and tests his willpower every night. For if ever there was a reason to bring the Duke of Dunbrooke back from the dead, it would be to make Miss Tremaine his Duchess!”

I believe The Runaway Duke is Julie Anne Long’s first published novel. As such, I consider it one of the better offerings in romance lately. I thought it had some kind of “freshness” to it even despite tried romance elements and the “wallpaper-history “feeling.

After reading the back blurb (see above) I thought that I was in for a story with romance elements I’ not too keen on: a characterisation that more often than not translates into a feisty heroine (“wretched at embroidery, pitiful at the pianoforte, and entirely too informed about the human body”), a hero who miraculously turns out to be someone titled, and a road romance.

Then I read this characterization of Rebecca:

“[…] Rebecca was widely loved by the servants and the neighbors, partially because she was everything Lorelei [Rebecca’s sister] was not: she laughed loudly and easily, she was curious, she read far more than a decently bred girl ought to read, she galloped her horse hard (astride, no less) and came home happily sweaty. She was affectionate and kind and immensely opinionated about things she should really know nothing about, but then Sir Henry Tremaine was a trifle careless about where he left his scientific journals.”

(p. 13)

and added a Mary-Sue aspect (widely loved by the servants) to the possibility of “feisty”. Uh-oh.

Rebecca is outspoken and prefers to do things considered more suitable for men, but Long doesn’t make her feisty. Rebecca is not contrary for contrary’s sake, and that she likes to do things which are considered not the ‘done thing’ for women. Rather than making her behaviour seem anachronistic, it works in Rebecca’s favour: shows the limitations of her life. As a result, I thought Rebecca not an annoying or even unrealistic character but a likeable character

The story in The Runaway Duke happens over the course of a few weeks. During this time, Rebecca turns from a girl (she’s 17 at the start of the novel) into a woman. Long manages to illustrate this process rather well. At the end, you really get the feeling that Rebecca, then 18, is a woman and that the age discrepancy between her and Conner (29) is not that problematic (any more).

So far, so good. And now for the bad.

There is one thing I found really annoying and distracting. (Nearly) Every time the hero calls the heroine by name, he uses the word “wee” with it. You get things like “wee Rebecca” or “wee ‘Becca” all the time. It really grated on my nerves while reading – it’s not endearing, it belittles the heroine. And after Connor and Rebecca had sex, I found this not only belittling, it bordered on creepy for me. Now and then would maybe okay, but (nearly) all the time? Enough is enough, especially if it undermines the characterisation of the heroine. Nobody prior to publication found the constant “wees” odd? It sure is the one thing that bothered me most.

Small quibble: The prologue. While the first part of it worked, I had trouble believing the second part of it. The hero, Connor, works hardly a week for the Tremaine family, but he’s given the task of coaxing the daughter of the house, the heroine Rebecca, down from a tree. That made me go “no way”, although I understand the reasoning behind it. Thankfully, it’s the only time I had such trouble believing things.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes, but please remember to mentally cross out the “wees”.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe.

Grade: 4 / 5


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