Julie Anne Long has written a classic historical romance, What I Did for a Duke; two excellent ones, A Notorious Countess Confesses and It Happened One Midnight; a rather delightful novella, To Love a Thief; and an assortment of very enjoyable books in her Pennyroyal Green series. The Runaway Duke is one of her earliest novels and I read it for back catalogue completion purposes only.
Through a convenient and maguffiny series of Napoleonic War events, Conor Riordan, fifth Duke of Dunbrooke, has shucked off his title and is living incognito as an Irish groom at the home of the novel’s rather young heroine Rebecca Tremaine. In The Runaway Duke, the two take it on the lam when the villain mistakenly compromises the wrong Tremaine sister, Rebecca, and she is going to be forced into a reputation saving marriage. Hijinks ensue.
I mentioned in a review of another author that I often find a writer and think that she shows promise only to discover that she has already published a lot of books. That is not the case here. I knew going in that this would not be of the current quality I expect of Julie Anne Long. The Runaway Duke has issues including heavy plotting, an unbelievable false identity (no one would volunteer to be Irish at that time in British history), and the story does goes on a bit; however, all of the elements that would develop into Long’s signature style are present: wonderful humour, clever writing, charming central characters, and, yes, the fact that maybe, sometimes, I don’t know, I’m just saying, she can be a skooch twee.
One of the things that people suggest when trying to save me from the ignominy of reading so much romance is that I should write one. It’s as though all of the shame they think I should feel for my reading choices, and that they feel on my behalf, would be washed away under the cleansing justification of “research”. There is nothing like reading an early effort by a talented author to intimidate any writing impulse right out of me. I am far too lazy to write a book in the first place and far too impatient to be willing to write several before I have the chance to be even remotely as good a novelist as Julie Anne Long now is.
A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.