Waterloo 1815, the heir to a dukedom sees his chance to defy his despot of a fatherís wishes, by claiming to be Roddy Campbell and that the dead man lying next to him must be the future Duke Roarke Blackburn. Free from his cruel father and the responsibilities that come with being the Dunbrooke heir, Roarke (now known as Connor Riordan) hires on as head groom for Sir Henry Tremaine. Soon to be trusted not only by the horses, but also by the youngest Tremaine, Rebecca.
Itís 1820 and Rebecca, barely eighteen, sets out to ďdiscoverĒ her older sisterís secret tryst with Lord Anthony Edelston. All goes wrong. Edelston mistakes Rebecca for her sister Lorelei and kisses her. Sir Henry discovers them and decides on a marriage date for the two. Rebecca is not happy, she doesnít love Edelston and she doesnít want to be married. She wants to become a doctor. And so she turns to Connor and secures his help in her escape.
Connorís peaceful years with the Tremaines are over. Planning on whisking Rebecca away to her aunt in Scotland, he is unaware that his past is about to catch up with him. A woman scorned, a desperate fiancť, inept highwaymen and Gypsies mark their journey up north. But it is his heart that proves to be in danger the most.
Maybe Connor falls for Rebecca because she allows him to act the hero, to protect her from her scheming parents and a life of uselessness and boredom. She looks up to him, trusts him unconditionally and seems to develop a tendre for him Ė shown in a wonderful tender scene of discovery. And he craves that respect and love; not for his title, but for his actions, his character. Something he didnít get from his family or his peers.
Other than her devotion and adoration, Rebecca has not much more to offer. Sure she is interested in becoming a doctor and so has read many of her fatherís ďforbiddenĒ scientific books and journals, she is even allowed to practice on Connor. Yes with courage and skill, but at heart sheís still a teenager. A teenager lusting after a good-looking guy. Selfish, childish and immature. I couldnít take her seriously. However, Connor might just be the man to help her grow into the woman he deserves. A woman full of strength, courage and intelligence.
The Runaway Duke is Julie Anne Longís debut release. It doesnít have a bad premise and itís easy reading until the very end. Itís light and entertaining. The villains are bad, but likable. The Gypsy lore, ethics and culture interesting. But overall itís all just not very intriguing. A little innovation, a few surprises, a stronger ending, a more mature heroine could have transformed this story into a keeper. As her writing is solid, her pace smooth and her hero formidable Iíd not be surprised if Julie Anne Longís future releases make it onto that keeper shelf. Until then I recommend The Runaway Duke only to readers, that just canít get enough of Regency-era set romances.