The Runaway McBride by Elizabeth Thornton

Berkley Sensation

Historical

ISBN: 978-0-425-22634-6

Reviewed by Chris

   

 

Lady Valeria McEcheran is dying. The Scottish townsfolk think her a witch. Her three grandsons don't know what to make of her…talented but delusional storyteller or really one of the last of a long line of powerful seers? Before she passes, she has a message for each of her grandsons. James Burnett, the story's widowed hero, is told his future bride is in danger and he must find her before she dies.

Jump forward three months. James has inherited his grandmother's second sight, a particularly trying gift, but something he has so far ignored. After he catches a glimpse of his grandmother's disapproving face in the mirrored ceiling tiles while trying to have sex with a high-end prostitute, James gives up both whiskey and women. Setting his sights on finding the woman he's dreaming about – Faith McBride, his former fiancée-James uses his considerable railroad baron money to track her down.

The task isn't a difficult one. Not one of the privileged class, Faith McBride, doesn't have a lot of options available to her. Currently, she's a teacher at girls' school, teaching foreign history. When she stumbles upon a photo of a woman who looks like an older version of herself in her father's belongings, she begins to question everything her father told her about her mother and her genealogical background. Unfortunately, her snooping is going to lead her into the danger James has foreseen.

I'm not a diehard historical reader so I cannot tell you if Ms. Thornton's writing is historically accurate nor am I one of those readers who is jarred out of the story by a historical inaccuracy, unless it's a glaring one. What I can tell you is that the plot unspools at a leisurely pace, gently tugging the reader along like a leaf drifting downstream. It isn't one of those books I'd re-read or return to again and again, but nor is it something I wouldn't recommend. (And I am looking forward to reading about the second grandson, Alec, in his own book.) I am disappointed none of the Scottish gentlemen make an appearance in a kilt. What is a Scottish romance without a kilt-clad hero? (Though I could have lived without the Scottish burr making an appearance in the first chapter).

Kidding aside, one plot detail that did really bother me was how such a simple thing as a lack of communication estranged Faith and James in the first place. Engaged after three months of courting, the pair were separated when James has to return to Scotland to take care of some business problems. Faith gets word that James is engaged to his childhood sweetheart; she travels to Scotland to verify this and instead of meeting James, runs into the presumed fiancée. Faith actually believes the woman's lies and flees. James, who has a considerable amount of wealth, never pursues her. He just assumes that she ran off with another man. Whoa. One would think a little investigating would have been done, if Faith was really his one true love, the light of his life, yadda, yadda. But nope. James marries his conniving lady who dies shortly thereafter. And Faith, who never ran off with another man in the first place, becomes a teacher.

The mystery surrounding Faith's family did intrigue me. Everyone is a suspect. There's a nice handful of murders, villains disguised as cops, an eccentric group of people obsessed with Egyptian history, and a cast of mostly well-drawn and interesting secondary characters. Like chicken noodle soup on a bleak day, The Runaway McBride is a gentle, comfort read. No explicit sex, no horribly graphic murder details, an intelligent heroine, an alpha hero, and a detailed villain (though the amount of effort the villain invests doesn't seem quite on par with the actual secret, but to each his own). It's a novel I'd feel comfortable sharing with my grandmother, a co-worker, or a casual acquaintance.

     

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