This is author Katie Rose’s fifth novel, and, after some mixed reviews in the past, I think she may have nailed it with this one. Runaway Hearts worked for me on most every level, and contains a sweetness often missing from romances these days. Mary Lou Finch reminds me of the way Amanda Quick used to write heroines: bookish, spinsterish, innocent, determined, captivated by the hero, a little ditzy but sweet-natured and well-meaning. And with an underplayed beauty that makes the hero’s heart go pitty-pat while his palms get all sweaty in anticipation.
Mary Lou has everything to lose. Her professor father has invested all his money in a little-known racehorse that may, or may not, win the purse at Saratoga, just three weeks away. News Flash: Damien’s Curse (the horse in question) has suddenly gone missing. The trainer has been found dead. If Damien’s Curse doesn’t run and win at Saratoga, Mary Lou will be out her dowry, not to mention a place to live out her anticipated spinsterhood.
Spinsterhood? But she’s only twenty! Yes, however, she’s plump, well-educated (she has a degree from the University), intelligent, and has had few suitors to build her self-esteem. Mary Lou has accepted her lot in life, but if her father has gambled away all their money, she has no idea just what she’ll do.
Determined to get to the bottom of the murder and horse-napping, Mary Lou takes a job as governess to Pierce Thorndike, a fabulously wealthy New York businessman who lives on a vast estate on the Hudson River. His son, Edward, is a real handful, especially since his mother’s death a year ago. Pierce is immediately stunned by Mary Lou’s innocent beauty and voluptuous body (true heroes know a real woman when they see one). Even though she swears she’s just there to be a governess, he doesn’t believe her for a minute, but she handles Edward so well, and he is so enthralled by her, he hires her on the spot.
Mary Lou is nothing if not persistent. She considers herself a scientist and uses modern crime solving techniques (modern for a hundred years ago) to try to unravel the mystery. She wants to confide in Pierce, to whom she is overwhelmingly attracted, but she doesn’t know how he is involved in the murder, so she says nothing.
Yes, there were problems and flaws in the story. First, we are never told what kind of degree Mary Lou has, nor which University it was she graduated from. She’s only twenty. Did she start college at 16 or didn’t they have 4-year degrees in 1895? Her college is only referred to as “the University” and I wish the author had filled in some of these blanks. A little research would have helped validate Mary Lou’s education more fully. There are a few inconsistencies and loose strings, and a few leaps in logic I just had to take on trust, but overall, things come to a logical conclusion. Also, Mary Lou is referred to many times as being “brilliant.” I didn’t get “brilliant” from her; smarter than the average bear, perhaps, but she doesn’t do anything to earn this tag. An author just saying a character is brilliant doesn’t make it so. The reader has to see evidence of brilliance, and that was missing.
Pierce is a very good hero. He is honorable and a gentleman. He doesn’t want to hurt Mary Lou nor take advantage of her. She is in his employ and therefore, under his protection. When he realizes she needs protection from his own lustful thoughts, he tries very hard to do the right thing. There’s lots of sexual tension and the love scenes were tender and passionate.
This was my first book by this author. I enjoyed its charm and its romance. Ms. Rose has a writing style that is gentle and sweet-tempered, with characters that have a certain enchantment about them that overrode the few anachronisms I found. I didn’t notice any glaring historical inaccuracies, and the mystery was complex enough to keep me interested. It’s a nice little read, and I can definitely recommend it.
|Review Date:||March 8, 2001|