The Renegade and the Heiress
Judith Duncan – who knew? Well, a number of people, apparently, from the grades other reviewers have given her books. This is only the second book I’ve read by her, but at this point, she’s two for two. The Renegade and the Heiress is a very good read indeed.
Finn Donovan is a loner. Years ago he was convicted of a crime he committed in defense of his wife. He served eight years in prison, and since his release, he’s focused all of his attention on his horse ranch in the Canadian Rockies. He is also a respected tracker and occasional trail guide. One day while out preparing his line shacks for the winter, he stumbles across a woman in trouble. Mallory O’Brien is bound at the wrists, her head is covered with a black sack, and she is staggering through the snow. He rescues her, and when she thaws out, she tells him that she was kidnapped from her car in Chicago and loaded onto a plane. The plane crashed in the Rockies and she survived, but she knows that at least one other person also survived the crash, and he is most likely after her and fully committed to causing her death. Oh, and one other thing: she’s the only daughter of the famous, extravagantly wealthy Patrick O’Brien.
All of these revelations do not bode well for Finn, whose personal philosophy is to mind his own business as much as possible. But he knows he needs to help her, and he’s intrigued by her, besides. He commits himself to making and keeping her safe whatever the cost.
The Renegade and the Heiress is basically romantic suspense in a category format. Finn and Mallory are in danger from the first moment they meet, and they are being stalked and pursued throughout the entire course of the book. Duncan meshes the love story seamlessly with the action, and the result is a riveting read.
Finn and Mallory are both likable characters, and I was touched by how healing Mallory was for Finn. This was no tear-jerker of a book, but there were a couple of scenes that reminded me of the extremely touching declaration of love scene in LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory.
While a very good read, it was not a Desert Isle Keeper because the entire story is told from Finn’s point of view. As a result, the reader never gets into Mallory’s head – at all. For the first half of the book, the first person device is quite useful because it keeps us guessing: Who is this woman? Why is she trying to escape? What’s really going on? But after the first half, when the reader is more clued in, seeing things from Mallory’s perspective would have made a very good book a great book I would have liked to have seen what exactly she saw in Finn. Obviously he is a good guy, but what makes him different to her and better than all the rest? By the end I felt like I knew Finn very well, but Mallory proved more elusive.
Then there’s the fact that the story takes place in a very short period of time – less than a week. It’s essentially a love at first sight plot. Generally speaking, this type of plot does not work well for me, but I accepted it here, perhaps because the story was so engrossing. It was action-packed and suspenseful, similar to a Suzanne Brockmann, and thus did not give me much time to think, “Hmmm. How well do these two really know each other?”
Both books I’ve read by Duncan, this and Streets of Fire, are really “whole reading experiences.” They are absorbing when read straight through; the story establishes a momentum and a connection with the reader and keeps going nonstop until its finish. This makes for a very positive reading experience. They are not vignette reads, however. There aren’t little bits of dialogue that one can go back and reread, and no one scene particularly stands out. To enjoy this book or parts of this book again, I’d have to go back and reread it cover to cover.
The Renegade and the Heiress is the best category romance I’ve read this year. If you like road romances, romantic suspense, or just darned good storytelling, I’d urge you to pick this one up.