The Royal Runaway
Part mystery, part adventure, part romance, The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory is her entry in the current trend of regal-themed romances. Princess Theodora is recovering from the humiliation of being dumped on her wedding day but discovers things aren’t quite what they seem in this story of duty, self-discovery and love. It straddles the line of women’s fiction and romance, but no worries, it’s got the all important happy ending and an enjoyable ride to get there.
When Theodora returns to the palace after an extended stay on her family’s remote island of Perpetua, she’s finally ready to face the press in her first post-wedding-debacle interviews and resume her royal duties. Before facing her public, she decides to take some time for herself, slipping out of her home wearing a cheap disguise and heading for a small pub that she and her former fiancé Christian went to a few times. There, she meets Nick, who turns out to be much more than just a stranger with a Scottish accent like her ex. In fact, he’s Christian’s brother, and he is in Drieden to investigate Christian’s disappearance. Thea is shocked, mostly because she assumed that Christian crying off from the wedding was a case of cold feet. She didn’t know that he’s actually ‘disappeared’, nor that anyone in his family presumed him dead.
Things are complicated by the fact that technically, Nick, is supposed to be dead too, or at least that’s what her bodyguards turn up when they investigate him for her. He’d ‘died’ on a mission in Afghanistan, conveniently avoiding his family ever since, including the man she was supposed to marry. So not only is her fiancé missing and presumed dead, but his brother is not what he appears to be either. It soon turns out that he’s a British spy, and that Christian’s disappearance is linked to a more complicated case. Thea finds herself on the run, caught in a web of lies and deceit and unsure whom she can trust. Tracking Christian’s disappearance leads to the uncovering of a plot that could cost their lives. Will she and Nick even get a chance at a happy ending?
The author does a great job of creating the fictional country of Drieden, set in Northern Europe (think Belgium or the Netherlands as a comparison). The people speak Driedish and English, and the royal family is ‘of the house of Laurent’, an offshoot of the British royals from several centuries previously. Thea is well versed in the history of her country and her ancestors and speaks of them often. Her duty to crown and country has been drilled into her since childhood mostly by her grandmother who is the current Queen.Her parents are divorced and her father has shown no interest in becoming King. Though Thea is second in line for the crown, Driedish law states that the current monarch can choose their successor (within certain rules) so she’s aware the duty will likely fall to her. Her younger sisters haven’t shown the same sense of loyalty, both marrying people who their grandmother thinks are unsuitable and have been disinherited. Though Thea didn’t love Christian, he’d been of the right background as the ninth Duke of Steading and he’d been amenable to a marriage of convenience – or so she’d thought until he’d vanished on their wedding day.
The story is told entirely from Thea’s point of view. As such, Nick remains somewhat of an enigma as we don’t always know what he is thinking or feeling. He’s got a military bearing from his life in the service, and takes a role as bodyguard for part of the story as an excuse to get him into the castle. On the run, he’s the expert, navigating them through canals on stolen boats, and through the countryside in ‘borrowed’ cars. There are lots of twists and turns, though I did find the story gets a bit bogged down in the middle. There’s a psychic and a psycho (ha!) and just when you think you know what’s happening everything changes.
The romance is secondary to the rest of the story, and its kisses only with closed door sex scenes. Since Christian isn’t really in the picture and Thea is not pining for him, it leaves room for her and Nick to get closer as they delve into the mystery of Christian’s disappearance. The ending could have gone in several directions but here the romance is clear and Thea and Nick figure out a way to be together despite their clearly different roles in life. This story is as much about Thea finding the inner strength that she’ll need to be Queen as it is about her finding a life partner. The Royal Runaway is a fun romp with likeable characters, well executed world building and an original and entertaining romance.