The Runaway Bride
Ever have one of those reading experiences that left you feeling frustrated? All the ingredients for a great story were there, but for some reason the book just didn’t hit the mark for you? That’s what I went through reading The Runaway Bride, by Sandra Chastain. It’s an adequate book, but I came away from it wanting more.
Dr. Annalise Sinclair’s wealthy father is insisting that she settle down and marry, and give up her goal of practicing medicine. He’s reluctantly agreed to give her a year to prove herself before she has to do things his way. But at a New Year’s Eve masquerade, she encounters Daniel Miller, the son of one of her father’s friends; when she and Daniel share a dance and a midnight kiss, she realizes that this man threatens her dreams. Her maid’s disclosure that she’s pregnant and wants to find the baby’s father out West gives Annalise the excuse she needs to run away and start a life for herself in Wyoming.
Dan’s father has corralled him into overseeing the construction of a railway spur that’s the key to saving the family fortune, tied to the beef-transport concern at the heart of their business. A diplomat by training, Dan can’t see how he can accomplish this; besides, he wants to stay in New York to find the mysterious lady from the masquerade. Ever the dutiful son, though, off he goes. When he runs into Annalise on the train out of New York he’s attracted to her but doesn’t recognize her; she knows who he is right away, however, and resolves not to let him get in the way of her future.
It’s an eventful journey for everyone. Annalise and her maid have almost all their money stolen before the train pulls out of the station, and she has to call on her poker-playing skills, honed in medical school, to recoup a portion of it. They adopt a stowaway urchin, one of the pickpockets who ripped them off, while Dan hires on a fellow passenger who volunteers to be his crew’s cook. A series of not-so-accidental mishaps convinces Dan that someone’s out to sabotage his efforts; his diplomatic skills are called into use when they reach Laramie and discover that the land they’ve bought is occupied by hostile Indians; and Annie’s doctoring talents are put to use on several occasions. On top of all this, she finds it harder and harder to resist Dan, even after an unforgettable night together.
The story was solid enough, but it didn’t shine for me. I never got the feeling that I knew the characters very well. More importantly, I never connected emotionally with them. Let me put it this way: if I had been on that train with them, I’m certain I would have thought they were very pleasant, polite people, and I would have been cordial toward them. But I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to learn any more about them.
I think the most annoying thing about the book was the constant shifts in point of view: it became a problem to determine who was thinking what. First I was seeing things from Annie’s point of view, then Dan’s, then Annie’s again, and often other characters’ too. It got to be confusing and somewhat disjointing for me, and I found myself thinking too much about that and not enough about the story.
Reading The Runaway Bride was a so-so experience. The writing was adequate, the dialogue was tolerable, and the setting was fairly well conveyed. But I never got any sense of real passion from any of it. This one’s joining the pile bound for the used book store.