The Runaway McBride
The Runaway McBride has an interesting premise for a new series and is a second-chance-at-love story, a favorite of mine. However, there were some problems along the way.
Lady Valeria, descended from a long line of Scottish seers, is on her deathbed surrounded by her three grandsons. None of them have shown any signs of having “the sight” and she mourns the fact that they seem more English than Scottish. Before she dies, she “sees” the future of each grandson and gives them a warning. To the eldest, James Burnett, a widower, she says “Your bride is in mortal danger, James. You must find her, or she will surely die.” In the weeks following their grandmother’s death, each man begins to have visions. James dreams of running through a dark house, chasing a murderer but arriving too late to save the woman he calls “Faithless McBride.”
Faith McBride was working as a companion in London when she met James while attending society events with her employer. They fell rapidly in love and were secretly engaged, when a crisis with James’ railroad company took him to Scotland, though he told Faith that he would return for her. The following events are murky, but the outcome was that Faith believes he left her to marry an heiress, and James believes she didn’t wait for him.
Eight years later, Faith is a teacher at a ladies’ academy which is the darling of the suffragette crowd, for it prepares the students to go on to college. She spends all her free time searching for information about her mother, who, she was told by her father, died in childbirth. But Faith has lately come into possession of a photograph of her mother taken in Egypt, where her age appears to be at least two decades past her “death.” Faith begins to feel she is being followed and her rooms appear to have been searched. James discovers Faith’s whereabouts and insinuates himself into her life, much to her anger and confusion. When James is on the scene to save Faith’s life during one of her fact-finding missions on her mother, he informs her that he is a permanent fixture until the mystery is solved.
It is very clear, and Thornton does a good job of showing, that neither Faith or James has ever gotten over the other. There is a frisson, a tension between them in all of their scenes, and while they cannot resist each other physically, they both have a lot of pain and distrust leftover from eight years ago. One of my problems with the book is that what – exactly – happened all those years ago is never adequately explained. They avoid any discussion of it and while there are allusions to it, the exact details – especially James’s actions – are never resolved.
My other frustration was the long sections of down-time where no progress was being made on the mystery front. Everything is imperative, time is of the essence, lives are in danger, but then there are several stretches where they just seem to be waiting around and doing nothing. I really felt the rhythm of the suspense storyline was very herky-jerky. This surprised me, for Thornton always has some element of romantic suspense in her historicals, and it is usually one of her strengths.
I wound up vacillating between giving The Runaway McBride a grade of B- or C+. I ultimately went with a B- on the strength of the grandsons inheriting their grandmother’s abilities premise. I liked the glimpses of the other two men and their bewilderment in dealing with their “gift” and so have decided that I will be reading the next book in this series. All of which leaves me making a qualified recommendation for The Runaway McBride.