The Runaway Princess
For the three hours it took me to read this book, I was mesmerized. If the roof had fallen in, the rescue team would have found my body desperately grasping the book and facing the text. But the roof stayed in place and waking from my daze, I found myself in the middle of an internal, but very vocal, quarrel. My emotional right-brain-half argues that The Runaway Princess is absolutely wonderful. My analytical left-brain-half insists that the book suffers from some annoying plotting shortcuts and sloppy editing. Since I can’t make up my mind, I present the case, and let you decide for yourself..
Miss Evangeline Scoffield has inherited money from her employer and is spending it on the adventure of her life – a trip to the Pyrenees as a mystery lady. One night she is accosted by a dark stranger who presents himself as Danior, Crown Prince of Baminia, and her fiancé. He is convinced she is the missing Princess Ethelinda of Serephina, and their marriage will unite the two countries and prevent a revolution. Pursued by the revolutionaries, Danior kidnaps Evangeline and heads off into the Pyrenees to reach their home countries in time for the Revealing and their marriage. Evangeline finds that much of her theoretical knowledge works in practice, like Chinese hand-to-hand fighting, and the alpine skill of rappelling down a sheer cliff. Danior finds that the kind and meek child Princess he used to know has courage, intelligence, and has grown into the most enticing adult body. But is she truly his Princess? She keeps on insisting that she isn’t, but she must be wrong, or else they’re all doomed.
Evangeline is analytical and cool-headed most of the time. Her background as an orphan and as a research assistant to an elderly lady scholar explains this, as well as her wide-ranging knowledge, which has practical applications. Her willingness to take the opportunity to sample and enjoy physical pleasure, as well as her liking of good food was refreshing. While she does become involved in plenty of action, I found her actions rational and touching. For once, I’ve found a heroine I can call feisty, without intending the term as an insult.
Danior is in many ways a simple man. He has his mind set on reuniting Baminia and Serephina, and Evangeline’s protests have no place in his plans. He is solicitous of her well-being, even if he occasionally comes off as extremely high-handed, and he cares deeply about the well-being of his countrymen. Above all, he fights succumbing to uncontrollable passion, fearing he will hurt the woman he makes love to. An alpha hero to the core, Danior may be a tad autocratic, but Evangeline is fiery enough to fight fire with fire.
While I loved Danior and Evangeline, I had some difficulties with the plot. Being European, I have a problem with author’s adding strange countries – not to mention a new language – to the region. There are plenty of romantic and little-known principalities to choose from, especially in 1816 before the reunification of Germany and Italy. And, while making love in conjunction with a bath in a thermal spring may be “hot,” I looked up the mineral composition of the Pyrenees and found no mention of the possibility of hot springs. What’s wrong with plotting in a cool pool instead, and so allow us compulsive nitpickers to enjoy the story?
I will not give away the ending, but the solution to the ongoing quarrel of whether or not Evangeline was a Royal Princess or not was neatly solved. Very neatly, and a bit suddenly, but to my satisfaction.
I truly enjoyed The Runaway Princess, and other readers might not have my difficulties with the plot. Personally, I don’t bestow keeper status to any book that drags me out of my bed early in the morning to investigate the geology of the Pyrenees.