The Duke’s Runaway Bride by Jenni Fletcher
When a Duke’s new bride runs away on her wedding day, it makes for a tricky start to any marriage. The Bride has turned up in a biscuit shop in Bath, and those who have read the other books in Jenni Fletcher’s series about the “Regency Belles of Bath” will know that surely romance will be in the air. Not that it is necessary to read the other books in this series to enjoy this book; it is a book very much about Beatrix, Duchess of Howden and her relationship with her new husband, Quinton Roxbury. Not that he comes unencumbered; he has a family who in their various ways are almost as challenging as his concerns about his absent wife. This is a book of romance, but also some memorable characters whose reactions to Beatrix are very entertaining, as well as a heroine whose newly found independence challenges every assumption. With humour and a keen understanding of the power of scandal in a world of secrets, this book revels in the setting of a large if shabby house for the discovery of a genuine relationship that could change lives, if both Beatrix and Quinton can understand it. Will the lure of her friends in a fashionable bakery and the attractions of being truly independent for the first time in her life triumph over her relationship with the husband she has barely met? I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special, well written book.
As the book begins, Quinton is struggling to cope with his difficult family. His mother is an angry woman, unforgiving of her late husband who she hated. His sister Antigone is almost as disagreeable, his two brothers unreachable and his youngest sister silent and hiding. Into the middle of his problems appears a letter from his missing wife. She is living as Belinda Carr, who lives and works with her friend Nancy running Belles in Bath. The fierce Nancy MacQueen is rather anti-men, so when Quinton turns up, wanting to talk to Beatrix, she does not encourage a speedy reconciliation. When the married couple do discuss matters, they reveal some of the reasons why their wedding day ended so badly. Beatrix knows that he only proposed marriage on their first meeting because he wanted her money as she is an orphaned heiress, and her uncle had negotiated for her hand as he wanted the connection with his title. Quinton explains that he had been estranged from his late father and had until recently been in France: “But there was a war!” exclaims Beatrix. “That probably explains why they gave me a sword and a pistol” replies Quinton “I was a Major”. Partly as a result of the revelations, they agree to give their marriage a chance, and Beatrix is to return to Howden, his family house, and live at there as Duchess for six weeks, but she is convinced that at the end of the time she will still want a divorce. The story of those six weeks takes up the bulk of the novel, as they both discover much more about exactly who they have married.
I really enjoyed this novel, especially the developing relationship between Beatrix and Quinton. The family that she encounters is so well described, and a surprising character acts as the catalyst for change. Dealing with Quinton’s mother is especially challenging, as the older woman is stubborn and difficult. Beatrix’s progress is well described, as is Quinton’s emotional revelations. This is a very special book that I recommend to anyone who enjoys romantic historical fiction.