Runaway is a novel that promises to be about ‘dark secrets and forbidden love’, which it is. It is also an engaging read, with a satisfying, if somewhat predictable, ending. Yes, gentle reader, she marries him – and along the way she finds out that she is the daughter of an aristocrat who renounced his elevated position to marry for love. However, how the ending is reached is fresh and the plot moves along at a good clip.
Because it was easy to suspect from the first page how the story might develop, and the tone the book is mock-archaic, it took a couple of pages to warm to it. However, the central character is engaging and there are some surprising plot twists. Just as importantly, the book weaves historical details into the text with skill. The reader learns with the heroine as her knowledge and understanding of the world around her grow. In that sense, it is a coming of age novel.
The girl starts out naïve and, through force of circumstance, finds her way in, and into, the adult world. The reader is also given the opportunity to be a little wiser than the protagonist at some points, which must be satisfying to young readers. What may make this book particularly appealing to girls of around twelve to thirteen, however, is the focus on horses – something that, one suspects, is more than just a plot point, or a necessary part of the historical setting. The baddies are cruel to horses and do not know how to handle them, the good people deal with them well. However, these are quibbles. The target audience will likely be charmed and identify strongly with the feisty heroine.