Sick of his fatherís violence and incessant demands, a wounded Roarke Blackburn, heir to the Duke of Dunbrooke, takes advantage of the chaos in Waterlooís aftermath to conveniently "die". He resurfaces as Irish laborer Connor Riordan, in which guise he takes up the job of groom in the stables of Sir Tremaine. From the beginning, he forms a special friendship with Rebecca, the ever curious, forthright and mischievous younger daughter of his master.
Some years later, Rebecca finds herself unwittingly compromised during a midnight lark, and her father hastily arranges for her nuptials. With just days to go before her marriage, a desperate Rebecca turns to her old friend and mentor, Connor, for help. To his amazement, Connor realizes how much heís come to care for this tomboy, and he runs off with her with every intention of delivering her to his auntís care in Scotland and then leaving for the freedom of America.
But along the journey they encounter highwaymen, are shot at and barely escape, only to discover someone quite ruthless is determined to kill them both. Who is this mysterious foe, and can they evade this personís devious machinations? Faced with unparalleled peril and insurmountable obstacles, Connor and Rebecca discover their growing love for each other. But can their fledgling love survive secrets from the past and betrayals of the present?
Debut author Julie Anne Long proves her mettle with an engaging style of storytelling and plotting in a tender historical romance thatís as sweet as it is sexy. In a narrative that is sensitive without being maudlin, Long unfolds the story of two people who begin as mentor and ward but end up as lovers. Rebecca is a delight with her freshness, curiosity and a most unladylike (for that time period) yearning to become a doctor, something that appalls her socially ambitious mama. Connor is equally interesting with his determination and longing to be his own man.
It is at once hilarious, heartrending and tender as readers see these two embark on a journey of peril, on the way gradually discovering feelings of love and desire for the other and how it fills them with fear, surprise and yearning. There is ample suspense as well, and the various side-plots and romances all come together most satisfyingly in the end. With gypsies, herbal remedies, historical ambiance, wealth, greed, love and ambition, adding color and flavor, Julie Anne Long has a guaranteed winner in The Runaway Duke.