The Runaway McBride
by Elizabeth Thornton, historical (2009)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22634-6


The Runaway McBride is a better cozy mystery than it is a romance because while I can care less whether James Burnett and Faith McBride will fall in love, I certainly want to find out the answer to the mystery of Faith's mother.

Eight years ago, James and Faith were supposed to be in love and they wanted to get married. Well, something happened shortly after. Don't ask me what happened, because this story doesn't give me a clear picture of the events that drove them apart even by the last page. All I can tell you is that, well, crap happened, and now James is a rich railway tycoon in 1885 while Faith is a school teacher who is trying to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance from her life. Meanwhile, James was told by his aunt that he stood a chance of inheriting the family psychic abilities. Haunted by the woman's cryptic final words about needing to keep safe a woman, a woman that he believes to be Faith, he decides to keep an eye on her. This is a wise move, as someone is determined to keep Faith from getting her answers, if it this person has to kill Faith in the process.

The characters could have been interesting, but they are underwritten here to the extent that I don't know anything about them beyond superficial details about their past and present by the last page. These two spend more time playing Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew rather than exploring their feelings, so when they decide to have sex and announce that they are in love, I can only go, "Yes, yes, just do it quickly and get back to investigating!"

The mystery, after all, is what I find interesting about this story. But even so, the pacing of the story is pretty slow and there are many times when the characters will just take things slowly and muddle around. But my biggest disappointment is with the ending and the subsequent message that the author ends up shoving down my throat. [spoiler starts] I'm not too pleased that the author has the heroine blame her mother completely for leaving her with her father to see the world. Come on, the mother cannot dump the daughter if the father didn't agree to the arrangement. Why couldn't the father compromise and let the mother see the world? I find it odd that in this sad situation, the mother ends up getting all the blame as the selfish bitch with no maternal feelings, when the father also willingly let the mother go. And also, I find this blame-the-woman message disappointing in light of how this story is set in a time when the suffragist movement is in full swing. It is as if the author is disapproving of the suffragist movement by shoving down a "Choose your home and your family over your dreams!" message down the reader's throat, where a woman must choose either love and family or her dreams, with no compromise allowed to have her attain both. [spoiler ends]

At the end of the day, the mystery is interesting but has poor pay-off, while the romance is tepid and dull. The Runaway McBride is not what I'd call an enjoyable read. I think I'd rather read about the mother. After all, she's whom the title of this book is referring to, no?

Rating: 63


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