Cover Image: The Runaway Duchess

The Runaway Duchess

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Member Reviews

Despite how terrible Lavinia is, I do not envy her circumstances. And she is really horrible. Just very unlikable as a character and I couldn't finish reading this because I just didn't care about her happiness.
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Deftly written, I loved getting into Lavinia's world as she impersonates someone else. The book kept me guessing as to what was going to happen and really transported me into their time. I loved the descriptions of the dress and dwellings of the time and would highly recommend this for anyone who loves historical fiction and romance!
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The Runaway Duchess by Joanna Lowell is the second book in this series and another five star read for me. Lowell takes us across Cornwall and enchants at every turn. Can a plant hunter and a duchess on the run - who he mistakes for a famous botanist - arrive at love? Lowell crafts a story that does just that.

We were introduced to Lavinia Yardley in Joanna Lowell’s previous book The Duke Undone.  She was Anthony, the Duke of Weston’s fiance’. That is until it is revealed her father nearly swindled him out of a fortune. She and her mother are destitute and shunned by a fickle ton now that her father is in jail. Their situation is so dire that her mother sees the only recourse is for Lavinia to marry. The only man who will have her is an abusive, old, lecherous reprobate, the Duke of Cranbrook. 

Lavina reluctantly agrees to marry him. She is repulsed at every turn and can’t bring herself to consummate the marriage. Fortune seems to shine on Lavinia for once in her life when they somehow get separated on the train ride to his estate. She meets Neal on that platform where he first mistakes her for Mrs. Pendrake. He whisks her off to forage the wilds of Cornwall. However, this Mrs. Pendrake comes off as more debutante than intrepid world traveler.

They grow close as Lavina spends time with Neal. Love enters their journey. He takes her to meet his wildly eccentric, genius of a family. He brings to Lavinia Yardley, aka Duchess Cranbrooke, a clearer vision of herself. He actually sees her even as he mistakes her for Mrs. Murial Pendrake and discovers that she has misled him all along.

No man in her life has ever actually seen her. They’ve manipulated her as her father had. They used her as the man she gave herself to did. They married her just to use and abuse her. But Neal’s love causes the scales to fall from her eyes and see the potential she has in herself. 

It’s crazy but through it she discovers her truer self and that she is, of all things, a writer. It is through the intervention of their friends, and fate finally giving Lavinia a good turn, that they reach their happily ever after. Such delicious angst and her richness of characters are a treat. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Runaway Duchess.
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This was a unique historical romance that I would recommend to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting!

I received an e-ARC from the publisher.
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The Runaway Duchess, by Joanna Lowell is the second book in the series. This was such a cute love story.. Lavinia was always meant to marry a Duke and should have become a duchess.. Only problem is her family has had some embarrassing problems.. and the Duke that is available is terrible. Lavinia can not believe her fate. How can she settle down with this man. She can’t stand him. After she marries him, she has a chance to become someone else and she takes it. She runs from her new life and husband. Neil Traymayne is a botanist who travels all over to do research. He is waiting at a train station and mistakes Lavinia for the botanist Muriel Pendrake. Neil and Muriel are meant to get together to focus on the needs of the nursery he works for. 
Lavinia let’s Neil believe she is Muriel and the fun starts. She must act like she knows all things, botany. They go all over the Cornish country side and some how fall in love. But there are too many secrets, too many obstacles to let them be together!! To be together they both have to be honest and settle things to move forward.. But can the secrets and lies be forgiven? Can they get past all the other things that would keep them a part? This was such a funny, light hearted romance and I really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed the characters and their hijinks. This was a four star read for me. I am going to read the first book Jon the series and I look forward to the next. Thank you to Netgalley & the author for my copy. It was a pleasure to read and review it.
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So I struggled a bit with this book. Lavinia is a hard character to want to root for but this book does so a lot of why she is such a shallow individual. I felt like I was watching a movie and I was getting all type of feels and teary-eyed. I really enjoyed this book. I really hope there's is to be a third one!
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I liked but didn't love this book (as opposed to the author's previous one), but it's solid enough to be a no-brainer buy for the historical romance shelf, and I'll definitely be requesting her next.
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A charming, dual perspective Victorian historical romance featuring Neal, a botanist and Lavinia Yardley, the woman he mistakenly believes to be a specialist sent to help him who is trying to escape from an arranged marriage to a cruel man. Naturally the two fall in love tromping the Cornish moors but disaster strikes when the real Murial Pendrake shows up. I enjoyed the unique subject matter and felt the romance was decent. Not my favorite story but still worth reading. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy.
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I really enjoyed Lavinia and Neal's story. The whole "I'm not who you think I am", kept me reading to find out what would happen when the truth came out. What a fun adventure!
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Lavinia was raised as a spoiled, pampered mean-girl, at the top of Society. That is, until her father went to prison for fraud, leaving her and her mother destitute and ostracized. With no money and no hope for a better future, she marries a repulsive old Duke. To avoid the wedding night, she purposely eats strawberries knowing she is allergic. That's how she winds up on a train platform avoiding her new husband, blotchy faced and desperate to escape. Neal arrives mistaking her for Muriel Pendrake, botanist, and plant huntress extraordinaire. He has spent years as a plant hunter, now the head of London's largest nursery. He's never met Muriel, but from her letters, he knows they are compatible and plans to propose to her. Expecting a serious-minded scientist, he's surprised by the blonde-ringleted, pouting, crying woman he finds. Lavinia takes this chance to escape and pretends to be Muriel as best she can. As they fall in love, Lavinia displays a gut-wrenching inferiority complex knowing Neal wants a wife who loves science and botany as he does. When Neal finds out he's been deceived and the real Muriel Pendrake shows up things get interesting. Maybe Neal prefers a flibbertigibbet after all. But wait, she's married! I highly recommend this book. Lavinia was so well-written, a deeply moving character whose flaws I found delightful. I never knew I could care about a spiteful pampered character so much!
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A fun historical romance by an author I hadn't read before! Lavinia had every right to runaway in my opinion as she was stuck in a very unfortunate circumstance. I'm looking forward to reading her other books!

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an arc for an honest review
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I loved Duke Undone with Lucy and Anthony and was happy to get a glimpse into their married life in this book. In the first book Lavinia was the darling of the ton and from the authors note she was about to write her off as a pampered vapid girl but felt bad. I'm so glad you delved deeper with her.

She did of course start off the same type of debutante but now her circumstances are changed and her mother has arranged a marriage for her, to help their reputations. All of these circumstances were not of her making so ugh having to grin and bear it sounds like a panic attack to me.

On the way to her honeymoon she tries to escape and gets mistaken for someone else and fantasizes about becoming this person and leaving Lavinia behind. If only we could escape our mistakes and life this way for something that seems more simple and fun.

Neal the plant hunter who has mistaken her for a botanist doesn't seem to catch on since he didn't know what she looked like and he had some ideas of his own for that botanist.

Oh Lavinia when you opened up you blossomed. There was so much hope and love that was being denied and withheld. She somehow forged a path of her own and found out more about herself when she was someone else.

🔥 And there is some historical steam, jk but there is steam!

Thank you berkleyromance and netgalley for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.
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“I have learned several things about myself only recently.” She took a breath. “For example, that I would rather have a daisy wrapped around my finger than wear a duke’s diamond.” She fisted her hands and crossed her arms, fists shoved beneath her biceps. She’d begun to tremble. “When Neal told me about the dandelions he’d named for you, I knew. I knew how much it meant, how much he loved you. And I knew that I wanted to live that kind of life.” Tears spilled over her lashes. “A life where love is as common as weeds,” she whispered.

Lavinia Yardley’s life has been thrown in disarray following her father’s fall from grace. She no longer has the option to live as she once did, and this change in her circumstance forces her to wed a much older and vile man with nothing to commend himself but his title. Upon realizing what she has done, Lavinia bolts on the day of her wedding when a handsome gardener mistakes her for the famous botanist and explorer, Muriel Pendrake. Lavinia assumes Muriel’s identity, goes into hiding in Cornwall, and discovers that she is happier among the plants than she is with members of the ton. What will Neal do when he learns of her deception? Will her lies keep them apart forever?

There are quite a few words that I would use to describe Lavinia Yardley: spoiled, haughty, vapid, and extremely unlikeable. These opinions formed early on in the book, and I found myself struggling to keep reading. This hasn’t happened to me many times, but Joanna Lowell changed my mind about Lavinia. The longer that I read, the more her layers were peeled back, and the more I came to root for her. She learned a lot of lessons in this story, found out who she was, and decided who she no longer wanted to be. She might never be the selfless heroine saving the less fortunate, but she is no longer a villain in my eyes. Her change can be attributed to the hero, Neal Traymayne, who helped Lavinia learn about herself along the way. Neal has to be one of my new favorite heroes. Why? He feels real to me. Flawed, imperfect, loving, kind, and funny in a self-deprecating way. I enjoyed watching them both grow as people and a couple. How come this one doesn’t get five stars from me? The resolution took too long to come to, and it was tied up a little too easily. Overall, I am extremely impressed. The writing was excellent, the characters dimensional, and the plot unique.

Fans of flawed and imperfect characters like those of Sarah Maclean and Kerrigan Byrne would enjoy watching Lavinia’s journey from spoiled member of the ton to romance novelist extraordinaire.

~ Michelle
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Okay. Seriously I ALMOST DNF this book in the beginning. Lavinia was horrible in the first book, and that continued in the beginning of this one. Shallow and vapid, a society woman through and through. It was also very slow, and took me awhile to get into. 

BUT… yes, there’s a BUT! Realizing that’s how she was raised, and that she literally knew nothing else, and how she had been manipulated her entire life to be that way, helped set things into perspective. 

As the story continued and things started picking up, I found that I wanted to keep reading. I was enjoying watching Lavinia’s character growth (which is EXCEPTIONAL) and I just wanted to continue reading and watching the story unfold. 

There are points in the story from her POV when I found myself wanting to cry, and really feeling for her. 

The back half of this book definitely jumped up my rating for sure. And I definitely fell in love with Neal and Lavinia and their unique love. 

Thank you Netgalley and Berkley Romance for this eARC!
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I found Lavinia Yardley irritating and spoiled when she was a side character in the first of this series (it turns out the author did, too), so I was fascinated to see what character growth the author had in mind for her as she steps into the role of protagonist in The Runaway Duchess. Fleeing from the lecherous duke she was forced to wed in desperation, Lavinia steals the identity of a renowned plant hunter when Neal misidentifies her at the train station. Boy does Lavinia struggle at the beginning of her Cornish adventure. Ill-equipped for bars that have ale and no champagne, families where there's no cook or nanny to take on the more grueling work of living, or gatherings where jigs are more popular than the waltz, Lavinia powers through each interaction, even as she completely misses the mark in most conversations.

Lavinia's growth and self-discovery are both well-paced and believable, a feat given her rough starting point. I think the author does a good job of giving her room to reflect and look for a better path forward without turning her personality upside down or ignoring that all of us have less-than-admirable qualities. Neal also experiences some self-reflection in regards to his family right at the end of the book, but it is less pronounced.

I found the romance less compelling than Lavinia's personal journey. I could understand the couple's mutual attraction and appreciate what they come to mean to each other, but I felt at an emotional remove from it all. I don't think it's because the story lacks heart but more a matter of how personal that connection is between a reader and a book. For me, initial emphasis on physical attraction tends to alienate me as a romance reader, so that's probably one factor affecting my reaction. I think I also struggled with the fact that the first half goes a bit too smoothly because of Lavinia's big lie, and the second half is very prickly and fraught as a result of the truth coming to light. That dynamic just wasn't my favorite to wade through.

If you're a romance reader who likes to see big personal gains for a protagonist, one that rejects Society and its cruel grip on women, one that brings together an unlikely pair, I think you'll find a lot to enjoy here. Thanks to Berkley Romance for my copy to read and review.
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Thank you so much for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.  The Runaway Duchess was one of those approvals that I literally screamed when I was approved for.  The Duke Undone was so good and I was shockingly excited to see that one of the characters that I hated from that book was the protagonist in this book.  I was so happy to read her redemption story and know more about her.  Historical romance has become my favorite genre and Lowell does it so good!
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This was an absolute delight to read! I came upon THE RUNAWAY DUCHESS in a difficult, dark moment in my life and Lavinia and Neal (and Joanna) made it so much brighter. Really grateful for this read.
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I loved Lowell's first book "The Duke Undone" and was really looking forward to the "Runaway Duchess." Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. Probably because I spent a good 50% of this book hating the female lead, Lavinia Yardley. 

She's a spoiled, "mean girl" who gets married off to a lecherous old duke to save her family financially (and it couldn't have happened to a nicer chit!)  I didn't like the way she treated people, how she talked to Neal (her love interest), how she lied to him and his family, what a snob she was, how dumb she was, her slutty past with George (maybe if that was left out and she was a virgin marrying a lecherous old man she would have been immediately a more sympathetic and likeable leading lady). I hated how quickly Neal seemed to forgive her and how she treated him like a boy toy toward the end, I just felt he deserved so much better than her. 

Neal Tramayne, botanist and sweetheart, is the reason I even finished reading this book. He was the character I rooted for to get a happy ending. Eventually Lavinia does redeem herself, but not until the very last gasps of the novel, long after you're past caring.  

I think readers might give up on this one by the 40% mark, because Lavinia doesn't get likeable fast enough. It moves a little slow as you're waiting for her lies to be revealed. There are two steamy outdoor sex scenes if you do push through and Anthony and Lucy from "The Duke Undone" have some cameos in the second half. 

I think I would have rather read about the real Muriel Pendrake's adventures and romances. Now there's a heroine!
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Review will be posted on Forever Young Adult blog on 2/2/22.

First Impressions: Clashing Colors

The solid purple paper-doll outlines aren’t my favorite and feel like they inserted some random clipart over the pastel background, but…at least it isn’t a cutesy cartoon like everything else lately?

What’s Your Type?

Relationships based on mistaken identity
Falling in love with the guy AND his family
Small British towns
Heroines with character growth
Affable, understanding heroes
Dating Profile

Lavinia Yardley has been utterly disgraced. The upstanding father she thought she had turned out to be nothing but a embezzling, despicable fraud, and now that he’s been goaled their family is destitute. Her mother pushes her towards the Duke of Cranbrook, a thoroughly odious goat of an old man, in order to reinstate their status in society. But Lavinia, a woman who has grown up getting everything she has ever desired, cannot stomach the thought of him touching her.

Neal Traymayne is a botanist—but, like, a sexy kind that goes on dangerous expeditions to places like South America to bring back new species of plants to Varnham Nurseries, the place he works and now (reluctantly) owns. He’s decided that instead of dalliances with people like society women who are utterly wrong for him, it’s time to settle down with someone sensible, who also loves plants and has his sense of adventure. Enter: widowed and famed plant hunter, Muriel Pendrake, his correspondence partner for the last six months.
 
Meet Cute: A Case Of Mistaken Identity

The day after her wedding, Lavinia and her new, yucky, old duke are on the train to his country estate, when she bumps into Neal at a station stop in Cornwall. Neal mistakes her for Muriel, whom he’s there to pick up so he can escort her on a tour of the Cornish moors and all the fascinating plants it contains. Sensing a way out, Lavinia goes along with Neal’s error, pretending to be Muriel, and lets him whisk her away from a life of handsy husbands and homemade Viagra.

The Lean: Opposites Attract

From While You Were Sleeping, Bill Pullman explains attraction to Sandra Bullock
Obviously nothing significant in their relationship should move forward while Neal thinks Lavinia is this famed plant hunter he plans to propose to, but thankfully the deception doesn’t last long enough for feelings to get too hurt. Lavinia had a dalliance with a hot young duke a few years back and had always expected she would marry him until he drowned, so she’s not some blushing innocent. Common-born Neal is very close to his family and admired his parents’ relationship built on like-mindedness, so he’s looking for the same kind of work/love partnership. But Lavinia, coming from a high-society perspective, definitely has a different set of ideals, and their clashes of class make for some fun arguments. They’re both forced to confront their preconceived notions surrounding class, status, and what a “good” relationship looks like, so that, by the time they get together, there is a mutual respect on an even playing field.

Dirty Talk

Lowell writes what feels like classy spice. The sex scenes are R-rated but not overly explicit in a way that sometimes feels out of place with the rest of the “historical” sounding writing. The emphasis is on the relationship building with a side-helping of smut, which is my personal sweet spot. And since this is a very nature-themed book, I think it will come as no surprise that at some point the characters get busy out on a bed of moss in the wilderness:

“You do like it,” he said, watching her.

“Maybe too much.” She gasped as he curled his finger. “What if I can’t control how I…”

[…]

“If you become completely wild, like a forest creature, or like a pirate queen who takes her pleasure without apology and gives no quarter…”

He pushed her onto her back and loomed over her, so his shadow quenched the light.

“God, I want it.” He almost groaned with the words. “I want to make you come and come apart and forget every goddamn thing but the feel of my mouth.”

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose

Teacher types on laptop while talking to student
Typing a romance novel on a computer screen
Generally the writing is straight up and easy to devour. But Lowell couldn’t help herself and put in a few flowery—literally—descriptions during the same sexy scene from above that made me laugh:

His touch made her open up like a crocus. He wanted to open her wider, to taste each ridge and fold, parting the lavender-rose of her, heavy with dew.

Like, a bit ew, but that is, I promise, the worst of it. This is also from Neal the plant-lover’s perspective before we switch to Lavinia’s, and her musings have a different tone. I appreciate when authors take those differing personalities and viewpoints into account instead of making their characters sound samey.
 
We Need To Talk: 1000 Yellow Daisies

Friends, I loved this book. It got to me at just the right time when I needed two characters who were really great. Neal is an excellent hero in that he’s genuinely a good and understanding person with livable flaws (he’s an adventure-hound and, as Lavinia tells him, snobby, which he finds endlessly amusing). Lavinia and her fall from grace began in the first book of this “series” (which you do not need to read to enjoy this story), and she’s very much the vain villain character. But, oh, how she grows up and learns to be a more thoughtful and kind person! And her growth isn’t centered on Neal goading her to be good, but because of her circumstances forcing her to examine what her life actually was like and what she thought she wanted back then to what she’s seeing differently now.

I loved Lavinia’s interactions with Neal’s intellectually-driven family and her longing for their close-knit bonds, especially given how shitty her own parents turn out to be. One of the main characters falling in love the other’s family and that conversely helping them become closer—it’s one of my favorite tropes. (We need a name for this! Does it fall under “found family”?)

I liked The Duke Undone a lot and gave it five stars on Goodreads, but I actually think I like The Runaway Duchess even more! Lowell’s settings still feel real and researched, and there’s plenty of balance between the fluffy and the serious. I remarked in my review of Undone that it got a bit melodramatic at the end, and that some of the discussions on alcoholism felt too heavy for a “romance”, but thankfully, in this book, the scale of the drama felt appropriate to the stakes.

It’s a “small” thing, but I’m grateful Lowell didn’t make us witness any scenes of Lavinia being forced or threatened to be intimate with her creepy husband for shock value. It would’ve been too much and unnecessary.

Was It Good For You? So, So Good

Johnny swings Baby around while they dance from Dirty Dancing.
That is a resounding yes! Joanna Lowell will undeniably be an auto-read for me in the future.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Berkley Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Runaway Duchess is available now.
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I was lucky to be gifted an eARC of this book to review. I was able to read the book in this series last year, and really enjoyed my time with it. When I found out there was a sequel, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. This is a great historical romance story with mistaken identity shenanigans and the steamy tension I was looking for

This follows Livinia after the events of the first book. She has been disgraced and is looking for a way out of the terrible marriage she had to get into due to her circumstances. When a young man named Neal, a budding botanist, mistakes her for a renowned botanist she sees it as her chance to escape. 

Just like the first one, I’m note sure how historically accurate this story and world really is.However, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story and the characters. This was such a fun read, but I’m not sure it’s crazy memorable. If you’re looking for a good travel-like historical romance to break up some tougher books, then this book is perfect for that. 

Overall, all the normal things that one would expect from a historical romance were there and I really enjoyed every second of it. Waters is definitely an author I am going to be keeping my eye out for.
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