I’ve enjoyed historical fiction novels from Syrie James in the past and was delighted to have a chance to review her new historical romance, Runaway Heiress. Runaway Heiress is a Victorian historical romance involving the American invasion of heiresses to England trying to snag a titled husband. Think Cora from Downton Abbey or all the ladies in The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.
Alexandra Atherton has attended college in America and wants an independent life full of learning. Her mother has other plans and has brought her to England to use her father’s wealth to lure a titled husband. This will help the family social standing in America. Alexandra is horrified when the suiter her mother has chosen tries to have his way with her in the garden. She runs off to try to return to America to live her own independent life. During her escape, her money is stolen, and she is left alone and penniless. Help from some kind strangers allows her to grasp a new opportunity and become the governess to Thomas Carlyle, a handsome artist with two younger sisters. Their governess has just left Mr. Carlyle in a bind and he quickly hires Alexandra.
Alexandra may be posing as a governess, but Mr. Carlyle is really, Thomas Carlyle, Earl of Longford. When Alexandra arrives at his estate, she is stunned. Thomas is earning money as a portrait artist to try to support his family and crumbling estate after his late father and grandfather squandered away the family inheritance. Working for money is not done by an aristocrat so Thomas must hide his work and identity.
Alexandra learns to loves Thomas’s sisters, Julia and Lillie and becomes quite a good governess. She also falls in love with Thomas and they have a charged atmosphere between them. But when the truth comes out about Alexandra’s identity, will Thomas be able to put aside his prejudices against wealthy American heiresses to find true love?
I loved this novel. I loved the gentle nods to one of my favorite all time Victorian novels, Jane Eyre with Alexandra’s work as a governess and love of the novel. The chemistry between Alexandra and Thomas fairly leapt off the page – I loved their romance. I especially loved that Alexandra was an independent woman who was not going to settle as her mother wanted her too but was working towards finding her own path in life. I loved her relationship with Julia and Lillie. The next two books in this series follow Alexandra’s sisters, but I hope that Julia and Lillie eventually get their own story as well.
“’Resentment and hatred are wounds that only fester as time goes by’ she pointed out gently, ‘but they can be healed by forgiveness.’
Overall, Runaway Heiress is a well written Victorian romance with a strong independent heroine and great chemistry between the leads. Jane Eyre and romance fans should take note.
Book Source: Review Copy from Avon and author Syrie James. Thank-you!