Top positive review
She Ran to Save Her Life, But Forgot About Her Heart
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2020
Jody Hedlund returns with a new Bride Ships book, and takes us into the psyche of another type of woman who might have chosen a bride ship voyage--even if she didn't have to and arguably didn't need to. After meeting Arabella Lawrence in The Reluctant Bride, I looked forward to her story and found the results a pleasure to read.
Arabella does a great job presenting the POV of a wealthier bride without coming off snobby, shallow, or overly sheltered. She does admit she has classist attitudes, but here you can tell they are a product of her time and the pressures placed on women of her standing. Inside Arabella lurks a compassionate, hardworking, independent woman screaming to get out, and seeing her make that journey was probably the most gratifying part of the book.
As for hero Pete Kelly, he's not the match I'd have chosen for Arabella--funny, since she feels the same way for much of Runaway Bride. I enjoyed him though, because he is an atypical hero for this type of novel. That is, he's charming and he knows it. He flirts shamelessly and as Arabella says, can be downright arrogant and annoying. But unlike a lot of other annoying characters, Pete is also an endearing man with a good heart, one who manages to be realistically flawed without turning off readers. I did think he was way too forward and cavalier at various points, but he develops mature love for Arabella, and again, watching him grow is a high point.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters and underlying plot. Some people might argue it's not best to read about smallpox during a coronavirus pandemic, but I found some solace there. I enjoyed Haiel-Wat, Kwa-nis, and the other native characters, and was sobered and interested in how they may have been used as biological warfare weapons. Once again, Jody proves she can make historical issues current and find the universal themes within events that happened long ago. Arabella and Pete's emotional and spiritual development as people kept my interest much better than their romance at times.
There are some small-to-medium issues, but most are a matter of preference. For instance, I wanted to see more development of certain plot points, and more character development around those. For instance, Arabella comes to love cake baking, but it's rather sudden, and we rarely see her baking in a scene or nurturing creative ideas. I wanted to see how this woman learned to develop interests that weren't class-based, and how she would make them her own. The presence of Hayward, who by the way is a wonderful secondary character, helped some, but I needed more shading.
The same is true for Pete. His wild past is alluded to several times, but we're not given many specifics as to what caused the rift in his family, other than not wanting to take over Dad's bakehouse (which, okay, but families work through that sort of conflict every day and across centuries). I also felt like Pete's spiritual development was rushed, and frankly, I got kind of tired of seeing him get arrested.
Jody repeats some concepts again and again, especially within introspection (it's made *very* clear, for instance, that Arabella feels uncertain about marrying below her station--because she thinks about it over and over). She also shortchanges or demeans some characters (I hated the character of Blind Billy because he is quite literally defined by blindness and a grouchy personality--very one-note). Because of these issues, maybe Runaway Bride is more a 3.5. However, it's still a solid book and a good addition to the series.