Book Review: The Runaway Bride (ARC)

Expected publication: May 6th 2021

Author: Mary Jayne Baker

Here comes the bride … but how long can she hide?

When Kitty Clayton flees her wedding with no money, no bank card and no phone, her life seems worryingly futureless. All she knows is, she’d rather sleep on the streets than go back home to cheating Ethan.

After picking her up hitch-hiking, widowed children’s author Jack Duffy takes Kitty under his wing, looking out for her until she gets back on her feet. And it’s not long before the two grow close…

But with Jack struggling to recover from the guilt he feels over his wife’s death and Kitty refusing to face up to the problems she’s running away from at home, will the two ever manage to share a happily ever after?

Although I have heard of Mary Jayne Baker novels before, this is the first one that I have read.  After reading The Runaway Bride, I am excited to read more of her novels, both past and future. This novel was a nice mix of realism and escapism which made it a very intriguing read. From the first few lines where we have a bride on the n the side of the road in her big poofy wedding dress and wellies, it set the stage for the humor that is weaved throughout the story. She is determined to get away from her wedding and all the people around her.

The bride in the story is Kitty Clayton, a 26-year-old bride of Ethan where they got married on a farm. A few hours into the reception, Kitty catches Ethan cheating and needs to escape. I admit that at first I had a very difficult time trying to understand why she would choose to run away instead of confronting him, even with the initial shock of the incident. However, the mystery behind it adds to the story and to Kitty’s character as bits and pieces of that day is slowly revealed until everything it brought out into the open. It becomes very clear why Kitty makes certain decisions, including running away, and why she even says and does certain things along the way.

She is “rescued” from Jack Duffy who helps drive her away to help her escape. He is a children’s author and illustrator for a famous series of books. The van that he drives is also his home where he travels around the county with his pregnant dog, Sandy. Jack may only be 21-years old, but he comes with his own tragic past as a widower. He suffers from survivor’s guilt and is dealing with the trauma in his own way.  The two of them bond as Jack wants to be the rescuer and Kitty wants to be rescued. They form a really cute and heart-warming friendship where they both are trying to help the other heal. With their complicated pasts, they have to fight their initial attraction to each other and they start with just forming the basics of friendship. I loved how their relationship was portrayed as neither is in an emotional state to jump into a new relationship, so they acknowledge that they can lean on each other and get to know the other. The support system the two of them form was very heart-warming.

The story is told from Kitty’s point of view, so the reader never fully knows everything that goes on in Jack’s mind, but there’s enough in the dialogue and his actions to put the pieces together. Each of them deal with problems in their own way as Jack chooses to sweep issues under the rug to deal with only if needed while Kitty has a tendency to run away. Each process fits their character and their background and I love how they use the other to help them slowly grow. One thing I loved about this novel is that the problems are not fixed overnight. Each character takes one step forward and two steps backwards on multiple occasions, which made the story very realistic and relatable.

Although this book is light-hearted overall, there are a lot of darker undertones that I did not expect. I loved how these were portrayed as some of them are sometimes forgotten when the subjects are discussed. (I am trying not give anything away as they are important reveals, but it is good to be away that this story goes into a more heart-wrenching direction in some places.) I loved these two characters, and their dogs, that created a found-family where they could rely on each other in any situation. Even if there was no romance involved, they made an excellent and long-lasting unit.

For me, this book was fairly addictive as the characters and story draw you in to want to keep reading. There are a few coincidences that seem too good to be true, but they did not bother me as much as I thought they would as they worked in the context of the story. All the characters were well-written, even if they were not ones you wanted to root for, and I loved how they all worked together. I love the setting of living in a camper van. As someone who has done this, only six months in my case, but I liked that the story showed the positives of getting away from it all and just enjoying nature. This was an excellent story of healing, character growth, and a nice dash of humor and I would easily recommend that others give this a try.

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Aria, for a review copy of this extremely enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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