The Duke's Runaway Bride by Jenni Fletcher
While a part of the Regency Belles of Bath series focussing on the ladies who run Belles Biscuit Shop, this one quickly leaves the familiar setting of Belles, because our newest heroine is a runaway bride... and her husband has come looking for her.
Bullied into the marriage by unscrupulous relatives, the first opportunity Beatrix got to run came after the ceremony. Feeling guilty, she contacts her husband to ask he have the marriage annulled… only for him to reveal he knew where she was the whole time, an annulment isn't an option as society thinks they've been honeymooning together for months, and he'd like her to give marriage a try before she decides against it and him entirely.
I really, really liked Quinton, our hero. Yes, he did wrong by Beatrix in not getting to know her before the wedding, but he had good reasons to be distracted, with a difficult mother and four siblings, all hard to handle in their own ways, plus a crumbling estate and a reputation ruined thanks to a horrible father. Quinton was obviously a genuinely decent man struggling under an impossible burden, and valiantly suppressing his pain about it, to boot. It was quite easy to see how Beatrix would fall for him, but I liked the way she wasn't afraid to challenge him, pushing him to understand that repressing his emotions wasn't good for him.
The siblings are a charmingly motley crew, and I loved the way Beatrix found ways to relate to them all as individuals without asking them to be anything other than who they are, especially Helen, the shy youngest sister. The whole Roxbury family was delightful enough I'd be happy to see them get a spin off series and each find their own happy endings!
While I've been loving the 'normal people' vibe of this series so far, Jenni Fletcher has taken a bit of a diversion with a duke hero in this one, and I wasn't sure I would like it as much. I'm very happy to be completely wrong; I think this is actually my favourite thus far. Five stars for a fabulous read!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via the author.