The Runaways - Barbara Hazard

A Regency romance with no romance until the last 12 or so pages of the book?  Cripes, what a disappointment. I guess the author was trying to develop some angst, some underlying deep attraction between the Earl of Morland and Harriet Winthrop-Bates as they try to prevent their teenaged children from reaching Gretna Green and marrying. Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh can do this so successfully, but it doesn't work at all in this book. The descriptions of the trials and tribulations of the runaway couple are amusing enough, but they go on for far too long but add nothing to the romance itself, which is, after all, the point of the story. The arguing and active dislike of the hero and heroine towards each other also continued for far too long. The addition of the other admirer of Harriet, who has apparently been in love with her forever and will love her forever, had no purpose in the story that I could figure out and I just felt sorry for the guy with his doomed love.


The mischaracterization of the marriage ceremony at Gretna Green in Regency times reduced my rating by half a star. The whole point of marriages in Gretna Green and Scotland was that there only had to be two witnesses to a couple's declaration of marriage to make the thing legal. There were no churches or ministers or banns involved! (In England, the banns were done on the three Sundays prior to a wedding, when a couple's intention to marry was advertised during service by the local minister, presumably to prevent invalid marriages. A couple could not marry until the three banns had been read, so there was always a minimum wait of about three weeks between an engagement and the marriage.)


Finally, Allan Kass, the cover artist, did some really fine covers for Signet Regency books. The one on this book is just bad, though - the couple is supposed to be traveling fast in nippy fall weather through the Lake District to catch the runaways. The guy looks appropriately dressed, but the woman, with her ridiculous parasol and summer dress that leaves most of her chest and arms exposed, plus the really dumb expression on her face, just looks stupid.  What was Kass thinking?