A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: No Place to Run by Jane Donnelly

on April 20, 2022

The theme: location, location, location

Why this one: I’ve been on a bit of a Donnelly glom and this one fit nicely.

CW: Use of “gypsy,” somewhat stalkery hero, and heroine who berates herself for saying no to sex after being “criminally provocative” by, you know, kissing someone. (He, unlike many a Harlequin hero, gives her no hassle about it at all.)

Despite the title and a rather perturbing opening, in which Lucy gets a magazine cutting of herself and her fiancee marked, “So that’s where you’ve been hiding,” this isn’t romantic suspense, but a story with a largely internal conflict. As the book opens, Lucy has just gotten engaged to Mr. Right and is resolutely stifling any memories of her time on a Scottish island, when she met a man named Matt and… sort of married him.

“For a few years before the clearances the young folk were forbidden to marry unless they emigrated, so they married with the ring of rock. Like gypsies jumping hand in hand over the campfire.”

She said “Well, thank you for bringing me here,” and she put her hand through because it was irresistible, gasping when his fingers closed over hers. He loosed her within seconds and they both laughed and the singing cave took up their laughter.

As they spent more time together, this little ritual became meaningful for them both. But Lucy, the child of an aggressively unhappy marriage, desperately wants safety and security. Which seems perfectly embodied in Giles, her town’s Most Eligible Bachelor. Lucy’s life is perfect — except for the persistent fear that Matt might show up and ruin everything.

And then he does show up and does ruin everything… not in so much in deliberately stirring up trouble, but because somewhere inside, Lucy knows she’s doing the wrong thing. A conversation with Giles:

“I’ll see you this evening. I love you.” He added, “There’s nothing wrong, is there?”

“Now what could be possibly be wrong?” It was a lovely day. “Bye, then; I love you.” She put down the phone and sat looking at it for a moment. “I love you,” she said softly again. “Oh, I do hope I love you.”

This isn’t a popular book; a lot of readers find Lucy annoyingly wishy-washy. But Donnelly’s voice makes it work for me, and I think Lucy gets a good arc — not just throwing her cap over the windmill for love, but because she realizes that her life with Giles would be utterly stifling. And though I’m not usually a big fan of woo-woo, something about the connection between Lucy and Matt, that mystical pull deeply rooted in harsh history, enchanted me.


6 responses to “TBR Challenge: No Place to Run by Jane Donnelly

  1. azteclady says:

    Oh, I like a hero who’s not an asshat, especially in a category book. But I confess I’m generally harsh on wishy-washy/wimpy heroines, so I’m not sure about this one.

    • willaful says:

      He has his ass-hattery moments.

      I think with Donnelly a lot of it is the voice.

      • azteclady says:

        Authorial voice is honestly so important.

        I am not one of those readers who can identify a writer from the text (unless it’s a passage I’ve read enough times it triggers actual memory–patterns of speech? not so much), but I know when a writer pulls me in so that even when balking at things like hero’s asshattery, I’m still in for the ride.

  2. whiskeyinthejar says:

    sort of married him
    This made me giggle, I love romance books.

    The “Oh, I do hope I love you” I can see dividing people, that wishy-washy or angsty push-pull. Sounds like an earlier love triangle.

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