Title: The Runaway Daughter
Author: Joanna Rees
Published: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Rating: 3.5 stars
It’s 1926 and Anna Darton is on the run from a terrible crime she was forced into committing. Alone and scared in London, salvation comes in the form of Nancy, a sassy American dancer at the notorious nightclub, The Zip. Re-inventing herself as Vita Casey, Anna becomes part of the line-up and is thrown into a hedonistic world of dancing, parties, flapper girls and fashion.
When she meets the dashing Archie Fenwick, Vita buries her guilty conscience and she believes him when he says he will love her no matter what. But unbeknown to Vita, her secret past is fast catching up on her, and when the people closest to her start getting hurt, she is forced to confront her past or risk losing everything she holds dear.
The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees is the first novel in a sweeping historical trilogy.
Joanna Rees also writes novels under the names of Josie Lloyd and Jo Rees, but this is my first experience of this author’s writing. The Runaway Daughter also represents the first novel in a planned three book series. A novel defined by moments of danger, peril, despair, desperation, glamour, creativity, ambition, love and friendship, The Runaway Daughter is a great pick for historical fiction fans.
Set in the year 1926, a young woman by the name of Anna Darton makes a grand escape, following the aftermath of a crime she was coerced into committing. Anna finds herself far away from home, but seemingly out of danger when she arrives by train to London. Anna is lucky to fall into the company of Nancy, a spirited American woman, who is a dancer in a famous club in the capital. In order to preserve her safety and true identity, Anna becomes Verity (Vita) Casey and she joins Nancy’s night club. Anna/Verity becomes embroiled in a new life, which is far removed from her past. Love comes Verity’s way, in the form of a charming man named Archie. However, Verity’s future happiness is threatened by the past – which she has tried hard to keep buried. It is a matter of life and death as Verity races against the hands of time to save both herself and those closest to her from a figure from her past.
Despite the fact that I have had A Twist of Fate, also penned by Joanna Rees, on my shelf for a great deal of time now, this is my first experience of this writer’s work. Historical fiction is definitely my preferred genre and the opportunity to read a book set in one of my favourite historical periods, post World War I, was very much welcomed on my part. The Runaway Daughter is rather lengthy. I did feel its weight at times and I noticed my attention to this novel did lag at some points of the book. This could be either be a personal reading issue, or a pacing difficulty. However, the short and frequent chapter breaks ensured that I could take a rest from this story, as and when I needed to.
The Runaway Daughter leans on Anna Darton’s story. Anna has an insufferable home life when we first meet her. Both her father and brother are despicable excuses for men, true bullies. Anna is lined up for a marriage that she does not want, and when she becomes linked to a crime, she takes the escape route. Anna’s escape is quite a bold move for a woman of this time and I admired her for this. It takes guts to flee from this kind of situation, but Anna was really in an impossible bind. Rees displays some strong character building in her novel, both with Anna, her family members and the friends that enter her life once she arrives in London. Overall, I did enjoy following Anna’s rather tumultuous life and times in London.
Friendship, relationships and vital bonds form a significant proportion of The Runaway Daughter. Anna relies on the hand of friendship extended by dancer Nancy when she first arrives sacred and unsure of herself in London. Once Anna reinvents herself as Verity, she forges an important link with a man name Percy. I really liked Percy, he represented the struggles and prejudice faced by homosexual men of this era. Likewise, the character of Archie, who becomes Verity’s love interest, was agreeable. There are many of good and bad faces that define this novel, along with a number of trustful and deceptive characters. Rees balances these out well.
The period detail present in The Runaway Daughter was my favourite part of the novel. I think Rees did a good job of portraying the new found vices and freedoms of the post World War I period. A time of hedonistic acts and frivolity, often fused by drugs, sexual activity/experimentation and alcohol, this was a time of great change. Women in particular were starting to test the waters, as their rights came under scrutiny. This was all explored within the context of the novel and I appreciated learning more about the colourful nightclub culture of this time. The costume work was a real treat to glean a little more about, through the various experiences outlined in the novel, along with the glamorous dancing sections.
There is undercurrent of suspense sweeps through The Runaway Daughter. It is constantly feeding into the events of the novel, offering plenty of twists and turns. The past does eventually catch up with the woman formerly known as Anna Darton, with a surprising turn of events. The ending paves the way for a solid opening for the next chapter in this new historical based series.
A tale of escaping your past demons, reinvention, throwing caution into the wind, finding love and your passion in life, The Runaway Daughter is an engaging read from Joanna Rees.
The Runaway Daughter was published on 26th February 2019 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Runaway Daughter, Joanna Rees, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.