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The Runaway Duchess  By  cover art

The Runaway Duchess

By: Joanna Lowell
Narrated by: Mary Jane Wells
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Publisher's Summary

A runaway bride dumps a duke and rewrites her own love story in this enchanting Victorian historical romance from the author of The Duke Undone.  

Pretty and pampered, Lavinia Yardley always dreamed of becoming a duchess. But family disgrace forces her into marriage with the most vile duke in England, and she finds herself desperate for a way out. When a rustic stranger mistakes her for globe-trotting botanist Muriel Pendrake at a train station, Lavinia has a split second to decide whether to submit to her fate or steal someone else's. 

Neal Traymayne spent his youth traveling the world as Varnham Nursery's most daring plant hunter. Now he runs the nursery and is ready to settle down with a like-minded wife who'll fit right in with his large, happy, down-to-earth family. His correspondence with Muriel Pendrake proved they're the perfect match. Odd that the woman in the flesh seems more like a society belle than a scientist. 

As they tramp the Cornish moors together, Lavinia and Neal discover a wild and rare desire. But this blossoming love is rooted in lies, and when the real Muriel Pendrake shows up, they can't hide from who they are. The truth may wither their hopes of happiness, or it may bloom into the sweetest love of all.

©2022 Joanna Lowell (P)2022 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Romance

Critic Reviews

“Lowell’s finely wrought characters don’t have it easy when it comes to navigating restrictive Victorian society, but even their most outrageous actions ring true. Readers will be swept away by this entrancing, intelligent romance.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) 

"Compelling and exquisitely crafted, The Runaway Duchess is a beautiful romance that enchants from the very first page. Lowell's wit, sumptuous imagery, and vivid, endearing characters combine to make this a swooningly gorgeous read. Highly recommended." —India Holton, Author of The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels 

“Lowell's smart and sumptuous tale is sure to please fans of Victorian romance.” —Booklist

What listeners say about The Runaway Duchess

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Another triumph 🤩

I absolutely loved this story, at least as much as The Duke Undone, if not more!

It was a delight to discover such a complex, imperfect heroine, and follow her journey from self-loathing to self-love. I found Lavinia’s transcendence of a lifetime of social conditioning (and conditional love) as compelling as her swoony rambles with Mr Tremain. So wholesome.

Joanna Lowell is a treasure. I hope she’s already well on the way to book 3! Mary Jane Wells is my dream narrator, as always. The two together a perfect combo 💫

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Don’t let the narrator stop you

This book is well worth the time. The narrator was very hard to get used to because of the voices used for the characters but the story overrode that.

1 person found this helpful

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Long but Worth the Time!

I chose this story for the narrator, Mary Jane Wells very talented with both mens and woman's voices as well as a variety of accents. It took longer than I would have liked to get into the meat of the plot. I am glad I didn't give up at chapter 3.

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Thank goodness I made it to the end.

Was long and drawn out. Too much nonsensical conversation. I read the second book in the series first and really enjoyed it. The Runaway Duchess should have been the second in the series to be more chronologically correct. Sheer stubbornness made me hang on to the end. I literally let out a sigh of relief when it ended.

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Mary Jane Wells nails it again!

I haven't found a book that is narratored Mary Jane Wells that I don't love! I think it's funny that something thinks you have to get used to get narration. it's a great book and a great narrator makes it better! ; ). well worth a credit!

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I tried, but wasn’t for me

I love Mary Jane Wells as a narrator, but Lavinia’s voice that was given and personality was just too much for me to keep going. I went back to the story a few times trying. I just could not for the life of me get into the story or the high tempo voice when she talked.

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Really wanted to love it. Probably will not replay it.

This is a one and done listen. Even the narrator couldn’t make me love this one. The first book in the series was so good, I had high hopes. I thought from the prologue I would feel compassion for Lavinia. Not so much. Many of the other reviews talk about struggling until midway through to like her. Totally get it and even then there were moments that my palm hit my forehead at her actions or comments. I did really like Neal’s character. Honestly there were several times I was hoping his HEA was with someone else. I do hope there is another book in the series with Gwen or another character from book one.

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Great duo!

I have thoroughly enjoyed Lowell’s writing and her non traditional approach to regency H/H. Bonus…Mary Jane Wells! She locks me in and her narration captivates me. Lowell and Wells are a great duo!

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Different in a Good Way

I really enjoyed the first book in this series. This is book 2 and it is a pleasant read, but a mere shadow of the one before it. Plenty of new characters are introduced, though familiar faces make their appearances as well. The female lead was introduced in the first book, but her personality is quite different in this story. In fact, the tone and timbre of the entire tale is different from the first, and it is not a naturally flowing continuation. It is two different worlds. It is jarring and it took me awhile to let go of my expectations and lean into enjoying the experience. Halfway through the book, the story got its teeth into me and I ended up liking it, after all. It’s not a typical formula regency romance. Joanna Lowell is good at writing odd angles and unconventional arcs, which aren’t so much refreshing as they are unexpected. Mary Jane Wells is stellar as always. Definitely a favorite narrator. She is good with different voices and effortlessly performs them and a way that is natural, authentic and uncontrived. I’m not sorry I spent a credit.

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Love the narrator

MJW is in my top 5 narrators, so I listen to most of her narrations. It took me a moment to love this story. I did not connect with the heroine until midway through the story. Most of her dialog was cringeworthy until she wasn’t. If there is another installment, I am hoping the next in series is about Gwen, Lucy’s friend from book 1, who’s name was mentioned in this story.

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  • Mo Bass
  • 02-21-22

Good sequel

A very enjoyable audiobook that was well narrated despite the mispronounciation of Cornish place names.

1 person found this helpful

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  • katherine
  • 07-22-22

Loved the first one and this was good too

The first one I loved and this was a good follow up and looking forward to the next

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  • Joey
  • 03-24-22

Loved it, just love it.

Oddly, it took me a few chapters to realise it was a follow on from "the Duke undone". but what a wonderful story in its own. truly lovely and heartwarming. a proper romance.
I'm always a fan of the narrator; she brings stories to life.

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  • J. T.
  • 03-19-22

Loved it - eventually!

Struggled to work out where this concept was going at the beginning but once things were sorted out, this book, thanks to Mary Jane Wells' excellent narration, was wonderfully enjoyable & heartwarming


Joanna Lowell's love scene was one of the very best I have read or heard.

Thank you Joanna & Mary Jane. More please.

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  • Morgan Windle (Morgan & Many Books)
  • 02-13-22

Mary Jane Wells & Joanna Lowell are perfection

What a lovely second installment. I think I enjoyed it, somehow, MORE than the first… Lowell brings something incredibly whimsical and unique to period writing and romance.

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  • Alvie.Huit
  • 09-24-22

great story - excellent narration

I discovered this author because I was searching for audiobooks narrated by Mary Jane Wells - who has an incredible talent for story telling and bringing characters to life.

Just as with The Duke Undone, Joanna Lowell has created yet another interesting story with interesting and likeable leads. I am surprised too, because I didn't think Livinia would have any further redeeming qualities beyond those exposed in the first book. It was great to see her mature and discover herself.

Neil's personality is infectious and Livinia adds spark to his life. I really enjoyed their story and recommend.