Val's Book Reviews

The Runaway Heiress

by Meg Tilly

Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada (Berkley), 2021
$10.99 / 9780593201084

Who better than an Oscar-nominated actress to write a story about the quirky, unconventional lifestyle of Hollywood? Author Meg Tilly does not disappoint us in her novel The Runaway Heiress.

After an unconventional beginning at a party with strippers and drugs set in the mansion of famous film director, Mick Talford, and organized by his producer Paul Peterson, the story soon settles into a fast-paced “who-dun-it” full to the brim of twists and turns along the way.

Protagonist Sarah Rainsford has been on the run for four years from her abusive and violent estranged husband, and during that time she has changed her name and appearance many times. When she arrives at the Talford’s home to fill the job as his personal assistant, she once again has a new identity. Her current name is Rachel Jones. With only a few dollars to her name and only her run-down car to sleep in, she is desperately in need of a job and a place for her and her cat Charlie to stay. The assistant’s job would offer both as it is a live-in position. Unfortunately she arrives while the wild party is in progress, a situation she finds hard to process.

Mick is initially annoyed as he had specifically asked the Agency for a male assistant. He reluctantly agrees to take “Rachel” on for a week’s trial and allows her to stay in the small attached apartment over the garage. Despite making the job as taxing as possible for his assistant, hoping it will make her quit, within a few days he is impressed by her work ethic and finds himself becoming attracted to her. He complains bitterly about the situation to his long-suffering producer, who is constantly phoning Mick at all hours of the day and night. Peterson is another strong and entertaining character in the story.

Salt Spring Island writer Meg Tilly

The crisp banter between Sarah and Mick enables the reader to easily capture the sexual tension growing between them. They both have pasts they would like to forget, but for Sarah there appears to be no escape from her narcissistic husband, Kevin Hawkins. Kevin is a police lieutenant who is willing to break laws in order to find her and get his hands on her inheritance.

The plot becomes complicated at this point with other sub-stories also taking place — Kevin’s abusive past; Sarah’s family lawyer Philip Clarke and his long-time love affair with his secretary, Vicki, unknown to Sarah who thought he was happily married to his wife Jane; plus a few other fascinating characters we meet along the way.

But once Sarah feels able to tell Mick the whole truth about her past, he decides to help her and bring her the justice she deserves. Was she ever really married to Kevin? How did her parents really die? Where are her legal identity papers? And who is the real criminal in the entire scenario? These are questions the two of them set out to answer.

Mick’s own past is shady. His mother was a prostitute; he was brought up in a brothel where his mother left him after running away from her responsibilities. He shares his story with Sarah and finally everything is out in the open between them. At this point, there are also a few sexually explicit scenes in the book which might offend readers who simply enjoy a good mystery with an intriguing plot. The Runaway Heiress has both.

Containing danger, twists, thrills, sex, and all the ingredients necessary for a first-rate thriller, the story builds to a fast-paced, exciting end with a plot twist you will not see coming.

Meg Tilly is an award-winning author and actress known for her performances in movies such as Agnes of God, The Big Chill, Valmont, Bomb Girls and War Machine. Her book titles include The Solace Island Series — Solace Island, Cliff’s Edge, and Hidden Cove. This latest book, The Runaway Heiress, has a strong plot which delivers a combination of romantic comedy and thrilling suspense and is worthy of a read.

Meg Tilly grew up on Texada Island and Esquimalt. Photo by Don Calame courtesy Victoria Times-Colonist

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