Source: Review copy
Publication: 22 August from Pan MacMillan
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 with 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.
I’d forgotten how good it feels to lose oneself in an all-encompassing saga. Joanna Rees has written the first book in a trilogy that is reminiscent of Barbara Taylor Bradford at her best.
Set in 1926, the titular Runaway Daughter is Anna Darton, daughter of a cotton mill owner. The mills are going through hard times and unbeknownst to Anna, her father and her cruel and unsavoury brother, Clement, have hatched a plan that will see them right, even although it pretty much guarantees Anna’s enduring unhappiness.
Before they can enact it, however, Anna and her brother have an altercation that leaves Anna with no other option than to run away as far as she can from home.
Almost penniless, Anna will have to reinvent herself and discover her own fortitude if she is to survive in the city of London. Anna has never before lived away from home. She is young, naïve and yet determined not to give in and return home.
Rees draws an excellent picture of 1920’s London that is full of possibilities. Class distinctions were just beginning to erode; women over 21 were not far away from getting the vote and though they did not know it, the country was on the verge of a national strike.
These were heady times when ‘Flappers’ wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behaviour. Anna, or Vita as she restyles herself, is lucky enough to fall in with a group of young women who dance in a nightclub and take Vita under their wing.
What follows is a novel that is part historical fiction, part adventure story and part romantic fiction. It is a story of naivety melded with courage and resilience. With just the right amount of glamour and a touch of seediness, Rees paints a colourful picture of the life and mores of the younger generation of the time and of a country emerging from war to celebrate a new found zest for life.
Rees’ characters are well portrayed, engaging and sufficiently risqué to be interesting. She builds a suspenseful plotline with a strong sense of drama, coupled with the warmth of friendship and more than a hint of sexual attraction.
Verdict: All in all, this is a perfect way to lose yourself in a book and I thoroughly recommend it. Bring on the next in the series. I can’t wait to find out what Vita does next.
Joanna Rees – a.k.a Josie Lloyd is the best-selling author of 15 novels including rom-coms, blockbusters and big hearted adventures such as ‘The Tides of Change’ and ‘A Twist of Fate’. Based in Brighton, Joanna is married to the author Emlyn Rees, with whom she has three daughters. They have co-written seven novels, including the Sunday Times number one bestseller ‘Come Together’, which was translated into twenty-seven languages and made into a film.
They have also written several bestselling parodies of their favourite children’s books, including ‘We’re Going On A Bar Hunt’, ‘The Very Hungover Caterpillar’ and ‘The Teenager Who Came To Tea’, as well as ‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas’ and ‘Shabby: The Jolly British Guide to Stress-Free Living’. With over twenty years as a published author, Joanna still loves writing every day, in between walking with Emlyn and their beloved sprollie, Ziggy along the seafront and over the downs – and sometimes to the pub. A bit of a show-off at heart, she plays the piano – particularly duets and she adores going to see West End musicals. The Stitch In Time trilogy is her first foray into writing anything historical and basically an excuse to channel her inner flapper girl. She’s currently writing the sequel which is set in Paris in 1928.