The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

The Highwayman by Kerrigan ByrneThe Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels, #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on September 1st 2015
Pages: 384
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Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

Rarely do I venture into the historical romance world anymore, unlike the way I only read them…back in the day, when it was customary for men to be rakes and women as blushing virgins despite their fiery tempers and it all ends richly, wealthily happy ever after. But not being able to get anything contemporary to hold my attention, ‘The Highwayman’ seemed like a good and random dip back into it.

And it was an awesome read, for most part, but I suspected it appealed precisely because it read very much like a 21st century re-invention of the Victorian romance, complete with an anti-hero (no badly-behaving Dukes or Earls or Viscounts here because their aristocratic statuses allow them the liberty) who is as black as sin, the raunchy language of today’s sexy times and a spit-fire sassy woman who could probably run for a place in political office if she wanted. Kerrigan Byrne’s unapologetic portrayal of the king of the underworld and the rediscovery of his soulmate was enthralling and the reason for his cruelty towards others underscores just how much he had been stripped of dignity when it all began. That Byrne wrote a heroine to match is remarkable: one who never gives up, with the right balance of naïveté and sass that apparently proves sufficient to even turn the blackest heart around, even if the thought of loving a jaded, cynical man back into wholeness seems like a cliché to an equally cynical reader like me.

(It’s smartly done, nonetheless, leaving me with the burning but probably insignificant question of how Dorian’s eyes changed colour.)

The dramatic—sometimes overly so—descriptions got on my nerves a bit towards the end because I could only laugh at the elevated way both Farah and Dorian thought about their emotions always bursting at the seams. But I was still captivated by how Byrne put away the polite rules of Victorian society here to write by her own instead, leaving me never feeling out of place in a period that should be suffocating me with corsets, manners and stuffy shirts.