The Highwayman is a historical romance that has been getting rave reviews. It features a bluestocking working for the Scotland Yard and a hardened criminal who kidnaps her to make good on an old debt. Then, readers become aware that the relationship between Farah and Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is much longer in standing than is originally thought to be.
When she was eight, Farah was orphaned and met fellow orphan Dougan. From their first meeting, the pair was inseparable, even “marrying” each other as children. Unfortunately, fate stepped in, cruelly wrenching these two apart. Now, seventeen years later, Farah poses as Dougan’s widow, blaming herself for his death, and is on the verge of pursuing a relationship with a new man. At least, until Dorian Blackwell kidnaps her to protect Farah from an unknown foe.
Naturally, Farah is none too pleased to have been kidnapped. However, when she learns that Dorian and those in his employ all knew Dougan she is compelled to learn more. It’s hard to escape your captors when they have information you want. Then, she learns that her life is in danger because of the identity of her parents and the inheritance that she can claim. Marrying Dorian is the best way that she can protect herself from those that have taken claim of her inheritance.
I have to admit to having a mixed reaction to The Highwayman. On one hand I liked the backstory and there were so many great instances of humour with Farah’s character. Farah might have been kidnapped but that doesn’t mean she’s going to back down, all she requires is some pastries to fortify herself:
She couldn’t take much more of this. “I’ll go to him,” Farah snapped. “You leave me no choice.”
He nodded again, as though oblivious and satisfied. “You can take some tarts if you’d like,” he offered.
“Not a chance.” Farah swiped her coins back into her purse and huffed to the door, thoroughly exasperated. Why was it that every time she came close to answers, to truth, she was thwarted by thickheaded men? It was inconceivably irritating.
Pausing, she turned back around. “What kind of tarts?”
“Strawberry.” Frankenstein wiped his hands on his apron and held the tray out to her.
Cursing her inability to refuse pastries, she took one of the bite-sized confections. “This doesn’t mean I forgive you for being a kidnapping criminal.”
“Course not,” he agreed.
“Just so we’re clear.”
The lighthearted moments go a long way to balancing out what would otherwise be a rather dark romance. The more serious undertones to The Highwayman are due to Dorian and his past. He’s a criminal who’s spent time in prison and the abuse suffered there has taken its toll. Dorian does not want to be touched by anyone and considers himself broken and unredeemable.
And it’s with Dorian that I have mixed feelings about this as a romance. On one hand, broken heroes are part and parcel of the romance genre, but I have to be honest and admit that I found Dorian a tad creepy which colours his relationship with Farah. It takes a long time for readers to actually “see” anything from Dorian’s perspective and for me, this made Dorian a remote and unknowable character. Because it takes readers so long to understand Dorian’s motivations for why he acts the way he does, his actions seem creepy and unromantic (at least to me). Dorian’s pursuit of Farah has an old school romance quality that doesn’t really appeal to me.
I realize that I seem to be in the minority with The Highwayman, and while I understand why folks are loving this one (fans of Lisa Kleypas will rejoice), I can’t help but be somewhat off put by a hero that it takes so long for readers to come to understand. That said, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and the fact that it’s set in the Victorian era. I’ll certainly be back for book two, featuring Dorian’s friend and assassin, Christopher.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
As soon as I started reading The Highwayman I was immediately reminded of Lisa Kleypas, a romance author that has an old school romance feel to many of her novels, especially her older works. Two specific titles came to mind. First is Worth Any Price featuring another hero that has spent some time in prison and struggles to have a real relationship because of that. Second, is Dreaming of You due to the morally ambiguous nature of the hero. Like The Highwayman there were moments that I found the relationship between the hero and heroine to be vaguely uncomfortable, but still compelling.
Dorian is most definitely a complicated hero and brings to mind Lord Rafe Easton of Lorraine Heath’s Lord of Wicked Intentions. Like Dorian, Rafe has issues with touch and it’s one that I’d recommend for those looking for a more balanced relationship between the hero and heroine.
Lastly, for someone looking for something similar but don’t mind the fantasy romance genre, I think fans of The Highwayman will find a lot to like with The Winter King. It’s another read that I was somewhat uncomfortable with, but the dynamics between the hero and heroine are very similar. See my full review here.