the highwayman
Book Review

Book Review: The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

“Love is quite like reading, I expect. Once you know how, you can’t ever imagine not doing it.”

Romance novels come in a wide array of variety. Some give you hope, and a tooth ache with their ultimate sweetness. Others will tear your heart out with unforgettable, tortured characters’ and then mend your soul one stitch at a time by giving them a perfect, deserving HEA.

There are books that make you swoon, more that make you sigh and even more that you cry. And then there are some that make you do all of the above so you want to double and triple up on all possible editions of the book, be it physical, digital or audio.

The Highwayman was one such book for me. It’s the first book in her Victorian Rebels series and an amazing introduction to what promises to be a mind-blowing series. I will not be leaving a lot of spoilers because I want everyone to read this book for themselves. To put it simply, it is a spell-binding mix of second-chance meets marriage-of-convenience. That being said, however, I do not wish to put it simply because that would be doing grave injustice to this masterpiece.

The story begins with a sweet, emotional chapter following two orphans – 11 year-old Dougan and 8 year-old Farah – comforting each other after a horrible beating. In the two years following, they forge a friendship and love so bright, it crackles like lightning. I kid you not, their moments gave me tingles.

“I was thinking,” he said some time later as she paused for a drowsy yawn. “Since ye doona have any family to love anymore, ye could love me…” Instead of meeting her gaze, he studied the way the pristine white of her petticoat bandage made his hand look that much grubbier. “That is, if ye wanted.”

“Of course I’ll love you, Dougan Mackenzie,” she said easily.

“Who else is going to?”

“Nobody,” he said earnestly.

“Will you try to love me, too?” she asked in a small voice.

“I’ll try, Fairy, but I havena done it before.”

See? If that doesn’t make you tear up and grin at the same time, I have no idea what will.

Anyway, fast forward to about 17 years and you’re dealt with your first heartbreak when you learn that Dougan died in prison ten years earlier. Farah, since then, has been living as a widow and working as an assistant in Scotland Yard.

It’s here she meets our new hero, the notorious criminal Dorian Blackwell, commonly known as the Blackheart of Ben Moore.

She’s immediately fascinated. He’s… well, obsessed.

A couple days later, Dorian kidnaps her off to his Ben Moore castle in Scotland. Once there, Dorian explains that he was Dougan’s cellmate in prison and as per the last wish of his best-mate/brother, wishes to protect Farah from all things life. His way of doing that is of course, marriage.

It’s true that the bare bones of the plot are quiet simple but true genius lies in the emotional depth and character development that Ms. Byrne manages to infiltrate into the story. Dorian is cold, cynical and ruthless and due to excessive physical and sexual abuse, does not like being touched.

“Every part of my life has been bleak, brutal, and bloody—except you. I’ll not add your ruin to my many sins.” ~ Dougan

Farah, on the other hand, despite having seen misery and loss at a very young age, is not jaded or cynical but clings to her hope and goodness.

“My soul recognized your soul—and was reborn. I knew there was something behind those eyes, beneath those gloves, that would give back to me what I’ve been missing all these years.” ~ Farah

He’s a man who can fight all demons of hell to protect her but fails to fight himself.She’s a woman willing to sacrifice everything for him but refuses to give up on her dreams.
Together, they are a couple you cannot help but ship obsessively and can I just have Dorian already, please?

This book quiet literally has everything I love in a romance:

  • Scarred, deadly anti-hero obsesses with the heroine
  • Sweet, strong-willed heroine refusing to compromise on love and life
  • Amazing historical setting: London Underworld and enchanting Highlands
  • Swoon-worthy dialogue
  • Heart-rending emotional depth

Add heat that scorches the pages, a fascinating set of side-characters and writing that leaves you mesmerized in the best possible way and you have what I call ARR – Annual Romance Reads: Book you reread at least once a year to keep life going.

This is my first book by Kerrigan Byrne and while I’m kicking myself for not reading her sooner, I’m happy to have finally done so. She’s on my auto-buy author’s list from here onward and I cannot wait to read the other books in this remarkable series!


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