The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels #1) by Kerrigan Byrne
Oh my! This was a startling declaration of love enduring.
A riveting tale of a 'lost boy' reclaimed by love. A fairy tale if you will (parts of it for more than just one denizen of Newgate as it turns out). A Beauty and the Beast story with a twist. I enjoyed this immensely.
Farrah Leigh and Dougan MacKenzie meet as children in an orphanage in 1855, Dougan, the illegitimate son of a Scottish Lord continually bares the brunt of harsh punishment. Farrah has been left as an orphan by a sleazy Mr Warrington until she grows up, when he will mary her. Farrah, Dougan's 'fairy' befriends him and over a time and contact that friendship grows to love. Ick! The scenes of Dougan and Farrah as children together in that awful place tended by harsh taskmasters are overlaid with compassion and tenderness. As preteens almost, Dougan and Farrah hand fast to each other in the orphanage chapel and declare their undying love. Dougan give her a piece of MacKenzie plaid that she holds onto over the years, just as she holds onto her love for Dougan. When Farrah is fondled by the orphanage priest they attempt to run. The priest is killed. Dougan is taken to prison.
Over the years Farrah (as a child and later as the respectable widow Mrs MacKenzie) has been searching for Dougan. She scores a job at Scotland Yard as a recorder. Here she comes face to face with the notorious Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, after he is taken in for questioning, unknowingly, Farrah looks across the years at her past and into her future.
I was struck by Byrne's use of language. For example on on occasion, when Dorian and Farrah face each other, he stands so close to her that 'a moth's wing wouldn't have survived in the space between them and still he never touched her.' Delightfully descriptive, poetic!
And the tragedy! I certainly needed my box of tissues close by during reading.
Just before writing this I reread The Highwayman. If possible I enjoyed it even more. I think this will be a serious reread over the years to come.
Oh, and I can't wait to read the next in the Victorian Rebel series about the assassin, Christopher Argent.
A NetGalley ARC