Review of “The Highwayman” (Victorian Rebels #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

Byrne, Kerrigan. The Highwayman. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250076052 | 370 pages | Historical Romance

3.5 stars

The Highwayman is not my normal type of book. While I had heard numerous people rave about this book (and this series), noting how its emotional depth made them cry, I was reluctant, based on the tagline that included the words “rebels,” “scoundrels,” and “blackguards,” the reviews that were more on the negative side, highlighting some of Dorian’s more toxic behavior. But due to suffering from severe FOMO, and wanting to finally see what the fuss was about, I took the plunge and picked this one up.

One of the first things I noticed was Byrne’s writing. She depicts the dark, gritty world of Victorian Britain with such poise from the very first pages, sucking me in and not letting me go, aided by the fast pace and constant twists and turns.

Farah is a great heroine. I liked that she had a strength of will that made her Dorian’s equal in the relationship, more or less, particularly when it came to negotiating the terms of their union.

I was less taken with Dorian, for obvious reasons, as while some maybe into anti-heroes, or even outright villains, as the heroes of their romance novels, I’m not one of those people. I did feel sympathy for him, but he made it difficult with the massive chip on his shoulder, and his propensity to emotionally push Farah away while also being overly possessive and jealous of her, including accusing her of considering being with another man right after rescuing her from the clutches of a conniving villain who wants to murder her. Considering his issues, I found the idyllic ending that flashes forward several years a bit too optimistic. For romance readers who can suspend disbelief and believe in the fantasy, I think it would work, but as someone who could not help but compare this to a real life toxic relationship, I could not help but poke holes in this much-too-happy-ending.

The supporting cast who live with Dorian are wonderful, and I love their contributions to the story. Frank brought a welcome dose of levity to an otherwise dark story, and I hope to see more of him going forward. And, in conjunction with Dorian’s own experiences in Newgate, I was deeply moved by Murdoch’s story, being a homosexual man imprisoned for his “crimes,” which touched on another facet of the dark reality of life during the Victorian era that I knew little about previously.

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