By Kerrigan Byrne
Review by Kate Boyle
When reading a historical romance novel, one usually knows what to expect . . . beautiful people getting together and dealing with a little bit of drama, usually dealing with class or birth. Kerrigan Byrne blows those expectations clear out of the water with the first novel in the Victorian Rebels series. Dangerous and deeply disturbed, Dorian Blackwell’s reputation precedes him. Farah Mackenzie spends her days working as a clerk for Scotland Yard, around some of the most depraved men of London. They don’t know each other . . . or do they?
Dorian and Farah are thrown together when her life is in danger due to her mysterious past. To protect her, Dorian offers the security of his name through marriage. He intrigues her. Additionally, Farah’s previous dealings with wounded men leads her to believe she can have something more from her union with the dark villain. While undeniable attracted to the beautiful woman, Dorian’s own demons make him unwilling to touch or be touched, both physically and emotionally.
Byrne weaves a terrific and unique tale. Farah is much of what we expect from a romance novel: stunning, kind, ahead of her time as far as independence goes. However, Byrne allows her heroine a maturity that is uncommon in such novels. While the tortured hero trope is popular, Dorian is much darker than what we typically find. Many tortured heroes suffer from PTSD due to war, but Dorian’s experiences from seven years in Newgate prison create a grittier and harder character, willing to murder and filled with self-loathing. He believes himself unclean, both from the acts he’s committed and the acts that have been committed against him.
The author doesn’t shy away from the seedier parts of London or horrors to which many in Victorian society fell prey. It’s not all glittering ballrooms and tepid lemonade in The Highwayman. Sadly, there isn’t any “stand and deliver” either. However, a constant aura of discomfort among the characters creates a satisfying read that stands out from the crowd. With complicated characters and intense passion, the story-telling is first rate.
I’m glad I came to this novel with already four more titles in the series to look forward to. The remaining novels in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series are already on my reading list. Check out The Highwayman and see if you want to add them to yours as well.
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About the reviewer: Kate believes you should read what makes you happy. Historical romance novels make her happy. She also enjoys crafting, writing, true crime, funny movies, and baking for her book club Read It & Steep.