The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2015


Peel me off the floor, people. Peel. Me. Off. The floor. No, really. Please help me up. There’s spit-up on my carpet.

I have a lot of feelings about this book. So let me just jump right in…

Farah Mackenzie had a painful start in life but now she’s an independent “widow” who supports herself with an interesting job as a clerk at Scotland Yard. Not too shabby, eh? This is Victorian London, after all. And she’s, you know, a girl. But, in addition to her harrowing past, Farah also happens to be keeping a secret that puts her life in danger.

Dorian Blackwell, a.k.a. the the Blackheart of Ben More, is merciless, powerful, and always one step ahead of the law. And it just so happens that he is bound to Farah by a heartbreaking shared history. When Farah’s safety is threatened Dorian decides the best course of action is to kidnap her and stash her away at his private home in the Highlands.

Then Dorian makes Farah an outlandish proposition…marry him so he can protect her from those who seek her harm in exchange for using her secret to exact revenge and crush his enemies. Farah agrees. But not without a few demands of her own. Like… she wants him to get her pregnant. (No biggie.)

But Dorian brings his own scars and damage with him to marriage and the bedroom.

Omg. The Highway ManThis book. This story. I felt like my heart was being pounded with a meat tenderizer. In the very best way.

I am SO HERE for a story depicting a man’s sexual vulnerability. I have tremendous respect for a romance author (or any author) who reminds us all that not every man is some swaggering, experienced sexual god. And, even more than that, I appreciate an author who is willing to use the romance genre to highlight the trauma and baggage that so many people bring with them into their sexual relationships. Be that trauma as despicable and heinous as Dorian’s or as basic as that douchebag who called you fat and ugly in sixth grade. (You know who you are, douchebag.)

Dorian gave me mega Lisa Kleypas character vibes. More specifically, he felt like an amalgam of Nick Gentry from Worth Any Price and Kev Merripen from Seduce Me at Sunrise. This is high praise, indeed. Kerrigan Byrne has that ability, much like (Queen) Lisa Kleypas, to dance with BIG, VISCERAL, SOUL-DEEP emotions without making it melodramatic. And, folks, that kind of writing is my kryptonite.

Read this one when you want it to hurt, ladies. A bookstagramming friend tells me that the next in the series, The Hunter, is even more of an emotional kick in the crotch. Lord, help me…

Do you prefer your romance sweet and light or heart crushing and angsty? A little bit of column A, a little of column B?