The Lady and the Highwayman
By Sarah M. Eden
Published September 2019 by Shadow Mountain Publishing
Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school and a well-respected author of “silver-fork” novels, stories written both for and about the upper-class ladies of Victorian society. But by night, she writes very different kinds of stories—the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men. Under the pseudonym Mr. King, Elizabeth has written about dashing heroes fighting supernatural threats and dangerous outlaws romancing helpless women. They contain all the adventure and mystery that her real life lacks.
Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Mr. King started taking all of his readers–and his profits. No one knows who King is, including Fletcher’s fellow members of the Dread Penny Society, a fraternity of authors dedicated to secretly fighting for the rights of the less-fortunate.
Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. As a fellow-author, she is well-known among the high-class writers; perhaps she could be persuaded to make some inquiries as to Mr. King’s whereabouts? Elizabeth agrees to help Fletcher, if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered.
For the first time, Elizabeth experiences the thrill of a cat-and-mouse adventure reminiscent of one of her own novels as she tries to throw Fletcher off her scent. But the more time they spend together, the more she loses her heart. Its upper-class against working-class, author against author where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line.
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I can’t say I’ve ever read a proper romance before (or maybe I haven’t and I didn’t realize it was called that), but I really am now sold on proper romance novels after reading The Lady and the Highwayman.
The story centers on Fletcher Walker, who writes stories for the Penny Dreadfuls, which are considered a lower class type of writing (except everyone seems to know of them and has read them). He is a former street urchin who now uses the money he earns to help rescue urchins off the street.
Fletcher was just an all around good guy. He toes the line between lower class and upper class and it gives him a unique perspective on life. His mission to rescue street urchins who are in abusive situations and give them a chance to better their lives is admirable.
The other main character is Elizabeth Black. She is the headmistress of a school for girls and as such she leads a very proper life. She writes “silver-fork” novels, which are well loved by the upper class members of society. But in secret, she writes Penny Dreadful stories under an alias, Charles King. In fact, her Penny Dreadful stories are doing so well she’s taking in more money than Fletcher is, something Fletcher isn’t happy about.
As the reader, we get to read snippets of Fletcher and Elizabeth’s stories. And I thought I favored one story over the other, but honestly I loved both of their works. They were unique and you can definitely read their life perspectives they put into it.
I loved the switch between the actual story line, and the stories that the character wrote. Their stories end the chapters with just enough of a cliff hanger that I was eagerly awaiting to find out what would happen next.
In the meantime, Fletcher is trying to figure out who “Charles King” is and he starts inquiring after Elizabeth to see if she can help him find this elusive author.
And of course, the romance was so sweet in this story. I enjoyed the semi-slow burn that is this story and obviously it’s a proper romance so the romance is proper. No touching hands without gloves! haha
If you’re new to the proper romance genre, I definitely recommend starting with this one. I loved it!