Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Kerrigan Byrne - The Highwayman

Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

Comment: I added this book to my TBR back in 2016 for it was included in some reader's lists of the best books of 2015. I know it took me a long time to finally pick it but now I did, I must say it wasn't as wonderful for me as I hoped, even though it's not a bad book.

When this story begins we meet children Dougan and Farah while they console each other at the orphanage they live in. They become friends and decide to love each other, as their families didn't since they left them there. One day, years later, something terrible happens and Dougan is arrested and Farah doesn't know what happens to them so she decides to leave the orphanage and go to London, where she finds herself working for Scotland Yard, trying to find a way to know what happened to Dougan, whom she never forgot. One day, the notable villain Dorian Blackwell kidnaps her and tells her he knew Dougan in prison, that they were part of a group of friends who looked up for one another until Dougan died but he now feels he knows her, so much Dougan talked about her. He comes up with a plan to have revenge on those who harmed him and Farah is key to make that plan happen. But will they discover that the best plans might not be easy to accomplish if love gets in the way...?

This is a story with an interesting premise: someone who wants revenge has amassed wealth and influence and the only step missing is to have access to the aristocracy and then he will be ready to rule over everyone and he will prove his past isn't detriment for being important. He uses the sweet memories of a friend to propel himself and his small group of fellow prisoners to want to believe they will get their lives back. The idea is certainly a good one and besides the execution of it, I also found the friendship between misfits to be a positive aspect.

This means I could understand the hero's motivation for his attitudes and could feel empathy for him at times. It was also interesting and somewhat new to see a hero who suffered a sort of PTSD due to his time in prison and one effect was how abhorrent all physical touch was for him. This made for certainly complicated matters when it came to his relationship with the heroine but, this also being a romance novel, of course this issue gets solved at some point.

The heroine was likable and surprisingly receptive of the new information she kept learning throughout the book, being quite understanding and nice about things that might not be well seen otherwise, and although this made it easy for us to have a sunnier opposition to the hero's darkness, it also made me think they were too obviously a match. I think it's perceived from the start where this would go in terms of how well suited they were as a couple, but it made things too convenient at times, as if the bother to create a relationship wouldn't be even necessary. I kind of wish there would be more to the heroine.

The romance didn't convince me. Sure, I'm glad they found happiness and the epilogue is sweet and did make me wonder how the following stories might go, but the dynamics between the protagonists weren't enough for me. Plus, considering the kind of trauma they both suffered, I think the intimacy they shared had moments that seemed too....focused on the sexy aspects. I don't know, but I would have preferred more development in their emotional state before they were able to commit to each other. There does seem to exist quite a gap between who they are during the book and what we see in the epilogue.

I think the idea of this book is interesting but I'm not certain the execution was the best. I see why many have liked reading this and I agree some chapters were engrossing to read... but others weren't as captivating and I conclude I feel pretty meh about the whole thing.
Grade: 6/10

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