Review: The Highwayman by Emily Veinglory

Reynard is the impoverished son of a cavalier, driven to highway robbery to support his sister, Emilia.  But a puritan he robs proves to be his new neighbor–and Emilia returns to the house with her intended fiancé, who demands her promised dowry or the deeds to the family lands.

Finally a new sheriff turns up in town to put an end to the latest spate of robberies.   Just when Reynard needs quick money all he can steal is the heart of an insolent roundhead who has a few secrets of his own!

Review by Erastes

The story is narrated by Reynard, and we are immediately drawn into his world, and the action that he takes part in, as he dresses and arms up for the task in hand–that of robbing on the public highway.  The 17th and 18th century were the golden age of the highwayman, flintlock pistols having been invented made life easier for a man with a pistol on a horse.

So yes, Reynard is a highwayman.  But I like a conflicted hero – one who does bad things for good reasons – and Reynard fits the bill nicely here.  He needs money for his estate and his sister–who he is determined to find a wealthy husband for (thereby helping his own impoverished state) and slippers and petticoats don’t grow on trees.  Reynard is described as wearing his old-fashioned and over-elaborate clothes, which are the only ones not too patched and ruined, but they are still a bit too tatty for society.

The Puritan, Geoffrey, is an interesting character–hardly puritanical at all in fact, he’s very wealthy, has a ton of servants and indulges himself in whatever he likes.  What I found odd, though was the fact that he just pounced on Reynard within a few minutes of their being acquainted. If Reynard had been a servant, and in a more vulnerable situation, unable to say no, I could understand this precipitate action,  but Reynard is an equal, a neighbour, an earl,  and Geoffrey (as far as I could tell) had been given no indication that such sudden sexual advances would even be welcome.  He puts himself much at risk.  And as the story is told from Reynard’s point of view, there’s very little indication that he even finds Geoffrey sexually attractive before Geoffrey starts disrobing him.

However, that aside, the sexual encounter once started is everything one expects from Veinglory, beautifully erotic and sensual and thoroughly enjoyable.

Reynard is just about keeping the wolf from the door when his sister appears and suddenly Reynard is worried about how he’ll ever afford to produce a dowry for the girl, without losing his house–and discovering how much he dislikes the young men to whom she’s become betrothed. So he makes a rash decision and the plot charges ahead from here.

I have to say that I was surprised just how good Reynard’s eyesight was, the first time we see him the moon was nearly waned and a few days later it should have been pitch dark but the descriptions of people and carriages in the dark are very exact!

I noticed a couple of typos – sheering/shearing – reign for rein, but this book was published a good while ago (2006)  and some epubs were less nice in their editing than they are today.

Overall, it’s a little patchy. Some of the language is nicely formal, some has modern phrases. The companion Emilia brings with her is just escorted from the coach with no introductions, and like the first sex scene the whole thing seems rather rushed.  At around 90 pages it’s a decent read, but I think there was much potential here to provide a full-sized novel.  However, niggles aside, it’s a very enjoyable read–good plot, good characters and the story rackets along at a cracking pace.

Still, I do recommend you try it as books set in this era are pretty rare, and Veinglory is a good, solid writer.

Buy at Cobblestone

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