Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rebeccah and the Highwayman by Barbara Davies

Publisher:            Bedazzled Ink Publishing

In 1706, traveling on an English highway at night was a blatant invitation to be robbed. Mistress Rebeccah Dutton, her sister Anne and their mother have that lesson reinforced for them when their carriage is stopped by the famous highwayman Blue-eyed Nick. Though they should have been terrified, Rebeccah finds herself more intrigued by the thief who goes out of his way not to hurt anyone and even shows her some chivalrous behavior. This evening spawns several sightings between the two where their mutual attraction grows, culminating with a night when Rebeccah's life and virtue are saved by Nick killing three ruffians who intend worse than robbery. Nick is seriously wounded in the fight and Rebeccah and her servant Mary think nothing of taking him back to their house to treat him, which is when they make the startling revelation that "he" is a "she."

Kate Milledge knows what most ordinary people in Queen Anne's England have accepted. Survival is more often a factor of being clever, and hard work often leaves a person with nothing but a miserable existence. She has family to provide for, and robbing rich people of their valuables makes that possible. When she makes a particularly good haul she tries to share what she has with people who are less fortunate, but Blue-eyed Nick has no doubt that her life will one day lead her to the end of a rope at a Tyburn hanging.
Kate knows that a relationship with Rebeccah threatens her safety, but, when Rebeccah asks for help to save her sister Anne from a kidnapper, there is no hesitation on Kate's part. That it leads to her being captured and sentenced to death is no surprise. That Rebeccah and her mother set out to save her life, including going directly to Queen Anne, is stunning. 

As time gets short and the appointment with the noose gets closer, Kate can only wonder if this is truly how it will all end and, if not, what will she then do with her life and the fact that she's pretty sure Rebeccah doesn't return her affections? Rebeccah is clever herself however and has more than one surprise waiting for Blue-eyed Nick.

Rebeccah and the Highwayman is a good, old-fashioned romp. Those who like period pieces will find the setting of early 18th century England perfect with its laces, manners and sword fighting. Readers who like a story with a historic background will appreciate the little details sprinkled through this book that give it authenticity.
A number of times in this book the reader will find herself saying, "So that's what they did about that." The scenes describing life in the streets, conditions in the prisons and the carnival atmosphere of hangings are particularly rich. The result of this is a feeling for the reader of being in the time of the book. It also makes what could have been a routine romance a little more exotic. How often does a heroine rush into a scene on horseback firing flintlock pistols and brandishing a rapier? This is a well-crafted book with adventure, suspense, tension and a little romance thrown in. Those looking for torrid sex scenes won't find them, but that only goes to prove that a story can be entertaining and fun to read without them. If tales set in history are not what a reader normally looks for, this one still has enough selling points to make it worth trying.

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