Review: The Highwayman’s Daughter by Henriette Gyland

highwaymans daughterReview by Janell

This is the story of a peasant girl who robs stagecoaches to pay for her sick father’s medication, and the nobleman who vows to bring her to justice. Along the way, he learns that there’s an entire spectrum of women between nobility and whores, and his mind boggles.

The story opens as Cora robs Jack’s coach at gunpoint. Her mask — along with the fact that she’s robbing a coach — leads people to think that she’s a young boy (because in Romancelandia, all full-grown women resemble young boys once they don a pair of trousers); but Jack sees something in her eyes that proves she’s a woman. Jack’s cousin Rupert, also being robbed, notices the same thing, and so they make a bet to see who can find the mysterious woman first.

This is a delightful setup, but I felt that the story was bogged down by too many plot threads. Rupert’s parents are dead so he and his sister have been raised by Jack’s parents, but Rupert always feels inferior and bitter. On a neighboring estate, the first wife died after giving birth and then running off in a carriage. Cora’s mother is dead. All of these dead people tie together, sort of, and the unraveling of the mystery was somewhat confusing.

Cora is a lovely, virtuous woman who happens to have been trained in the art of robbery by a family friend. She would have gotten away with it, too, if Jack hadn’t been so persistent. But Cora is resourceful and doesn’t trust anyone. When Jack catches her, she runs away. When he catches her again, she runs away again. After he kisses her, she runs away, twisting her ankle in the process and robbing his purse before knocking out the stable master with a bucket. After Jack has sex with her, she runs away again, stealing his clothes. For practical reasons, she was very smart. But for romance reasons, she was really dumb.

Jack is doggedly determined to find Cora for several reasons: first, because of the bet with his cousin. Second, because when he sees lust in her eyes, he decides that he wants her in his life forever. Third, because he believes that Cora’s parentage is not what she believes, and he would love to rescue her by granting her a bloodline. I’m not sure how smart he is, either, continuing to want a girl who runs away all the time. Plus, he finds her amusing when she vomits, and he feels amorous while watching over her sickbed.

A few instances almost tilted this book over the edge into crazysauce territory for me: when Jack marveled at the idea that a woman could be a physician, when Cora begged him to honor her by making love to her, and when the villain monologued about how he planned to get away with murder. Plus all the who-slept-with-whom twenty years ago and who-fathered-whom mystery. But then it ended and I was kind of happy with the characters. I think if this book was half as long, it would be a zany fun adventure. As it is, I give it a C.

*ARC Provided by ChocLit

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Highwayman’s Daughter
by Henriette Gyland
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: ChocLit

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