The Lady and the Highwayman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

In many ways, this reminded me of Sarah Eden’s earlier book, “Ashes on the Moor.” The history of the time period almost takes more priority than the story or even the romance of the plot. That’s not a complaint - just an observation.

The tone also reminds me of Nancy Campbell Allen’s Steampunk Fairy Tales, which are also part of the Proper Romance line. The adventure of the story is even more exciting than the love story, though neither get shoved aside for the other. I guess what I’m saying is that this is a good blend of several different genres. Sort of how real penny dreadfuls operate. Adventure, intrigue, romance, and a lot of fun.
Was this review helpful?
This was so silly and dorky and cheesy! I did not handle reading this well mostly because it kept me giggling the whole freaking time
Was this review helpful?
I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity and page-turning élan of Sarah M. Eden’s The Lady and the Highwayman. Eden is a new-to-me author and I’m glad I’ve discovered her romances; this first read won’t be my last, thanks to her robust backlist.

Victorian-set among the humble and working-class, Eden’s thriller-melodrama-romance boasts a former-“guttersnipe” hero, now successful penny dreadful author, and girls-school headmistress heroine. Fletcher Walker struts the streets of 1865-London with the swagger of a man who brought himself out of the gutter and into success. But Fletcher is not an advocate of the every-man-is-an-economic-island making his own way in the world. He is the defender, rescuer, and fighter for the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of London’s invisible people, the widowed, fatherless, and orphaned; the sweep’s agony, the harlot’s cry come under Fletcher’s protection and his penned stories tell of their pathos, endurance, and spunky survival, the importance of helping one another, and defending those who cannot defend themselves. His author’s income isn’t for himself alone, but largely given to the poorest of the poor.

In the meanwhile, Miss Elizabeth Black, in more rarefied circumstances as Thurloe Collegiate School’s headmistress, does the same for faculty and students, running her school and penning, by day, respectable novels for Victorian ladies; by night, she turns her pen to her penny dreadful pen name, “Mr King,” and his tales of distressed damsels’ displays of bravery and intelligence, as well as finding true love, a rival to Fletcher’s success and income. What is marvelous about Fletcher and Elizabeth is their incomes are not for themselves alone, but for the use of Fletcher’s fellow-band-of-urban-Robin-Hoods, the “Dread Penny Society, and Elizabeth’s faculty, servants, and students, respectively. Eden’s thriller-romance doesn’t rescind an iota of humor, banter, suspense or adventure to tell a tale of Victorian bleakness and suffering. Fletcher and Elizabeth are as witty and romantic as they are morally and socially conscious. (Their band of merry-men-and-women made this reader sequel-salivate with their possibilities.) It’s wonderful to read about good people doing good without making them saintly-boring.

Eden’s Lady and Highwayman also offers three-interwoven narratives: how Elizabeth and Fletcher meet to fight evil and rescue children, fall in love, enact their authorial rivalries, as well as their fictional creations’ adventures: Elizabeth’s eponymous penny-dreadful novel, “The Lady and the Highwayman,” and Fletcher’s adventure story of two urchins foiling and destroying a vampire to rescue their street-urchin buddies. The staid Miss Elizabeth Black yearns for adventure herself and it arrives in the form of Fletcher Walker when he elicits her help in discovering the identity of the mysterious Mr. King, Eden showing as sure a hand at this lovely touch of irony as she does at everything else.

Elizabeth and Fletcher are soon embroiled in saving girls from exploitative procurers and rescuing sweeps from abusive criminals. They maintain a teasing banter, an affectionate counterpoint, a tender repartee until the final, glorious saucy HEA, serving justice and making a delightful feminist point. Eden’s propensity for suspense, adventure, and twirling mustachioed villains too often takes precedence over Fletcher and Elizabeth’s wonderful budding romance, but I loved them so, and Fletcher’s fellow Dread Penny Society’s band of merry brothers equally, and the orphans, flower sellers, and sweeps I took to heart. Eden builds a marvelous world of the good, the bad, and the deserving, of justice, love, and fellowship, breaking barriers between low- and high-born and between common and high literature. With Miss Austen, I find in Eden’s Lady and Highwayman “no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.

Sarah M. Eden’s The Lady and the Highwayman came out in September of 2019 and I’m sorry I waited as long as I did to read it. It is published by Shadow Mountain Publishing and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Shadow Mountain via Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
This was a fun and sweet story to read! I love every single one of Sarah M Eden’s novels, and I found this one quite different, but always refreshing and truly enjoyable!
Elizabeth Walker is the headmistress of a girls school in London in early 19th century. But she’s also a well known writer of “silver-fork” novels for upper-class ladies of victorian society. But what nobody knows is that she also secretly writes Penny Dreadful novels, with the pseudonim of Charles King, that are very popular among working-class men. That's where she really pours her love for adventure and excitement that her ordinary life seems to lack. That is, until she meets Fletcher and her life starts to feel like she stepped right into one of her Dreadful Penny novels.
Fletcher has earned his prestige as the most succesful Dreadful Penny novelist. But then, Charles King becomes quite popular and robs him of his readers. He, along with the Dreadful Penny Society of authors, determine to find out who is Charles King to see if he’s an asset or their worst enemy and competition. So that’s when Fletcher approaches the popular Miss Black, who seems to have connections and may help him discover the real identity of this new best selling author. Elizabeth agrees, if only to throw him off her path, but she never expects that this new relationship will quickly grow into something more. But there’s the chasm between their social standings, and the fear of what he will do when he discovers her true identity… Will love prevail over this mayhem or will it be their undoing?
I was totally engaged by this novel. The plot was fast paced and I was picqued to know how Elizabeth would manage to keep deceiving Fletcher, and how would things turn out when he finally discovers her ruse. He had to right? In fact, it felt like the chase of a cat and a mouse and while there was a touch of intrigue and mystery, the funny moments made it all the more enjoyable and relaxing. I totally fell in love with the characters, and I loved their dialogues and witty banter, always characteristic of Ms Eden’s characters. The romance was sweet, clean and endearing. I was totally rooting for their Happily Ever After, which seemed almost impossible to grasp.
I definitely recommend this novel. I had a wonderful time reading it!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher via NetGalley and this is my honest and unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
It took me a while to finish this book.  I would read a little, then abandon it, them come back and start over and read a little further.  Not sure why it just didn't resonant with me since I love historical fiction and the description of this one sounded great.  In the end I did enjoy it once I really just stay focused and finished it.  The combination of the main story along with the "penny dreadfuls" was what threw me off, but ultimately I found both sections to be interesting and I wanted to finish to find out what happened.  So if you find yourself struggling, don't give up, it is worth the effort.
Was this review helpful?
It's so refreshing to read a Victorian romance that doesn't have a Duke in it!
This novel centres around Elizabeth Black, who is a headmistress of a school and a well-renowned writer who also secretly writes Penny Dreadfuls, using the proceeds to keep her school for underprivileged girls afloat.  

Penny Dreadfuls were serial stories that were not considered literature but were very popular with the public.  Academics and "educated readers" used to scorn them as rubbish but the masses lap up these gothic romances with elements of the supernatural.

Fletcher Walker is the most popular Penny Dreadful author of them all but he is about to be usurped by the mysterious Mr King whose Highwayman stories are selling so well that they are cutting into Fletcher's profit.  Fletcher needs his income to support the work that he and some of his fellow authors do for the urchins of London - important, sometimes very dangerous work.  
Helping these children is more than a charitable act for Fletcher, as he used to be one of these urchins.

When Elizabeth and Fletcher cross paths they discover they have a lot in common.  Together they enter into a cat and mouse game with the seedy underbelly of the city and, of course, discover many other shared passions.  However, they are both keeping secrets from each other and is preventing them from forming a closer connection.  

There's a lot I liked about this novel, not least the representation of women in Victorian England finding creative ways to assert their independence and survive.  The decisions that the characters make are based on their empathy and intelligence, which makes a nice change from some of the other historical romances I have read.

I also liked the tongue-in-cheek references to the way some readers will turn their noses up at 'low brow writing' but who secretly devour these stories.  

This story is not a guilty pleasure to read, just a pleasure.

Highly recommended - 4.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a refreshing historical fiction because of its romance. I thought the chemistry between the lead characters was so much more palpable than your typical historical fiction. Their relationship really influenced my opinion on the book as a whole.
Was this review helpful?
Such a fascinating book!

I loved learning more about penny dreadfuls in this book. Our heroine is writing under her pseudonym (see summary), which was also fun. In a time when women couldn’t as easily compete for market space as authoresses, this let her have a means of earning an income while writing and expressing her creativity. She has a noble position caring for needy children as well.

The hero is also noble as he’s a member of the Penny Dreadful Society, and he helps rescue endangered children. 

Each character in this populated novel has a unique voice, which I love. The author uses great prose, which I’ve come expect from her. She’s one of my favorites.

Every now and then we got to read the penny dreadfuls along with the characters. This was fascinating, but I admit I skimmed some of the less desirable passages. With their inclusion, we got to see this author write speculative fiction into her historicals.

Both of our MCs are writers of these serials, so we get to see inside their writerly minds. I loved when their “real lives” would cross over into their fiction. So much fun!

Because we read the extra stories within this story, I felt we missed a bit of the romantic thread development in favor of a reasonable overall word count. Sarah’s a master at writing tender romance, and we had that here, but I’d have loved to see that thread developed more. That said, the romance we had was delightful.
Another area where Sarah always shines is her humor. (Which is why I devour her work!) And this story never disappointed in that arena. 

Such an enjoyable read! 4.5 stars Highly recommended!
Was this review helpful?
Sarah M Eden is one of the quirkiest and most endearing writers to read! And how she has shown in her Victorian-era novel! Authentic and witty characters? Check. A hint of mystery? Check.
Was this review helpful?
1865, London.

Two writers. Two secrets. And a rivalry that turns into fierce love.

Once a street urchin, Fletcher Walker is now the most successful writer in the Penny Dreadful market. But aside from his writings, Fletcher does something much more important in the shadows: he helps other children that live as street urchins move away from life in the streets.

Elizabeth Black is a headmistress for a prestigious girls' school. But she's more than meets the eye. Secretly, Elizabeth writes. And her books are so successful, that the pen name she hides her identity behind, Mr King, is now threatening to overthrow Fletcher Walker from the writing throne.

As King's writing power rises higher and higher, Fletcher will try to find a way to contact him. And that's how he'll meet Elizabeth. An adventure far from what any of them had ever expected is about to begin.

The Lady and the Highwayman is a beautiful, funny, romantic story that combines it all: historical fiction, romance, and a hint of adventure! This is exactly the story fans of Victorian London will fall in love with. Written in a way that will leave you engrossed in this affair, The Lady and the Highwayman is a sweet adventure. Not to be missed!
Was this review helpful?
I loved the entire concept and execution of this clever and fun Sarah M. Eden Novel. The main characters are both Penny Dreadful writers who are competing with each other in the serial magazines of the day. The author writes both character's fictional serial stories in the book and the details in the fictional stories interact with the realtime plotline in humorous and genius ways.  Seriously, do not miss this amazing historical fiction romance! It's so much fun and done extremely well.
Was this review helpful?
A fast fun read.  I found myself wishing for more of the penny novels and a book twice as long.  It was sad to see it end that quick.


I received an ARC from the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
The Lady and the Highwayman is an engaging historical romance - I really enjoyed it. Elizabeth works by day as headmistress of a school for middle class girls and the author of proper fiction, but by night she's the author of penny dreadful novels under the pen name Mr. King. Penny dreadfuls are considered notorious and salacious by proper society people, so to ensure her school continues to be funded and to keep her place in society she keeps her side job (and passion) a secret. Meanwhile, Fletcher Walker, the reigning best selling author of penny dreadfuls, has noticed his sales are being eclipsed by the mysterious Mr. King. Walker, who grew up on the streets of London, uses his author proceeds to help fund a secret society that helps protect endangered children. That's where the book starts, but it's pretty plot heavy (though never confusing) - Elizabeth and Fletcher try to figure out each other's secrets while getting embroiled in thwarting some of London's criminals. The book also includes excerpts from both Elizabeth and Fletcher's novels. I thought that might get tedious, but I enjoyed it, and their plots mirror the concerns of the authors. It was clear that Eden did a lot of research for this book - it's a really interesting look at child welfare (and publishing) in Victorian England, and includes discussions of racism, slavery, and discrimination against the poor. My only complaint about the book is that there were a few loose ends - the identity of two important characters, as well as the exact machinations of a third. I'm not sure if this is going to be a series; if so, I guess that's why that was left unclear. But I would have felt more satisfied with the ending if I'd felt like all the mysteries had been cleared up. Overall, though, a great read.
Was this review helpful?
I'm always happy when I get to read a Sarah M. Eden book. You can tell she really does a lot of research for the time period of the book. This is a Victorian, not a Regency, so society rules weren't quite as strict. This book is like getting three stories in one. There's the main story of Fletcher Walker and Elizabeth Black and then there are two Penny Dreadful stories told within Fletcher and Elizabeth's story.

Fletcher Walker has risen above his upbringing and works hard to help the boys and girls who are like he once was--street urchins getting by by their wits and stealing. He truly cares for these children, so when the source of income to help them--the Penny Dreadful stories he writes--is threatened by a new author taking his spot as the #1 author, he's determined to find and meet this Mr. King.

Elizabeth Black seems to be all that is proper. She runs a school for young ladies and writes "silver-fork" novels that the more educated people read, but we soon find out that Elizabeth as a secret that if exposed would mean the end of her school.

I loved these characters. Fletcher is the best!! He's extremely caring, yet fun. Because you can take the urchin off of the street, but you can't always take the street out of the urchin, he's sometimes not as proper as a "true" gentleman would be, but that's what makes him such a fun character. He's got so many wonderful qualities, there' no doubt Elizabeth would fall for him, I know I would have.

I loved the two Penny Dreadful stories and how they started to mirror what was going on between Fletcher and Elizabeth. And let's not forget the rest of the men in the Penny Dreadful Society. How cool is it that they dressed up in disguises to tail the people who are out to do harm to the children? The parts telling about the situations of some of the children made me so sad. Did anyone else wonder who the Dread Master is? I haven't a clue. I loved the ending of the book and look forward to more from the Dread Penny Society.

Thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for allowing me to read this wonderful book. All thoughts and opinions I've expressed in this review are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I don't usually go for romance, but I loved the premise of this book. The characters were well-defined and I actually liked them, especially the fact that Elizabeth is kind of a badass? And I kind of loved Fletcher, who was a bit of a rake in some ways, and totally stole my heart. The writing, worldbuilding, and story were really easy to get into, and I mean, it wasn't a romantic masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Black is dedicated to the reputation of her school and the education of her girls despite the opinion of some in society that their education is a waste of time. Her deepest secret is as an author of the frowned upon Penny Dreadfuls. Elizabeth finds herself to be intrigued by the elusive Fletcher Walker whose humble beginnings only make him more attractive to her. She is drawn into Fletcher’s secret world where he and his friends try to rescue disadvantaged and maltreated children to put them onto a path to a better life. The narrative is interspersed with excepts from both Elizabeth’s and Fletcher’s stories heightening the tension. Enjoyable. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
My Review: 8/10

This book was more off the beaten track for this author and this genre. I enjoyed the more gothic feel of the excerpts of the penny dreadful novels and it was a neat way to tie multiple characters and stories together.

Side note: loved that cover!!!
Was this review helpful?
Sarah Eden, a well-known author of clean historical romances, shifts gears in this unusual twist on the genre: a kind of cat-and-mouse game between Elizabeth Black and Fletcher Walker, two Victorian era authors of “penny dreadful” novels. They really were a penny! And in all likelihood the writing was usually pretty dreadful, although I think the dreadful part was supposed to be the scary villains and monsters that usually populated these thriller-type books. :)

There's a subplot about people devoted to trying to improve the lot of poor children and teens in London (spoiler alert: the villains who prey on the poor take exception to having their schemes interfered with) and just a little romance, complete with the trope (view spoiler).

Fletcher is trying to unearth the identity of a “Mr. King,” who’s overtaken Fletcher as the best-selling author of penny dreadful novels. It’s not just pride; Fletcher, who was once a street orphan himself, needs the money to help fund his secret organization of men committed to helping rescue and educate London’s street children. (What exactly Fletcher and this organization plan to do about Mr. King, other than maybe ask him to join their group, isn't entirely clear. It sort of seems like they have something ominous in mind but ... maybe not?)

Anyway, Fletcher asks Miss Elizabeth Black, headmistress of a respectable girl’s school and author of “silver spoon” novels, to help him track down Mr. King - never dreaming that Elizabeth IS Mr. King. Besides the socially-approved silver spoon novels, she has a fondness for writing the more sensational penny dreadful novels ... and plus they make her way more money, which she ALSO needs to help fund her girl's school. Elizabeth, determined to keep her secret from him - it would ruin her socially and professionally if it became known - agrees to “help” Fletcher, really intending to mislead him. Hah!

These chapters about Fletcher and Elizabeth alternate with chapters from the pulpy novels that the two of them are currently writing, in which monsters of various types abound. It’s occasionally a bit slow, the main characters are almost too altruistic to be true, and the other characters are pretty one-dimensional, but overall it’s a fun and quite different kind of book if you like light historical romances. I enjoyed seeing how the chapters from Fletcher’s and Elizabeth’s penny dreadful novels tied into the main plot ... especially when it happened on purpose. :)
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book more than I would have ever have guessed! There are two stories within the story as the main characters also write "penny dreadfuls" which are chapters in a shorter book put out to the masses. Those were just as intriguing as the book itself!

This book addresses the issues in this era of uneducated children and the difference in classes.  The main characters, Elizabeth and Fletcher, both feel passionate about helping all children get a leg up over their circumstances.  For Fletcher, it is more personal because he was one of those children that were on the streets and had he not taken an education he might be where he is today.  Elizabeth has to be more secretive about her interest in helping educate the children because it could affect her position as the headmistress at the school she runs.

Both of these characters are engaging and endearing.  I enjoyed watching their relationship blossom over time as would be proper for this era.  I wondered how Elizabeth would reveal to Fletcher that she is Mr. King and I have to say it was quite a unique way to expose her penny dreadfuls.

This book kept me up too late several nights just trying to discover what would happen next.  We give it 5 paws up!
Was this review helpful?
It’s author versus author in Sarah m. Eden’s latest Victorian-era release. And what a fun read this one is whenever Fletcher and Elizabeth are in each other’s company. The banter between these two is delightful.

I thoroughly enjoyed how two penny dreadful novels (one from Fletcher and one from Elizabeth) were included and paralleled with the two main characters’ lives. This device works well in The Lady and the Highwayman to partially expose secrets and identities.

As they use their success and situations to help the children of London’s slums avoid even worse situations, Fletcher and Elizabeth endear themselves to readers. 

Do yourself a favor and add this one to your TBR.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Was this review helpful?