THE LADY AND THE HIGHWAYMAN, by Sarah M. Eden, Shadow Mountain Publishing, Sept. 3, 2019, Softcover, $15.99 (young adult/ new adult/ adult)
Improving technology and higher literacy rates in the 19th century turned into a demand for cheap literature. From that, penny dreadfuls were born. The serial stories featured pirates, highwaymen, crime and mystical elements. Dreadfuls were usually eight pages, featured a black-and-white illustration and issued weekly.
Sarah M. Eden’s The Lady and the Highwayman celebrates Penny Dreadfuls by exploring the lives behind her fictional characters.
Elizabeth Black is a lady of birth and relative standing. As such, she’s a respected headmistress of a girls school in 1860s Victorian London. She’s also a respected author of silver-fork novels (novels written for and about the upper class)
That’s not all Elizabeth writes, though. Under the pseudonym Charles King, Elizabeth has quickly risen among the ranks to become the most popular Penny Dreadful author. King’s story features dashing heroes and supernatural elements that play to the adventurous spirit of her readers.
Up until King’s arrival, Fletcher Walker was the most popular author in the Penny Dreadful market. King’s arrival on scene isn’t just a matter of pride — he’s cutting into the profits Fletcher uses to support the working class. As a member of the Dread Penny Society, a fraternity of authors who focus on social and political causes, Fletcher needs those funds.
When their paths cross, Fletcher finds himself instantly attracted to Elizabeth. As a fellow author, she could also be key in discovering King’s true identity. Elizabeth agrees to help Fletcher if only to keep her identity secret. But the more time they spend together, the harder they fall for each other.
The Lady and the Highwayman is a standalone Proper Romance novel from Shadow Mountain. As such, it’s pretty much a given that Elizabeth and Fletcher will end up together. But you’re not going to read The Lady and the Highwayman for the mystery. You’re going to read it to escape.
Sarah M. Eden is a polished writer who knows how to draw in readers with compelling characters and storylines that aren’t entirely predictable. What makes The Lady and the Highwayman stand out from her other novels is the juxtaposition of Victorian-era classes. The navigation between them is tight and well-thought out.
The Lady and the Highwayman is an enjoyable read that transports readers to a different place and time.