Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw's THE HIGHWAYMAN - Amazing 18th Century Historical

I only recently discovered Nadine Crenshaw and am astounded she is not on every "best romances" list. Like Penelope Williamson, she wrote in the 80s and 90s but her work could stand up to any of those writing romance today. Her stories are original, her plots complex and well woven. Her characters are multifaceted and so believable. Her work reflects great research and attention to detail. Her heroes are drool worthy and her heroines are strong women who overcome great obstacles--truly inspiring. That may not sound unique in the realm of romance (good romance, that is), but I find her unique. Crenshaw weaves a story that will keep you reading late into the night. She is a master storyteller and takes care with historical detail and descriptions of places. I first read VIKING GOLD and loved it, so I bought her earlier Viking romance, EDIN'S EMBRACE, and I loved it, too. I followed that with SPELLBOUND, and now THE HIGHWAYMAN. They are all gold standard. As a result, I am now ordering the rest of her back list (see below).

THE HIGHWAYMAN is set in the 18th century at a time when there was a great divide in England between the classes, between the wealthy and the poor. Highwaymen frequented the deserted roads and attacked carriages traveling at night. Our hero, Keith Cutler, is just such a man. Raised among gentlemen as a youth, though he is the bastard son of a poor girl and a wealthy gentleman soldier who spurned him, Keith is a gentleman rogue. A bandit of the night, he is also, amazingly, a man of honor. Jane Fitzpatrick's mother is dead and her father, a cruel thief, deserted them long ago. While working as a housemaid in York, Jane becomes educated and dreams of a life in the American colony of Georgia. She is saving her money for passage when a famous artist living in her town sees her and decides to paint the beautiful girl. His painting of her as a noblewoman in a garden becomes famous, "The Rose of Midnight." Then her father reappears and demands all her money. When she refuses, he beats her unmercifully and she flees while he dies in a fire from a collapsing roof. On the open road, she meets the highwayman who has seen her portrait and recognizes her. And, that is just the beginning of this enthralling story.

It is well-told, original, with rich details of the life of the common people in England in the 1700s. Country life is not always pretty as we experience the lives of those who struggle for existence, but it provides a rich background against which Keith and Jane meet. Few can weave a tale as good as Crenshaw. You will be drawn in, captivated. I think Nadine Crenshaw is one of the great romance authors and I, for one, intend to read all she wrote.

Her backlist:

MOUNTAIN MISTRESS (Golden Heart Winner; 1987)

I've not been able to find CITY OF DREAMS, but the rest are available on Amazon.

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