Reviewed by Lorraine.
1743. Rosie Davey possesses the kind of fatal beauty that makes men desire her and women jealous. Sent to London for her own safety to work for her Aunt Elisa at the Nag’s Head, Drury Lane, she finds herself in the underbelly of society. She is expected to earn her keep through prostitution, and there are many men eager to take her innocence by force.
She is saved by Blake, a highwayman she has encountered before in times of danger, who pays for her exclusive services but respects her virginity.
Others, of low and high degree, are determined to have her, and when she is forced to fight for her survival and stabs a debauched magistrate, she has to flee. Falling in with a Romany gypsy, Micu, she is nursed to health, and then becomes the object of his attentions. Five times she is nearly raped, only for his mother to save her.
Blake finds her, kills Micu, and takes her back to London, where he makes her his own. She joins him in his highway adventures until she is shot and taken to Newgate, from where she is eventually rescued by Micu’s sister. At last she returns home to Windermere, where her mother tells her the truth about her birth.
Rosie’s many adventures take place at high speed. Pirates, gypsies, highwaymen, debauched aristocrats, and gin–sodden whores are all encountered along the way. She is nearly raped, graphically, too many times to count, though always saved at the very last second, and is depicted throughout as a victim of circumstances, rarely instigating any of the events herself except in error.
There are obvious problems with misused words – broach for brooch, caste for cast - and textual errors: ‘“Yes thank you milord, pausing slightly he realized Lord Bligh was waiting for him to pour the wine.’ There are anachronisms: boss and heist belong to C19th US, not mid-C18th England. Monastral blue is a trade name from the 1930s. Buttoned blouses and chignons were not worn in 1743.
The wife of an Earl is a Countess, not a Duchess (and no Countess would put ‘the wife of Earl…’ on an invitation to her ball). It is correct to say Earl or Duke of, but not Lord of Windermere.
Elisa becomes Eliza, Blake Glenowen becomes Blake Remington. As for ‘Bene darkmans’, that must remain a puzzle.
This is a novel of two halves. The depiction of the stews of London is good, and promises much; but once Rosie moves from underworld to haut monde, the pace picks up to a gallop at the expense of detail. Coincidences and unlikelihoods abound, and although the author puts every possible block in her progress, in a rather weak and hurried ending Rosie finds her hero once more.
Suzy's notes: Brooch also Middle English Broche = Broach.