A labored retelling of Alfred Noyes’s famous poem The Highwayman.
Bess Whateley is tired of serving ale to poor Dorset farmers who can’t even manage a tuppence tip. And she has twice the work to do since Rose Allen, the other barmaid at the King’s Shilling, was sacked for shorting drunken customers—when she wasn’t whoring with them. Bess and her mother toil and scrub with no end in sight—until Jason Quick, a highwayman, comes along. Jason doesn’t want beautiful, black-haired Bess to know anything about his life of crime; he sees no reason to tell the innocent girl that he once bedded Rose Allen, or that Rose was the mistress of Willy Boston, a rambunctious highwayman known as the Golden Fleecer. What Rose doesn’t know won’t hurt her, either: that Jason shot Willy dead in revenge for Willy’s murder of his traveling companion. As for the money Willy stole from Jason . . . ’twas mostly spent. As for Jason’s beloved father, he will have to stay in America, whence he was transported after months of languishing in debtor’s prison. Yes, Jason is a nice highwayman, taking money only from the overfed gentlemen who can afford it anyway and sparing the ladies and their jewelry. Tim Groot, the loutish stablehand at the King’s Shilling and in love with luscious Bess, is much put out by her preference for dashing Jason. And Tim’s just bright enough to figure out that Jason may be the new Golden Fleecer. Together with the redoubtable Sergeant Roddy Hallow—and with Rose, who knows now that Jason killed her lover—a trap is set. Bess is trussed up with a shotgun at the inn’s upper window, flanked by hidden marksmen as all await Jason in the moonlight. She wriggles one hand free to fire the gun in warning but kills herself unintentionally. Jason escapes but returns to avenge his true love.
A fine idea for a romance novel, but unfortunately lacking the wild, die-for-you passion of the original.