When eight year old Farah finds Dougan alone and crying, she immediately tries to offer him comfort. Dougan snarls at her and sends her away, but she returns to take care of his injured hands. Despite himself, Dougan is captivated by the loving young girl who offers friendship, and soon he and Farah, whom he calls Fairy, are fast friends. For two years, they are inseparable, even going to a church and declaring themselves married. They develop a loving and strong bond and claim they belong to each other. When a priest attempts to abuse Farah, Dougan doesn’t hesitate to protect her, and he ends up being sent to prison, eventually to die there.
Now, at age twenty-seven, Farah is working for Scotland Yard. She poses as a widow, though she’s never been legally married, even using Dougan’s last name of MacKenzie. She’s never forgotten the young boy she loved, but is now considering marrying someone she doesn’t love so that she can finally have a family. As she is pondering her decision, she is kidnapped by Dorian Blackwell, a notorious man wanted desperately by Scotland Yard, who has not been able to convict him of suspected crimes. Dorian runs much of London, is outrageously wealthy, and has a powerful network of people in his pocket.
Dorian also spent many years in prison, in the company of none other than Dougan MacKenzie, and the two became like brothers. Of course, Dougan told the story of his “fairy,” and when Dorian was released, he began the search for her, wanting to protect his deceased friend’s young love. It seems that someone wants Farah dead, and Dorian feels the best way to protect her is to marry her – in name only. While Farah sees the sense in this, she has conditions of her own – she wants a child.
Farah is strangely attracted to this tall, cold, scarred man. Though he has a reputation of cruelty, and having harems of women, Farah sees glimpses of his kindness, while not seeing any evidence of the women. Dorian agrees to her terms, and they are married, though he is very reluctant to touch her. It’s obvious that Dorian desires her, so why does he not want a real marriage? As the story progresses, we get more details of the abuse Dorian and Dougan suffered in prison. The awful things done to him have left him with a burning need for vengeance, yet a feeling of self loathing, making him feel he’s totally unworthy of Dougan’s fairy.
What a powerful and moving story this is! I was captured from the first page by both the writing and the characters. Farah is strong and loyal, and has a great capacity for love. She’s intelligent and practical, yet is never hard or callous. Dorian broke my heart – he’s the epitome of the wounded hero, with scars inside and out. He has done some very bad things, yet still has his own code of honor and loyalty. And he also does still have a heart, it was just waiting for Farah to claim it. THE HIGHWAYMAN is one of the best books I’ve read this year – it has it all. I could not read this book quickly enough, yet I hated to see it end. I have added (new-to-me) author Kerrigan Byrne to my automatic read list. and give my highest recommendation to this very satisfying story.