Today's guest is Henriette Gyland. Welcome!
THE MYTH OF THE HIGHWAYMAN
In fiction and in popular culture the highwayman is perceived as a romantic and glamorous figure. Mention the word “highwayman”, and everyone sees before them a cavalier-like person on a handsome horse, bursting forth from the thicket on a moonlit night and uttering the immortal command “stand and deliver!”
He will be wearing the customary uniform of the highway robber: the cape, the tricorne hat, and the mask, and he will most likely be a gentleman by birth because he rides a horse, and horses are expensive. Only the most desperate of circumstances would have forced him to break the law. Perhaps he is a victim of an injustice perpetrated against his noble family, or a widower with five children to feed and clothe. He will rob his victims in a humorous and genteel manner, flirting with the ladies and not humiliating his male victims too much.
The reality was, of course, a lot less glamorous because these men were often violent bandits and sometimes murderers and rapists as well.
So why does the romance persist? Why did people write songs and ballads about highwaymen? Why do they feature in books and films as dashing heroes? No one wrote songs about common footpads and pickpocket – what we would call muggers today. Burglars, embezzlers and pimps are also beneath our contempt yet the highwayman remains elevated to an almost mythical status.
I think the explanation lies in our admiration for their daring, and their devil-may-care attitude. A lot could go wrong when holding up a carriage, and therefore it took courage. The horses could bolt if startled, potentially leading to injury to the robbers as well as the victims in the process. The coachman and his co-driver would likely be armed (and some passengers too), especially if the journey involved traversing a desolate area such as Hounslow Heath where The Highwayman’s Daughter is set. 18th century pistols only contained one shot, so the highwayman had to carry more than one as there would be no time to reload if he had to fire his pistol.
There was also the chance of pursuit if other (armed) riders came upon the coach while the robbery was in progress, or it could even be a patrol of redcoats. And finally, there was the risk of disclosure or betrayal when the robber had to dispose of those stolen goods, which were not in ready coin.
You may ask why I have chosen to perpetuate the myth of the romantic highwayman in my book. The answer is that I did that precisely because it makes for a dashing hero and a gutsy heroine! What could be more appropriate in a work of romantic fiction?
And now to the Giveaway
1 copy of The highwayman's daughter
1. Open to all
2. Ends May 24th
3. Just enter