Review: Tyburn by Jessica Cale
Series: The Southwark Saga
Released: February 28, 2015
Reviewed by Sheena
Caught between a new love and an old need for revenge, notorious harlot Sally Green fights for survival in Restoration London. A sinister nobleman, a tutor with a secret, danger around every corner, and unbridled passion … Jessica Cale is pleased to present Tyburn, Book 1 of her new historical romance series, The Southwark Saga.
“What do you want out of life, Sally?….You’ve been reborn. How many people get a chance like that? You can have a new name. You can be anyone you want. You can do as you please.”
Jessica Cale, where have you been all my life?
Tyburn is unique. Fascinating and reads like a play. What I would not give to see this story come to life upon the stage. Historical novels are stock full of virtuous ladies, cheeky maidens and dastardly Duke’s. The stories are typically fun fiction fluff and I love losing myself in the revelry and sophistication of the ton and watching these titled people fall in and out and back into love time and time again. Tyburn has taken what I enjoy about historical novels, stripped it of its typical nuances and left bare with a very raw and emotional love story. Sally is a whore. A reluctant whore- but a lady of the evening nevertheless. Tricked, abused and used by a most vile man, aptly named Wrath, she lives her life waiting to die but fueled by a small spark of hope that one day she could be free. I read the blurb and thought this may be an interesting read. Intrigued by the allure of the highwayman by night, tutor by day hero Nick Virtue, I decided to give it a chance and for my troubles I was rewarded with a really great story.
Things aren’t really looking up for Sally. There is a solemn sadness that resonates throughout the novel. My heart breaks over and over for Sally, and with each chapter, I became more and more so resolved to root for her. The despair and abuse Sally endured, the night terrors and forced entertainment of Wrath’s customer’s sexual depravity did not kill her spirit. The author does a solid job characterizing Sally in a realistic way. She was not so utterly downtrodden that pity seeped from her unfortunate pores, and she was not an inauthentic super hero unfazed by her circumstances because she was too busy kicking ass and taking names. Sally faltered and sputtered along making mistakes that marked her as human but never giving up that solidified her as a fighter. She is harsh on herself and faces her perceived future head on while the fissures in her determination, the cracks where you see she longs for more, tug the hell out of your heart strings.
“Sally stared at him for a moment, feeling the weight of unshed tears in her chest. She could have cried easily. She gave a short, ugly laugh. “I’m a barren ex-harlot and a nameless bastard. I don’t have two pennies to rub together, and everyone I care about seems to die. Who in their right mind would marry me?”
Nick and Sally have a strong attraction and their mutual longing and on sided ignorance of the other’s true nature, makes for some comedic, wistful and lustful moments. Much of the story is hunting and foiling Wrath and his henchmen who doggedly pursue Sally, killing anyone she hold dear or to whom she runs to for sanctuary. His ruthless pursuit provides the danger and intrigue that hallmarks historical novels and I relished in Sally’s determination to see him slain. Secondary characters are rather amusing and provide some lightheartedness in pockets of the plot where my anxiety ratcheted up several notches.
I love how Nick observes, Sally. Seeing her and uncovering her layers through his eyes was quite the experience. He asks her probing questions, gets to the heart of her desire for justice and as he falls in love, his thirst for Wrath’s blood nearly out paces her own. Early on in the story he lives a double life as Nick, the kindly tutor who befriends Sally, unknown to her, he is also the Highwayman who happens upon her and has her opening up in ways she herself does not even realize. Sally is intrigued by both men and the reconciliation of the two personas was a funny reveal that lent itself quite nicely to the dramatic vibe.
Sally was usually so shy around him that he couldn’t believe he was having this conversation with her. He marveled at the difference a little anonymity made.
“Oh Nick? He’s my friend.”
“He’s in love with you.”
“You’re mad,” she said. “He knows what I am. He’s just trying to save me….he’s a good man, but he would never marry me.”
Was that really the impression he had given her? He shook his head. What about the flowers? He wanted to shout. Can’t you see I’m courting you?
“If you believe that, you’re the mad one.” “Do you like him?”
“Are you jealous?”
Tell me about your little girlfriends. I’m sure you have the ladies waiting for you all over the country.
Nick grinned. “Not a single one.”
She wrinkled her nose at him.
Unapologetic highway-men, harlots, duel personalities, honor among thieves, murder, desire and lesbian prostitutes combine to create a novel of substance and the only fluff seen for miles is perhaps the puff in the ladies gowns. The seedy streets of London come absolutely alive and feels like a character in and if itself. I love books that I can see in my mind’s eye. I have already began book two, Virtue’s Lady and so far it is promising to be as enthralling and well written as Tyburn- a unique gem in its genre. I recommend any fan of this time period (London Reconstruction era) give this book a try.