Watch by Moonlight by Kate Hawks
William Morrow & Co - June 2001
ISBN: 038081465X - Hardcover
Historical Fiction / England - 1763

Reviewed by Brenda Weeaks,
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Historical novelist Kate Hawks brings to readers a second novel. In Watch by Moonlight, Ms. Hawks takes on a daring deed when she brings to life British poet Alfred Noyes's The Highwayman. Being aware of the poem was only part of the reason I became so engrossed in reading the tale. The other was her ability to bring 18th century England to life, warts and all. The characters are intriguing, romantic, emotional, and most of all realistic; all part of an exceptionally poignant tale that kept me still throughout the night.

Bess works for her parents at the King's Shilling, a tavern. Her glances stray constantly to the door, not in hopes of another customer, but of a prince to rescue her from a never-ending existence, which deadens her spirit more with each passing day. One night, it finally happens. Jason, a stranger from London, arrives. When their eyes meet, they know their futures are entwined. After Jason and Bess's first meeting, the reader is taken back to where Jason's path took a tragic twist when his father, a printer, is put in debtor's prison. All Jason knew is lost. He works hard to gain it all back, but fate's dominating rule has other plans. Jason ends up at Kings Shilling trying to gain passage to America, with ill-gotten gains, and wants to take Bess with him.

Don't expect a white washed, bodice-ripper here. True the relationship of the main characters is a major part of the story, but without the existences and events of the others - Jason's father, the actors, Owen the pickpocket, the King's soldiers, Bess's parents, the rejected suitor, scorned lover, Abel the teacher, etc. - there would be no story. Watch by Moonlight is a genuine historical novel.

If you are already aware of the poem's ending you will most likely wonder, as I did, if Ms. Hawks stays true to Noyes work or sentimentally goes in the other direction. For that answer, you will have to read it yourself.

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