The Marsh Hawk
by Dawn MacTavish
(Leisure, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-5934-7
This is a Regency era romance (we know that because it has highwaymen, carriage rides and Lady Jersey, patroness of Almack’s ) written by Dawn Thompson under a new name, and it has apparently won some awards. Beyond that, The Marsh Hawk is a long and at times convoluted tale. While not perfect, if a reader is looking for a descriptive look, with lots of action and a bit of an epic feeling to it, the book is generally satisfying. My biggest complaint is that the book is published in what can’t be bigger than 8 point type and is over 300 pages at that. I wanted to like it much more.

Lady Jenna Hollingsworth is just coming out of mourning for her father, who died following an attack by a highwayman, reputedly the notorious Marsh Hawk. She is betrothed to Lord Rupert Marner, a smarmy little man her mother is pushing her towards and who will accept her as she is, a fairly unaccomplished twenty-two year old. She also wants to marry to protect herself in case it ever comes out that she killed a man.

Jenna took the law into her own hands one night and thinks she killed the Marsh Hawk. In actuality, she just wounded him. And he is none other than Lord Simon Kevernwood, who is a war hero and has spent the last few years building hospitals for veterans returning from the wars. He is somewhat of a ‘Robin Hood’ type of thief, only stealing from aristocrats and giving to men who have lost everything.

We have several plots going on at the same time. Rupert acts like an ass and he and Simon end up in a duel, in which Rupert tries to run Simon through with a sword in the back after Simon has beaten him. Jenna leaves with Simon, as they have decided they are in love. Rupert is out to avenge what he perceives as stealing his bride. Jenna has her secret about her antics and Simon has his about being the Marsh Hawk. Of course, if he is, then he killed her father, right? Wrong – we soon discover there is another thief out there.

We also have Simon’s best friend, who is a vicar, who is secretly in love with Simon’s niece. Unfortunately, the niece doesn’t really know that the vicar is alive, since she has a crush on Simon, despite the fact he is her uncle. The reality is that they are related but for reasons not fully explained (or at least that I fully understood), the ton does not know of the relationship, assuming that Simon is merely her guardian. And last but not least we have the romance, which is on-again-off-again throughout the tale depending on who is aware of whose secrets and what other adversity is confronting them at the moment.

The biggest issue is that the author tried to put too much into the tale. It has everything. The descriptions are colorful and detailed, down to the type of lace and what flowers border what flowerbed. We have the family, servants, and villains. We have separation from unexpected quarters, and separations of the emotional, “I am running from you” type. Some are stereotypical portrayals, like Jenna’s mother, who is pushy, worried about the ton, and of course, prone to dramatics.

Jenna and Simon are likable, but neither think straight or act straight all the time either. Their love is like a sickness, making them act like they wouldn’t normally, or so they say. The most engaging character is the vicar. And I struggled with him because he is in love with a silly young girl who seems rather airheaded whenever she is in the picture.

There is a richness to the story that I liked, yet, it was long and at times, it went a bit overboard. For example, it wasn’t bad enough that Jenna was arrested, but she was no more than free and Simon ended up in Newgate. As with the whole tale, I wanted to shout, “Wasn’t once enough?” The Marsh Hawk had its downfall in just a tad too much of everything.

--Shirley Lyons

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