Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Jessica Blair is a well-known author of almost seventy books written under several pseudonyms; The Restless Spirit, Reach For Tomorrow, The Restless Heart, Storm Bay, A Distant Harbour, and The Seaweed Gatherers. In her new novel, The Road Beneath Me, Kate Swan is thrown out of the house by her father for being unwilling to marry a man of his choosing. The fact she abhors him deeply does not sway her father in the slightest.
Far away from Kate, Malcolm McFadden marries a crofter’s daughter, Rowena Murray, yet even for him, disaster strikes and Rowena has second thoughts about marrying him. Somehow, Malcolm encounters Kate, and they find an attraction that transcends convention; though he leaves her as he has other responsibilities back home to attend to. Kate is troubled by him leaving so soon, and wonders if she will ever see him again.
Jessica Blair, author of similar titles Sealed Secrets and Secrets of a Whitby Girl is well versed in weaving a tale. Malcolm McFadden is no Heathcliff in this Yorkshire drama; he is a man who tries to do right by those he cares for. The backdrop of Whitby is the perfect setting for the two lovers who can make a go of their relationship. Kate felt as though she was naive for thinking she would, like most of her friends get married to a man who would fulfill all her criteria for the perfect man, and what she actually got was much different. As her father only had designs on the Garfield business, her father did not take her feelings into consideration. He was only interested in using her as a pawn to get more money, and she wanted no part of it, not from her father, and not to marry Cyrus Garfield.
Of course, in that time period, Kate had made a harsh, if not foolish decision to leave home as many would have been left penniless and found themselves on the street with nowhere to go. She is unsure of the path that is in front of her, and afraid to leave even though she has to, or resign herself to marrying Cyrus. She has only one place to go, her brother Archie’s and stay there until she can find somewhere else. To be honest, she is lucky she could find someone, family who would take her in, as usually once a girl had been banished by her father, the entire family would have had nothing to do with her. As Archie is in business with her father, he can’t risk letting Kate stay too long, but there is an answer, she can be sent to become a domestic near Robin Hood’s Bay. At least there she can set up a new life.
Jessica takes the reader through Kate’s thoughts and feelings on her father’s decision to have her leave, and how she can make a life for herself even though her father always thought she would run back to him, and agree to marry the man he wanted. I would count Kate as being very fortunate in this particular period for having the support of her brother at the start. It might seem unrealistic to have Kate helped in this way, however it keeps readers seeing the harsher side of life on the street, and gets her right into the arms of Malcolm.
The Road Beneath Me is filled with heart-rending accounts of what Kate had suffered at the hands of her father and the emotional turmoil she experienced with Malcolm. This is a romance novel that gives hope to all of us.