The Gentleman and the Thief (Proper Romance Victorian)

Written by Sarah M. Eden
Review by Ray Thompson

1865. Hollis Darby is a gentleman, but lacking an independent income, he must support himself: in the past by gambling, currently by writing penny dreadful novels under a pseudonym. Ana Newport is a music teacher by day, but at night dons the guise of the ‘Phantom Fox’ to steal from the wealthy. Though attracted to each other, they are understandably anxious to preserve the secret of their disreputable activities, but when Hollis’s brother is drawn into the clutches of an illegal gambling ring, they combine their respective talents to foil the criminals.

Interspersed within the main plot are extracts from two of the penny dreadfuls, and although it does slow the plot, this device allows Eden to reinforce important themes, like practicing deception to help those in trouble and appreciating people on their merits, not class.

This is very much a struggle between good and evil and it looks like the start of a series: Hollis belongs to the Dread Penny Society, dedicated to saving street children and other victims from the criminals who exploit them; Ana steals only items previously purloined from her family by predatory creditors. It should appeal to readers seeking an inspirational romance.