Monday, December 28, 2009

Envious Casca



Title:  Envious Casca

Author:  Georgette Heyer

First Published in 1941

Favorite Line:  He was like a clumsy, well-meaning St Bernard puppy, dropped amongst a set of people who were not fond of dogs.

This review is crossposted from BookLust.

Plot Summary:
A Christmas house party is arranged at a wealthy old bachelor's house against his wishes.  Present are his brother and sister-in-law, his nephew and niece, a playwright, a ditzy beauty, a kind Plain Jane and a business partner.  These personalities collide, however, and the house party is more explosive than congenial.  Then the host is found dead in a locked room, and suddenly, everyone is a suspect.  Inspector Hemingway must sort through the lies and the politics to determine who killed the wealthy host.  And what does The Life of the Empress Catherine have to do with everything?



When I am not sure what I want to read next, I always turn to Georgette Heyer because I know I'll settle in quite easily with her books.  I never feel restless reading her.  I know I'm always in for a good story.  And as this one takes place during Christmas, it seemed the ideal time to sit down with it!

I read almost all Heyer's historicals (though for some reason, I just can't bring myself to read Cousin Kate or any of the older-than-Georgian era ones) when I was in high school and early in college, all in a big blitz.  But I've collected her mysteries more slowly over time, and I've really enjoyed taking my time getting through them.  Heyer wrote some historical mysteries, but most are set in the England contemporary for her time- usually between WWI and WWII.  And, as Heyer was nothing if not a product of her time, they tend to have a great many subtle hints about the class system, money and Modern Times.  Much as I love Heyer's work, I know deep down that she was probably a fairly haughty woman who believed in a class system.  I also know that she looked down on fans of her work.  Oh, well!

For some reason, the characters that populate Heyer's contemporary mysteries are not nearly as easy to empathize with as those in her historical novels.  The mysteries are usually populated with rude and unkind people, most of whom dislike each other and the person who was killed.  I don't know why this is the case, and I'll spare you all my psychological theories :-)  However, even with generally unlikable characters, Georgette Heyer can write a very good story.

This one is no exception.  Even though most of the characters were unlikable, their conversations were hilarious.  There were so many snide remarks, so many one-off insults and so many ridiculously funny situations that it was impossible not to giggle.  And the mystery, too, really caught my interest.  Though I had an idea of who committed the crime early on in the novel (which is saying a lot, as I never know those things), it was very interesting to see how it happened.

One aspect of Heyer's contemporary mysteries that I dislike somewhat is her tendency to pair off people romantically towards the end.  The romance in this one you can see coming probably from very early on, so no spoilers.  But it upsets me when a man, for the entire course of a novel, is rude and sometimes downright cruel to people (regardless of whether it's justified or not) and then suddenly realizes he is in love with the nice, plain girl.  And the nice, plain girl decides he's the man for her.  I mean, really!  Is he going to act differently after marriage?  Why does he deserve such a nice person?  I hate when that happens, and it happens so often in books.

Ok, off that soap box.

That's my last review for the year, so hope you all had a merry Christmas and best wishes in the new year!

Devil's Cub

Heyer, Georgette. 1932/2009. Devil's Cub. Sourcebooks. 310 pages.

There was only one occupant of the coach, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs stretched out before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat.

Every Heyer book is packed with potential--with promise. Will it be the one to become my new favorite and best? Can it top the previous Heyer novels I've read? Because just when I think I've found the perfect Heyer, the one that just has to be the best one ever, I find myself falling for another hero, charmed by another great couple, or hooked by another adventure or drama.

Devil's Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades. That giddy-making couple of Justin and Leonie have an all-too-grown-up son, Dominic (aka Vidal). And boy does he have a way of getting into trouble. (Some might say he takes after his dear old dad--back before his marriage calmed him down. Though Leonie fears he takes after her--after her side of the family.) After his latest scandal, his father decides it would be best for him to leave England, to spend some time in Europe. His mother would like to see him settled down, married to a girl who can calm him down and keep him safe and happy. (If he's happily married then surely he won't be getting into so many duels. After all, he's mostly fighting men over women.)

But Vidal doesn't head to France (to Paris) alone. He plans on taking Sophia Challoner along with him. To set her up as his mistress. (Tis done there, he assures her.) He sends a letter, a note, telling her where and when to meet him. She doesn't get the note. It's intercepted by her older sister, Mary. (In poor Mary's defense, it is addressed to "Miss Challoner.) How can one sister save the other? Well, for better or worse, Mary decides to go disguised in her place. Granted, she doesn't know the destination (Paris). She thinks she'll be able (easily) to return home after her true identity is discovered. But what she doesn't know about Vidal could fill a book.

How will he react to this trick? Can Mary hold her own?

I love, love, loved this book. Granted, I didn't love everything about this one. There is one scene in particular that I didn't care for at all. (One scene that made me very uncomfortable--SPOILER--a scene where Vidal wants to show his strength to Mary--pointing out how easy it would be for him to do her harm.) But for the most part, I really enjoyed this one. It wasn't so much Mary-and-Dominic that I loved so much as the whole package. All the characters (about half of these were carried over from These Old Shades) that make this one work really well. I loved how everything came together at the end. It was oh-so-satisfying.

I mentioned that These Old Shades is my mom's favorite book. Well, I think Devil's Cub might end up being mine. At least for now.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, December 25, 2009

These Old Shades

Heyer, Georgette. 1926. These Old Shades. HQN. 334 pages.

A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux.

My mom's favorite Heyer. I've spent most of my life--well, my adult life--hearing about how wonderful Georgette Heyer is. How These Old Shades is the Best Book Ever. So I was excited to get a chance to read this one. To find time to squeeze it in this busy holiday season. What is it about? And did it live up to my expectations?

These Old Shades is historical romance. (This is not a Regency romance, however, for those who think of Heyer as only a writer for that period.) It stars a bad boy-in-need-of-reforming named Justin Alastair (His Grace of Avon). When our hero first meets the will-be-heroine, she is dressed as a he. Leonie has been living as Leon for several years--since she was twelve or so. He buys her. She becomes his page. And oh-how-she-loves him, idolizes him as her rescuer, her savior. But he--at first--is thinking only of revenge, of payback, of finally getting "justice" on a wrong several decades old. When will his thoughts turn to love...well...you'll have to read this one yourself and see how this romance (deliciously) develops.

It is a fun little book. A completely satisfying and giddy-making romance. So did it live up to my expectations? Mostly. I can't say it's my favorite Georgette Heyer. I've read so many this past year--so many that just felt oh-so-right and oh-so-fun. But I am glad I read it. I am glad I get to share my thoughts with my mom. I *do* think this would be a fun novel to start off with. To introduce someone to Georgette Heyer. I think it is one of her best. One of the more accessible ones as well.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Arabella


Heyer, Georgette. 1949/2009. Arabella. Sourcebooks. 312 pages.

The schoolroom in the parsonage at Heythram was not a large apartment, but on a bleak January day, in a household where the consumption of coals was a consideration, this was not felt by its occupants to be a disadvantage.

Arabella Tallant, a young country girl, has been invited by her godmother to London. She's to have her season, an unexpected surprise, in a way, though much hoped for. Her parents--especially her mother--hope she will find a husband during this season--since it will likely be her one and only season in town. Arabella wishes this as well. She's not wanting a magnificently wealthy husband or a titled husband.

When Arabella has an accidental encounter with a well-dressed stranger, well, her temper gets the best of her. And she declares herself to be fabulously wealthy. Before she knows it, everyone in town has heard the news. Arabella is quite an heiress! And she's become the town's new It girl. Everyone simply loves adoring her, making much of her. But can Arabella find a husband who will love her for who she really is?

Arabella is a very likable character. She's spirited and opinionated. And the man who's 'destined' to win her heart is quite nice as well!

I enjoyed spending time in this one! Yes, it's a bit formulaic in places. But I almost always enjoy the books anyway. There is just something comforting, satisfying, and happy-making about them. Most Heyer books feel like good friends.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Devil's Cub

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402219535
Historical Romance
Reissued by Sourcebooks, originally issued in 1932
Publication Date: November 2009
Review Copy from the publisher
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Fun & Witty Stars!
See my other Heyer reviews

Synopsis:

Devil's Cub is one of Georgette Heyer's most famous and memorable novels, featuring a dashing and wild young nobleman and the gently bred young lady in whom he finally meets his match…
Like father, like son…

Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal and fiery son of the notorious Duke of Avon, has established a rakish reputation that rivals his father's, living a life of excess and indulgence. Banished to the Continent after wounding his opponent in a duel, Vidal schemes to abduct the silly aristocrat bent on seducing him into marriage and make her his mistress instead. In his rush, however, he seems to have taken the wrong woman…
A young lady of remarkable fortitude…

Determined to save her sister from ruin, virtuous Mary Challoner intercepts the Marquis's advances and throws herself into his path, hoping Vidal will release her upon realizing his error. But as the two become irrevocably entangled, Mary's reputation and future lie in the hands of a devilish rake, who finds her more fascinating every day…

Hooray for another fun-tabulous Georgette Heyer novel! This one is more Georgian than the typical Regency novels she wrote, but reads just as well. In Heyer's Devil's Cub, she brings to life the Lord Vidal, otherwise known as Dominic, who is yet another dashingly irresistible debonair gentleman that every blushing beauty would like to get her hands on. Some he happily obliges, but then he promptly walks away. This time, in typical Heyer tragical comedic fashion, Mary attempts to save her naive sister Sophia from Lord Vidal but in doing so, Mary threatens to ruin her own chances at a respectable future.

This is the second in the series of the Alastair trilogy (Heyer really liked these characters); the first book of the series, These Old Shades (1926), perhaps in fitting Heyer comedic fashion, arrived 26 hours too late at my doorstep, forcing me to read this series out of order. Once I had gotten thirty pages into Devil's Cub, the arrival of These Old Shades wasn't enough to deter me from this one. Let me stop right here and pronounce the fact that I am a Georgette Heyer fan (possibly upgradeable to junkie status). She is devilishly clever in her stories, and she makes me laugh (oh.. all right, except for once). I love the way she can take the same sense of a plot and make each of her books new and clever, illustrating how she expertly develops her characters. (I say this because the plot in The Convenient Marriage resembles this one somewhat.) Yet, Devil's Cub was no exception to Heyer's ability to breathe laughter and life into age old plots. For some reason in all the regency novels I've read, there is always the pressing need to find an eligible bachelor for the young girl who needs to get out of her mama's house.

(an older cover version shown here)
I couldn't make up my mind, though, if I should loathe or love Vidal. Oddly enough, our heroine had the same conundrum. 'Strait-laced' Mary knew what type of man he was, but of course that glitter in his eye made Mary wonder if there were more to him than just charm and arrogance. But I was getting a little unnerved at the fact that every time a pistol was near Vidal it invariably would go off. Murderer! (Dueling was still the rage then). Or, was he and his pistol always in the wrong place at the wrong time? And it is just this occasion that sends Vidal packing to Paris, fleeing England, but unbeknownst to him, he is bringing along Mary and not the silly Sophia. And hoity-toity Vidal gets his comeuppance and is shot by none other than Mary herself!!!

The melodramatics continue when all of the main characters and their family members collide in Dijon, where Mary consented to marry a Mr. Comyn as opposed to Lord Vidal, and more misunderstandings occur when the mom and dad (who are featured in These Old Shades) get into the middle of it. (Funny little side note was that the parson in Dijon that they were counting on doing the marrying would not do it for them anyway).

There were quite a lot of supporting characters in this one and many cousins and uncles for which I getting ready to draw a genealogical chart if one more relation was mentioned. I was getting confused! But that didn't detract from the hilarious adventures and the witty dialogue that is seemingly typical Heyer traits. I loved this one, and can't wait for my next Heyer romp.

Not wanting to give the rest of the plot away, and there is indeed a lot more that could be said, I'll simply say that was another win for Georgette Heyer.. she is my go-to-gal when I need a pick-me-up and I am so happy to report that this one did just that. The sequel to Devil's Cub is An Infamous Army.

If you are lucky, maybe you can find These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, and An Infamous Army in the 2006 omnibus shown here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Arabella

Arabella by Georgette Heyer
Arabella by Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402219467
Price: $13.99
BookDepository has this for $9.99 FREE SHIPPING
Sourcebooks Publication Date: August 2009
The Burton Review Rating:Five Stars!!

Synopsis:


"One Little White Lie . . .Armed with beauty, virtue and a benevolent godmother, the impetuous but impoverished Arabella Tallant embarked on her first London season with her mother's wish in mind: snare a rich husband. But when fate cast her in the path of arrogant, socially prominent Robert Beaumaris, who accused her of being another petty female after his wealth, the proud, headstrong ingenue made a most startling claim -- she was an heiress! Suddenly Arabella found herself the talk of the ton and pursued by every amorous fortune hunter in London. But would her deceitful charade destroy her one chance for true love . . . ? "

Georgette Heyer is a prolific writer of Regency fiction, writing both romances and mysteries with some historical novels also thrown in. Out of the few Regency style novels of Heyer's that I have read so far, Arabella is my absolute favorite. I was completely wrapped up in the story from the very beginning as I was sucked in by Heyer's seemingly unending witty and charming writing style. I feel like I read this book at the most opportune time for me where I needed a light-hearted but not silly and redundant romance. The story of Arabella was a charm in itself that I would be happy to re-read it in the future.

The main protagonist is Arabella who is the eldest daughter among a merchant family and is sent off to London to her godmother to be put out on the town for all the socialites to see. The goal is for Arabella to make a suitably wealthy marriage match which would in turn open doors for the rest of her siblings. Quite to the contrary, Arabella disturbs these chances when she meets the most eligible bachelor in town, Mr. Robert Beaumaris, the epitome of the male fashion in England. Not having a clue as to who he is or what his status is as the veritable nonpareil, the rookie Arabella is provoked into telling a silly white lie that she herself is a wealthy heiress.. and the Heyer madness begins!

Robert of course is intrigued by Arabella's innocent nature and is not fooled for a moment by her little charade, but indeed helps to spin it into web that is quickly out of control of Arabella's naive hands. Her aunt has no idea why so many bachelors have thus come to court Arabella, and it is quickly apparent that everyone in town believes Arabella to be the wealthy heiress that she is definitely not.

One of the endearing scenes features Arabella taking pity on a young chimney sweep who was being misused by old Grimsby. The moment Arabella meets the boy she cleans him up and foists him on Robert to give him a proper life, much to the chagrin of Robert's friend, Fleetwood:



'It ain't that I'm a coward!' protested his lordship. 'But we shall have all the fools in London staring after us! I can't think what's come over you, Robert! You're never going to keep this brat in Mount Street! If it leaks out, and it's bound to, I suppose you know everyone will think it's a by-blow of yours?'
'The possibility had crossed my mind,' agreed Mr Beaumaris. 'I am sure I ought not to let it weigh with me: Miss Tallant certainly would not.'
'Well, damn it, I think that prosy fool, Bridlington, was right for once in his life! You've gone stark, staring mad!'
'Very true, I have known it this half-hour and more.'
Lord Fleetwood looked at him in some concern. 'you know, Robert, if you're not careful you'll find yourself walking to the altar before you're much older!' he said.
'No, she has the poorest opinion of me,' replied Mr Beaumaris. 'I perceive that my next step must be to pursue the individual known to us as "ole Grimsby".'


The most charming part about this story is Arabella's kind nature. She is sweet, kind to animals (and chimney sweepers), and absolutely hilarious when dealing with Robert Beaumaris. Her brother Bertram is a fine chap as well who also goes to London and gets himself into major gambling scrapes. Poor Bertram and Arabella each have their own potentially disastrous secrets and as expected, Beaumaris comes to the rescue in the end, but he lets them each suffer long enough to wreak havoc on their personal lives.

Heyer's writing is superb in this one, I breezed through this read with ease, and was so sad to be done with the story. The characterizations of Arabella's family, friends and the London scenes made me want to transport myself back in time, although I certainly would want to distance myself from some of the fortune hunters that we meet in Arabella's story. I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to Regency enthusiasts, Austen fans, romance readers and, of course, Heyer fans. I have many more Heyer reads to go, but I wonder if they could hold a candle to this one, I was laughing out loud during some of the adventures of Arabella. Her sympathy for others was a delight to behold, for both the reader and for Robert Beaumaris, although Robert was caught up in her sympathies more often than he intended. He was quite the knight in shining armor but not so much that we despised the characterization. This is easily one of my absolute favorite reads of 2009.

See my other Georgette Heyer related posts here. (At Burton Book Review)
This is how much I ADORED ARABELLA:

My son with Arabella!Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Arabella

Arabella Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Arabella is one of nine children, the daughter of a country vicar in rural Yorkshire. While she is certainly well-bred, she has virtually no money to her name. Her mother sends her to London to live with her godmother in the hopes that her beautiful face will capture the fancy of a wealthy bachelor who can help set Arabella and her sisters up for the rest of their lives. But Arabella's impulsive and impetuous nature, coupled with her naivete, put her in a predicament that makes her wonder whether she will ever find the right man to marry.

This Regency romance novel had humor in spades. Arabella's antics cracked me up. I also got really excited about the romance in this book. Not because I didn't know who Arabella was going to end up with. But the WAY that she ended up with him was really clever. This book has some unexpected plot twists that kept me enchanted with the story. And while the beginning of the novel went on for far too long for my taste, this is probably my favorite Heyer yet.

Cross-posted from Library Queue.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Footsteps in the Dark


Hello, everyone! This is my first post on the Georgette Heyer Challenge blog, and I'm so happy to be here :-) I adore Heyer. I once wrote a post on Historical Tapestry gushing about her, and I continuously gush about her on my blog, too. And comment on other people's blogs when they read her. So I was so thrilled to find this blog and to review on it as well! I'll just post the Heyers I've reviewed on my blog on here, first, and then maybe my favorites... and if I read new-to-me ones, I'll get those up as well. Thanks a lot, Felicia, for setting this up. It is an excellent idea.

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Favorite Line: "A remark more calculated to provoke a peaceful man to homicide I've never yet heard."

It's funny sometimes, how books packed with so much excitement and memorable characters can just sit placidly on your shelf, waiting to be read. Footsteps in the Dark is a thriller mystery of the first order, complete with secret passageways, priest holes, skeletons and a cowled monk. Of all Heyer's historicals, it reminds me most of The Reluctant Widow (one of my favorites!) with its full cast of characters, most of whom are related to each other. The book is full of hilarious one-liners and wonderful character interplay, Heyer's trademark. I find in books like this that I get so wrapped up in the chemistry between characters that the plot becomes secondary. It's unfortunate that character interaction is so hard to review, really, since it is such an integral part of books. In Footsteps in the Dark, the characters (Charles in particular, playing against Peter) all deal splendidly together, and the book is a great romp because of it.

I don't know if the plot itself is very tight, mystery-wise. I am never the sort of reader who tries to figure out the whodunnit before getting to the end of the novel, so I don't keep an eye peeled for clues and red herrings the way that many readers do. I think, in a rural setting, though, there are only so many people who can be the "bad guy," so it isn't too difficult to determine who it will be. This didn't bother me in the least, though, because Heyer's writing is just so hilarious in this book. She has such a knack for witty banter. Though, a slight annoyance in this story was that her clear derision for the police once more shines through. She seems to have had major issues with law enforcement- she doesn't seem to have found them very effectual in her dealings, I guess! But overall, a fun and entertaining read.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Grand Sophy



I am so glad all the hype totally paid off! An absolute delight of a book even though I had quite an interrupted read, by far the longest I've ever taken to finish a Heyer. But Sophy was such a scream and I loved how infuriated Charles was by her. And oh the ducklings and possibly one of the best declarations of love in all the Heyer novels. So very good and satisfying. I'm so glad I kept it for the last.

Mind you, one thing though. The anti-Semitism was bloody awful! I'd been noticing it over all the novels --- the scornful labels of 'Jews' as synonymous with vulture moneylenders --- but was excusing it with a nervous laugh of "haha, it's Heyer doing verisimilitude, it's not her fault, she's not being anti-Semitic, she's just writing people of a certain time and place ... haha haha." But this one just went full force and I pretty much did a Colon trying to climb into his own helmet sort of thing. *Pratchett reference, sorry*

Not only was this the first time we actually met one of these 'Jew' moneylenders but he was characterised as a complete villain and maybe even a cariacature, and the fact that Sophy pulled a gun on him made me go "oh hey now, hold on there, Heyer!" Urgh. It got me wondering whether it wasn't so much a case of Heyer writing people of a certain time and place as a case of Heyer herself being a person of a certain time and place. Ack. My Heyer has clay feet.

But that aside, awesome awesome awesome novel.

Friday, September 18, 2009

April Lady

This is the last of the older Georgette Heyer reviews I wrote for my blog. From now on, reviews I post will be for books I've just finished.
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At the heart of April Lady lies a cautionary tale about how suspicion and resentment can grow when spouses do not communicate with one another. However, there was nothing preachy about this enjoyable novel, told with Georgette Heyer's customary wit.

Nell is a 19-year-old bride, madly in love with her husband, Lord Cardross. She fears, however, that this worldly, much older gentleman married her only because he needed a wife and found Nell more amiable than other ladies of the ton. She cannot forget her mother's admonitions not to hang on Giles and to look the other way should he take a mistress. So she holds him at arm's length ...

Giles is head-over-heels in love with Nell but suspects she only married him for his vast fortune. After all, he brought the dibs into tune again for her impoverished father and brother (i.e. got them out of debt). His suspicions grow after Nell overspends her quarterly allowance and seems to be concealing something from him. So he holds her at arm's length ...

Nell finds herself in debt partly because she lent her brother Dysart, a chronic gambler, 300 pounds, something which her husband had asked her not to do. She believes Giles has settled all of her bills, but she forgets one tucked at the back of a drawer: 300 pounds for a lavish court dress. Ashamed and fearful of Giles's reaction, she asks her brother to raise the money for her. Of course, complications ensue.

The reader is aware all along Giles would forgive his bride if only she told him the whole truth. But she is young, lacks confidence and is terrified of losing any affection he may hold for her. Nell could have been a tiresome character, but in Heyer's hands I found myself rooting for her. Toward the end of the novel, she finds her confidence and strength, which was a joy to see.

Two subplots concern Letty, Giles's flighty, naive half-sister, who is determined to marry a young man of no fortune and position, and Dysart, a well-meaning rouge who has fallen into bad company. Heyer deftly resolved these plot threads with a great deal of sparkling humor. Dysart, in fact, helps Nell out of her difficulties in ways she never expected.

Once again, Heyer's characterizations were one of the best things about the novel. Even when the characters exasperated me, I sympathized with them. They were all likable despite their many flaws. Heyer's characters are so vivid, they seem to live on after I have reached the final page.

My favorite minor character was a cousin of Letty's who helped her and her beau meet and make plans behind Giles's back. The cousin, Selina, imagined herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel, complete with melodramatic dialogue. Her scenes were laugh-out-loud funny (even my husband thought so when I read one aloud to him.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Arabella

It’s official: I love Georgette Heyer. I just finished another of her Regency romances, Arabella, and was once again enchanted by her lovingly drawn characters, witty and entertaining plots, brilliant dialogue and painstaking depictions of Regency life. I even enjoyed getting on the computer every couple of chapters to look up Heyer's many colorful, often baffling, Regency expressions (although I grumbled good-naturedly to my husband about it.)

Heyer’s Cinderella story concerns the London debut of Arabella, the beautiful daughter of a Yorkshire vicar of modest means. Arabella’s titled godmother has agreed to sponsor her during the Season, and if Arabella can attract a proposal from a well-to-do bachelor, she might be able to give her seven siblings a more comfortable start in life. I could not help loving Arabella from the very first chapter. She was just so ADORABLE, with her naivety, lack of town polish and habit of getting herself into scrapes whenever her anger was aroused.

Arabella’s carriage breaks down en route to London outside of a hunting lodge belonging to Mr. Beaumaris, the “Nonpareil,” as he is known in society circles. Mr. Beaumaris is the man everyone in London imitates (he starts a dandelion craze when he wears one in his buttonhole for three days straight.) He is THE arbiter of fashion and good taste, able to launch a debutante into a brilliant Season simply by smiling at her, or to make her a wallflower if he turns his back. He is also fabulously wealthy, quite jaded and very, very bored.

When Arabella overhears Mr. Beaumaris speculating she is another scheming girl after him for his wealth, she invents a wild story (with the help of too many glasses of champagne) that she is herself a great heiress and thus uninterested in his fortune. When she arrives in London, she finds to her dismay the story has spread, and she must fight off fortune-hunting suitors of her own. Simultaneously, Mr. Beaumaris decides to amuse himself by paying a great deal of attention to Arabella, thus making her the toast of the town.

But as he gets to know this innocent, charming girl from the country, Mr. Beaumaris is surprised to find himself falling for Arabella. He is utterly enchanted by her refreshing honesty, her strong character and her determination to do what she knows is right, no matter what society might think. Before long, he is going to any lengths to win her esteem: for example, taking in and finding a trade for an ill-favored chimney sweep’s apprentice whom Arabella rescues from an abusive master. (Her incandescent rage when she confronts the cruel sweep and frightens him into giving up the boy is a joy to behold.)

One of the great delights of this novel was experiencing Mr. Beaumaris’s transformation from a complete cynic into a man in love, traced humorously through monologues directed at his dog, Ulysses (another charity case Arabella foists on him). The scenes between the dignified Mr. Beaumaris and the scruffy mutt were some of the best in the novel.

Arabella, meanwhile, develops her own feelings for Mr. Beaumaris, enjoying his company much more than that of any of her tiresomely persistent suitors. But how can his attention to her be any more to him than a diverting game? And how can she ever confess to him she is not rich at all? Arabella’s brother Bertram becomes the means toward solving her problems when he visits London with well-heeled friends and spends as if he too were affluent, and Arabella must devise a scheme to keep him out of debtor’s prison.

Arabella was a very satisfying read that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I wish Heyer had written a sequel, as I would love to see other adventures befall these delightful characters. I can’t think of any higher praise I could give to a novel.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Charity Girl

I enjoyed The Grand Sophy so much, I had to try another novel by Georgette Heyer. Charity Girl, the story of a penniless orphan and her would-be rescuer, did not disappoint. It wasn't as good as The Grand Sophy but was still an enjoyable read, populated by idiosyncratic characters and filled with tantalizing details about Regency life.

It's to Heyer's credit she managed to take a formulaic premise for a novel and make something out of it, while springing a few surprises on the reader along the way.

Viscount Ashley Desford, known as a man-about-town but who has kind intentions and a good heart, encounters Charity (Cherry) Steane on the road to London. Cherry is running away from her cruel aunt and cousins, who have treated her as a drudge. She hopes her irascible grandfather will have pity on her and give her a home long enough for her to find some way to earn her own keep.

Ashley gives the young woman a ride to London, but when they find her grandfather has left town, all sorts of comic complications arise. Ashley must decide how to give Cherry some sort of respectable future while guarding her reputation, and his own, from gossip, as their unchaperoned journey has given rise to rumors he has less than honorable intentions toward her. Adding to his troubles is the fact that Cherry is the daughter of a disreputable man treated as a pariah by those in high society.

While Ashley searches for Cherry's grandfather, he leaves Cherry in the care of his dearest friend, Henrietta Silverdale. Henrietta's hypochondriac mother and a pair of jealous servants bring new dilemmas to Cherry and Ashley's lives. Everything comes to a head when Cherry's father, thought dead, re-enters her life with schemes to wring money or a marriage proposal out of Ashley. But all ends well, of course, with two characters discovering a long-delayed happily-ever-after.
Heyer has a gift for creating engaging, believable characters whose voices I can hear while I read and who make me chuckle with their all-too-human foibles. Her light, engaging prose carries me easily through her stories and into a bygone world of handsome gentlemen, fashionable ladies and genteel manners.

I just wish I had some sort of Regency glossary to consult while I read. Charity Girl was peppered with period slang I could only sometimes decipher from context. It was especially frustrating during conversations between young, single gentlemen speaking of their amorous adventures. I felt like a child listening in on an adult conversation I could only half understand!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sprig Muslin


I liked Sprig Muslin far better than Charity Girl and Lady Of Quality even though it featured the same trope of hero rescuing young pretty thing and then foisting her upon the goodwill of his heroine.

This one featured a young pretty thing I rather liked cos she had all the will and character and way more intelligence the others lacked. She was quite hilariously determined and even more so when we finally meet the guy she's so determined to reach. Bloody awesome twist of characterisation. Not to mention the instantly obvious fact that our heroine could learn some of that defiance while the pretty young thing could learn some meekness in return.

And just when it looked like our heroine had been taken out of the narrative, Heyer deftly brought her back in a hurt/comfort context and I cheered. Damned satisfying resolution both in terms of romance as well as hysterical awesomeness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Grand Sophy

Hello, I'm Felicia, and I looooove Georgette Heyer! I read my first Heyer, The Grand Sophy, last December and have not looked back. I will be sharing my reviews of Heyer novels here. So far, I have enjoyed every one I have read.

In the next several days, I'll be posting the Heyer reviews I've already written for my own blog, Scaling Mount TBR. I'll start with The Grand Sophy.

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Georgette Heyer's Regency romance, The Grand Sophy, a novel bubbling over with mirth, was just what I needed to shake me out of my recent reading doldrums. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I spent in the company of the irrepressible heroine, Sophy Stanton-Lacy, and her relatives and acquaintances.

I had never before read a Heyer novel, as I typically shy away from anything labeled a "romance." (This one even had the Harlequin logo on the cover!) But after seeing glowing reviews of her novels posted at Historical Tapestry and other blogs, I decided to give her a try, and I'm so glad I did! Her prose was witty and sparkling, her plot deftly spun and her characters mostly endearing. (Those who were not at least made me chuckle!)

A pall of gloom has settled over the Ombersley household. Charles Rivenhall, the eldest son, has used a large inheritance to bring his family from the brink of financial ruin (caused by his father's gambling debts). Consumed with worry over the future of his siblings, he has become joyless and humorless and - worse - has gotten himself engaged to Miss Eugenia Wraxton, an intolerably prim and proper young lady who never hesitates to let others know of her breeding and virtue.

As if that weren't enough, Charles's sister, Cecilia, is infatuated with a handsome poet who writes very bad verse and is a dead bore, to boot. Her romantic notions have blinded her to the virtues of a much worthier man who not only has money and position, but truly loves her. And younger son, Hubert, has gotten himself into financial trouble, which he naively hopes to rectify by betting on horses.

Into this mess storms cousin Sophy, with her unconventional forthrightness, boundless energy and determination to set everything to rights. Arriving for an extended stay after her father goes to Brazil on a diplomatic mission, Sophy immediately takes the measure of each family member. She has a kind heart, a keen intelligence and a gift for manipulation, and she uses these traits to nudge her relatives toward what she knows will make them happy (even if they have not realized it themselves). Charles is offended by her unconventional ways and frequently clashes with her, but Sophy refuses to back down, and despite his claims of intense dislike for her, a spark soon ignites between the two.

Sophy always stays one step ahead of Charles as he desperately tries to rein her in, but in the end, she finally meets her match in him. All is resolved in a perfectly choreographed scene, with each major character arriving at an Elizabethan country manor and pairing off with the right person.

Heyer sketched the personality of her characters with crackling dialogue. I could hear their voices in my head and predict how each character would react in different situations. The plot moved at a brisk pace and never got bogged down. I always enjoyed returning to Sophy's world and discovering what she would do next. If Heyer's other novels are half as much fun to read as this one, I will have found a writer to treasure.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Talisman Ring



I wasn't sure whether The Talisman Ring was a mystery or a romance when I picked it up but it proved to be quite a delightful read and I particularly loved how everyone was more or less of equal stature, no main leads with supporting characters but more of an ensemble. I was a bit nervous about the young excitable French thing being my only female protagonist so the arrival of Miss Thane with all her humour and intelligence was such a relief. And she only turned out to be a scream of a heroine.

Loved her, loved the way she humanised her hero, loved her totally singleminded brother. And was particularly pleased to see how the rather chilling villain was rendered almost sympathetic by the end. The love stories were handled with enough subtlety of detail and absurdity of humour within the greater context of the mystery to make me fall in love with Heyer all over again. She is Teh Awesome. Truly.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Reluctant Widow


The Reluctant Widow was pretty awesome. I had a total shout of mental laughter when I recognised the Jane Eyre governess premise. But oh how Heyer took it to such beautifully ridiculous heights. Bwee hee hee. She's so clever. *fangirls madly*

Loved our heroine, the strength and slight vulnerability of her. Particularly intrigued by the lack of physical detail given to our hero but omigod he was too too marvellous. He was so maddeningly reasonable that both our heroine and I reacted with the same choking indignation. Oh that was brilliant. Darling Heyer.

The Napoleonic spy intrigue was enough of a subplot for me to tolerate without getting bored. And the other characters made for a lovely mix of contrasts and humanity. Not to mention the dog! *squee* I finally realised what it is about Heyer writing animals that I love so much, that works so well. She writes them like she writes humans. There's no difference.

And I loved how bookish our heroine was! Actually, I'm fairly certain by now that Heyer's favourite Austen is Sense And Sensibility. Cos this is at least the third that references it. The other two named the novel. This one caused me no end of giggling with our heroine constantly accusing our hero of lacking all sensibility, to the point where he repeated it back to her. Too funny!

But omigod that final scene was so effective. I mean, written with such skill that I yelled about five times in my head "Kiss her! If you kiss her, she'll believe you! JUST KISS HER!" And then he did and it was perfect, resolved the scene to perfection.

Also, quite possibly one of the best last lines in a novel ever. *nods*

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Unknown Ajax

Whoops, I forgot for a few weeks there about Our Heyer. No matter, back on track now.



I had the damnedest time trying to read The Unknown Ajax. It just wouldn't hold my interest. I think I may have overdosed on Heyer's style to the point of taking it for granted. I glossed and skimmed rather than lost myself in every single sentence.

But oh man, totally awesome hero and fabulously smart heroine. And their conversations were the most delightful absurdities. Loved that, loved that, loved that. The rest of the characters and smuggling history and claustrophobic setting I could have done without.

And this wasn't helped one bit by the Spelling Mistakes (!!!) I found. At one point there was even the wrong name given to the hero! *boggles* Damnit, I'm going to have to actually go through the re-read with a black pen, aren't I? Bah.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Regency Buck


This was exactly what I wanted in terms of hero and heroine battling in magnificently fiery misunderstandings. Until towards the end when she suddenly lost all her energy and became rather stupid. I didn't like that one bit, didn't like the way Heyer allowed him to take over the narrative and drive the action. Damnit, our heroine could have just easily figured out the mystery and taken matters into her own hands. So I was quite miffed with that and found the recapping at the end quite unnecessary which even ruined the big declaration scene. *pout*

I did love finally seeing Beau Brummell --- god, Heyer makes him out to be utterly fascinating, I had such a different idea of him over the years, just like our heroine --- and all the royalty and the Pavilion at Brighton. Some excellent characterisation with the supporting players and I particularly loved the way she drew Mr Taverner. I was in two minds about him almost all the way and only the fact that it was a Regency romance gave me any certainty about who our heroine would end up with.

Faaaasscinating writing, Heyer. Flawed but fascinating. And seeing as this was published in 1935, yep, on with the evolution.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Foundling


The Foundling was too much like Charity Girl in terms of guy separated from girl for nearly threequarters of the narrative for me to enjoy it. Which was a damned shame cos they were so sweet and shy that I would have loved to read a novel where they spend the whole time in close proximity, learning to come out together. As it was, I quite liked how he gained his independence and found himself.

But argh, digressing from both main characters to the supporting ones just bored me to death. Too much too long, not innarested! Pretty much made me realise how long it's been since I've read a Heyer wherein boy battles with girl, tempers flying and intellects clashing. But hope springs and all that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Civil Contract



Can't say much for it except that it seemed a far more serious book, what with the money problems and the war, the latter of which I pretty much took to skimming and felt only slightly guilty. So no moments of laughing out loud. But oh marvellous characterisation with the heroine's father. He practically jumped off the page, so real and recognisable and fully three-dimensional. Struck dumb with awe again, yes.

It was a very strange love story, so subtle as to be almost non-existent, especially with the deliberate unprettiness of the heroine, very much about the mature love that comes from friendship rather than the burning passion of young love. As far as I was concerned, the story totally needed explicit sex so I was particularly intrigued and frustrated by Heyer covering that only in one phrase about 'awkward moments'. Had me squinting and glowering at the page, trying to read the invisible text, damnit. Mind you, I spent enough time speculating about whether our hero was Aquarian or Capricorn. *lol*

Written in 1961 which makes me wonder if Heyer felt the need to get 'serious' after forty years of writing fluffy romance. Except she didn't write only fluffy romance, did she? Nope. Me, I feel a little sad knowing I only have a few left to read. Inevitable but waaaahhhh ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Grand Sophy

Heyer, Georgette. 1950/2009. The Grand Sophy. SourceBooks. 372 pages.

Why couldn't Emma be more like Sophy? When Sophy Stanton-Lucy comes to visit her cousins (and stay with her aunt and uncle), she brings something vitally refreshing to the household. Charles Rivenhall, the 'man' of the household in a way, since he is the one holding the purse strings, is engaged to be married to a prim-and-proper (and-sometimes-meddling) young lady, Eugenia Wraxton. Cecelia Rivenhall is in love with a poet, Augustus Fawnhope. But her parents--and her brother--would much prefer her to marry Lord Charlbury. Unfortunately right after he spoke with her father but before he could present himself to the lady, he came down with the mumps. While he was out of the picture, Mr. Fawnhope stepped in speaking words of love and admiration. It is up to Sophy to puzzle out the ins and outs of this family and play matchmaker extraordinaire. Throw in a couple of her own suitors buzzing around the place--quite a few eccentrics I might add particularly Lord Bromford--and we've got the makings of a great romantic comedy. Sophy is a firecracker of a heroine with a mind of her own and the gumption to say and do what she pleases. But she also has a big heart. Her good intentions sometimes lead her to make 'poor' choices, but Sophy is strong enough and resourceful enough to take care of herself. A fact that just infuriates her cousin Charles.

Jane Austen's Emma may be a matchmaker like Sophy. But poor Emma is hopelessly stupid and selfish in comparison. The joke is always on Emma, everything is funny and charming in a way--but it is at her expense. Sophy is a delightful heroine. Sophy is far from selfish. She's always thinking of others. Wanting others to be happy--to get their happily ever afters. And she's observant as well. I loved Sophy. I did.

This is a fun little novel that I'm happy to recommend.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Corinthian


Heyer, Georgette. 1940/2009. The Corinthian. Sourcebooks. 261 pages.

The Corinthian is one of the funner Georgette Heyer novels I've read in recent months. Heyer is great at writing romantic comedies. True, Heyer isn't always the most original author, her books often follow a handful of different patterns. But they're patterns that work time and again. And there's the difference, in my opinion. There is something satisfying and delightful about her books, her characters. So some plot devices are familiar, that doesn't mean the stories and characters themselves are stale and uninteresting. Far from it actually. Her characters are ones that you want to spend time with.

In The Corinthian, we've got a bachelor, Sir Richard Wyndham, who happens to rescue a damsel in distress, Penelope Creed. Penelope set on running away from her aunt--who is encouraging her into a loveless marriage with her cousin Fred--is disguised as a boy. Richard, while on his way home and a bit drunk at that, sees Pen climbing out her window--by way of her bed sheets of course. He "catches" her just in time. Granted, this "she" is dressed as a he. But there's no fooling Richard. A bit amused at the situation, and wanting to run away himself to avoid an unpleasant appointment the next day, he decides to help out. She wants to escape London--and her aunt--and travel to Bristol (or near Bristol anyway). She's got a childhood friend, Piers, who she fancies herself madly in love with. Five (or so) years ago, these two promised themselves to each other. Hearing this tale, Richard decides to join in the journey and ensure her safety. The two will go together. He will act as her tutor-uncle-cousin and 'protect' her along the way. (Each identity is used on their journey at various stages.) Their journey is rarely boring--they get in and out of trouble along the way.

This one is playful and fun. There's some adventure thrown in as well--and a murder!--but at it's heart this is a romantic comedy.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cousin Kate



Cousin Kate was a curious read, though. It was thrillingly and deliciously gothic to the point of scaring me half to death. And the love story aspect was quite sweet and relatively straightforward, a wonderful mundane contrast to the high bizarre melodrama. I loved our heroine's wit and disarming straightforward manner. The hero could have been a little more interesting but it was sweet enough to see him be charmed by her.

But honestly, I don't know if Heyer was trying to emulate a particular goffic style or just being lazy because she kept lapsing into the most ridiculously long chunks of narrative or monologue. Totally unnecessary and damned near ruined the whole reading experience for me. Talk about keen disappointment. My Heyer has clay feet, wot?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cotillion


Cotillion is defined as "a type of patterned social dance that originated in France in the 1700s and was originally made up of four couples in a square formation, the forerunner of the quadrille ..."

Cotillion, Heyer-style, is three couples and one devious romantic 'hero' type making trouble and oh man, what a mad wonderful dizzying whirl of plot complications and highly contrasting characters. Well, technically a fourth couple is created very late in the piece and is so hysterical that okay yes, I'm now totally counting them as the official fourth. Hee!

Gosh, the characterisation was wonderful. Especially our hero! Cos from the blurb on the back, I had no idea what his name would be and had a vague memory from scanning some Heyer article that perhaps it would be Freddy but perhaps I remembered wrong. I did sort of hope it would be Hugh, the grave prickly Rector, but wasn't sure if that was entirely kosher.

But oh I certainly didn't expected our hero to be, as a friend rightly pointed out when I forced her to read the first two pages when he appears, a Bertie Wooster! Hysterically inarticulate but, unlike Wooster, marvellously practical and unaffected. So sensible that when everything came to a head, I was chafing and chafing for him to appear, so much so that when he did I had to burst out with "Oh thank god!"

And our heroine was gratifyingly spirited and indignant, compassionate and fair-minded. What I loved best was that she grew up and came out over the course of the novel, evolved her understanding of the world and of people in such a great steady smart way. Lovely character arc.

Which made the romance kind of refreshing in that it was a far more subtle deepening of a friendship and understanding with the passion emerging at exactly the right moment with exactly the right ferocity. I did like that for itself, knowing that this particular couple will be intimate friends as well as lovers, that they understand each other perfectly. So I was all wreathed with grins at the utterly sweet final scene. Hee.

I especially loved that the 'romantic hero' type was showed up in all his unpleasantness, that he didn't win the day, and that in effect the nice guys got the girls. So clever of Heyer and so sweet of her! *claps happily* 1953 this was written, evidence of a definite evolution, whee!

Oh Heyer. Thank you for existing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Devil's Cub


Omg, Devil's Cub was so awesome. Quite unwittingly I had built up high expectations and, though there were some doubts at the start, boy did it turn out wonderful.

He was so frightening! And bloodthirsty! And frightening! Drunken, violent, cruel, reckless, immoral, misogynistic Bad Man! My brow was crinkled for much of the first half, wondering how Heyer was going to redeem this quite alarming man and render him sympathetic and beloved to me, wondering if she could.

Omg Heyer, allow me to bow down.

And my hope/suspicion was borne out quite beautifully cos from the moment our heroine did a certain thing, our hero became human and all the more considerate. I was totally hanging out to hear him confess that that was precisely the moment he fell in love with her but unfortunately that didn't happen.

He did declare himself in the most deliciously fervent terms at the end and oh, had me beaming ear to ear in the middle of court. Nothing like a romance wonderfully realised.

Our heroine was an interesting character from a writer point of view. Cos she was introduced with a lot of promise, the word 'bluestocking' even was used which got the reader me all excited, and she was quietly sarcastic to her absolutely appalling mother. Then I was fairly disappointed to see her behave with such primness and propriety for a good long while. But every now and then she would do the most brazen defiant thing that had me gasping with admiration and privately cheering her on. So it was a very odd mix of demure but defiant and I'm still not entirely sure I approve or like her very much.

But certainly she was the exact sort of personality to calm him down and handle him, which she pretty much admits. It was very much the way Jane manages Rochester in the early days and you could look at her behaviour as passive aggressive manipulation but oh it was too much fun to watch him be tamed. No greater joy in the romance reading experience.

Could have done without the exposition of the previous book but it was pretty awesome to see most of those characters and see how they've changed and stayed the same. I did think that perhaps Heyer hadn't quite mastered the hilarity of the verbal misunderstandings yet cos they were a bit too messy, not quite as deftly handled as in the later books I've read, and went for a little longer than absolutely necessary.

But ahahahahaha, awesome plot and fabulous complications and an excellent amount of characters driving their own plots, all intersecting, overlapping, tripping over each other and finally resolving with the most breathtaking elegance. I mean, damn, Heyer!

I particularly adored how she had our most deliciously dangerous Duke appear near the start of the novel and then not reappear until the very end when everything seemed hopeless. It was too too marvellous, that moment we recognise him when our heroine has never met him before. A cheer went up in my head.

Really Heyer managed the taming of her devil's cub to perfecton. Cos not only was what she did necessary but then to have what he did at the end was exactly what we needed in order to know he would never again be so violent and bloodthirsty even if it is to claim her. I was convinced, anyway.

And hee, the lovely weariness of Mr Fox and the unchanged boyish exclamations of Rupert and the ramblings of Fanny ... so excellent to have them all colour in the humour of Heyer. I wonder exactly how many years come between the writing of this and These Old Shades. I assumed they came directly after but no, this was written in '32 and that was in the Twenties, wasn't it? Intreeeguing. I should look it up now but I can't be arsed.

*** This is a relatively spoiler free version of my original review ... here it is in all its spoilery glory. Consider yourself warned. :p

Saturday, June 27, 2009

These Old Shades



Curious experience. Was Heyer not sure whether to go for drama or for comedy or did she deliberately pitch it between the two so she could move from one to the other? I did note it was written in the Twenties so perhaps she was still figuring out what she wanted to write. But then I got distracted by the memory of The Masqueraders also written in the Twenties and hallo, again with the genderbending, Our Georgette. Intreeeeeeguing. I can totally see myself hunting down a biography or something once I've cut a thorough swathe through the Regency romances.

But oh, despite bracing myself for the non-Regency fashions, I was quite hooked and did enjoy it far more than expected. Maybe because of the shifting tone and definitely because of the fascinating plot and the utterly enigmatic hero. Yeek! I mean, really he's so sinister at the start and, while I was vaguely amused at the very homoerotic dynamic set up between him and his friend, it almost bordered on paedophilia when our heroine disguised as a boy arrived. Pederasty, isn't it? Cos you only know the page is a girl if you've read the blurb on the back.

Man, I liked that device so much, of Heyer narrating in the facade with masculine pronouns instead of telling us the secret up front like she did in The Masqueraders. Makes for such interesting reading, a great secret thrill of conspiracy between her and us, that knowing wink. So it was a bit annoying to see the page be so revoltingly wide-eyed and adoring. Argh! I keep wanting to read Heyer write a snarky girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy and really get into the gender issues, elbows flying and all. Cos, having read The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and this, clearly it's a trope that captured her imagination for a while. I wonder if she felt she'd explored it all she could within the parameters of the decade and her own ability.

Only when I was a good way in did I realise or remember that this is a sort of sequel or at least references events in The Black Moth and man, did that make me grind my teeth cos all of a sudden I wanted to read that one even though I'm fairly certain it's too soon in my Heyer journey to properly appreciate her 'juvenilia'. And the irony is I wouldn't be reading These Old Shades if I didn't know it's a prequel to the book I really want to read, Devil's Cub. *lol*

But there were enough clues to piece together the story quite nicely and chuckle at the characters four years on and delight at Heyer writing a love story for the bad guy in that novel. I did love the way she redeemed him but still chill us as to his fiendish mind. And argh, his sarcasm ... *dies with happiness* He was so viciously subtle and droll. The conversation with the fellow who comes to buy the page, the one who keeps talking about his wife ... oh man, that killed me with giggles.

He was so marvellous, even with his horrible fashions and foppish ways. *shudders* La, sir, the only fop I adore is Percy Blakeney! But I consoled myself that the Duke of Avon could very well be what Heyer imagined Blakeney to be before the Revolution. Still what bloody amazing nerve to have such a fop as our hero. Not just a bad guy but a foppish bad guy who picks up a fan in the course of the novel! *convulses* Dude, Heyer. You rock. Although I do wish you would stop calling so many characters Anthony. This is the third I've encountered and really, that's more than enough, thank you.

The heroine did nothing for me. Frankly, she was a bit of a credulous idiot, witlessly adoring, frequently obnoxious and annoying. And when she talked to herself, she was even more annoying! No, I did not care for her at all. I'm really rather hoping the heroine in Devil's Cub will be a lot wittier and more interesting but, keeping my theory of Heyer heroines in mind, it prolly won't be the case. No matter if so, I'll buy Frederica and re-read that next.

Marvellous use of the younger sister and brother. My god, how Heyer distinguishes voices just takes my breath away. I could hear them, that capture of pace and intonation was just perfect. She's so incredible with dialogue. Argh. *foams at the mouth with envy* And I do love her over-abundance of commas and exclamation marks. I'd scream if I saw them in anyone else's work. In hers, they seem to fit right into the delightful satire and so I feel quite a horrid glee at each burst of such.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"My Lord John"

"My Lord John: A tale of intrigue, honor and the rise of a king" by Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402213533
Price: $14.99
449 pages (includes Genealogy charts, preface, characters, glossary and reading guide)
Publication Date: May 2009 by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating: 1.75 - 2 stars

"Set in the last days of the reign of Richard II, just before Henry V succeeded him to the throne, the eponymous hero is Henry's brother, John, Duke of Bedford. Heyer brings the medieval world to life, creating a panoramic view of a royal family's intricacies, intrigues and sibling rivalries, along with the everyday lives of the servants, clerics, and vassals in their charge."

That blurb is significant to remember as you read this. It is quite true regarding the details that Heyer retells, and when preparing my own review of the book I had specifically come up with the word "panoramic" to describe this, and afterwards realized that the description was not unique to me. But the word fits splendidly due to the nature of the book. My Lord John is immediately plagued by a quagmire of names... so much so, that I doubt that anyone unfamiliar with the era of Medieval times up to the Wars of the Roses would even want to attempt to understand what is going on here. I have read medieval fiction and non-fiction before but this one starts off with so many names including nurses, wives etc. having dialogues with each other without proper introductions to the reader that I had to stop reading and brush up again on the nobility of Medieval England. When you open a novel that begins with pages of family tables and genealogical references, you know you'll need to get your thinking cap on.

Heyer opens this novel up with 1393 - 1399 when Richard II is king, and is known as Cousin Richard to the lordings (the children) that we are immediately introduced to. Right off the bat I came across some interesting words that I had to look up. (Barbican, postern, herber.) This time I had the forethought to look in the back of the book and found the glossary and a reading guide! Heyer captures the dialogues between the lords with seemingly accurate phrases for Medieval times (hence the need for the glossary) and jumps right into her settings without much of a preamble. The story continues with the lordings of Henry of Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) and the small details of their comings and goings as they learn through gossip and messengers the goings-on of their King, Cousin Richard and the political upheaval the King creates which drastically effects the children. These lordings of Henry of Bolingbroke are number four boys and two girls, but the most important are Harry and John and given the most attention to in Part I. Harry who later becomes King Henry V after his own father is king, is taken under the wing of Richard II (or taken hostage, depends on how you look at it), and John is the My Lord John as referred to in the title. (I am really struggling to not turn this into a history lesson!).

Major events occur around the family such as the headstrong uncle to the King Richard, Thomas Woodstock is murdered after being sent into exile, more plots and arrests and soon after the children's father, Henry of Bolingbroke is also sent away. Hence, uprisings among the families and the start of the Wars of The Roses soon after that although not reaching that part in the book. I soon found that I was becoming engrossed with the story once it started to feel like Heyer was staying in one place with the characters at this point, but then she lost me again as we reach the 1400's when John becomes a Lord Warden in the North. The transition of King Henry IV after King Richard is deposed is cumbersome and drawn out. Heyer attempts to recreate the relationship of the boys with their father King Henry, but the grasp is tenuous at best. John's elder brother Harry is sent to deal with the Welsh and Owen Glendower. Their brother Thomas goes to Ireland. The two sisters Phillippa and Bess are married off and scarcely mentioned again except when the one dies which causes heartache for her father the King. Ongoing rivalries plague Lord John, the relationships with the nobles and the King are the focus, and the outcome of traitors and heretics are dispersed throughout. The problems with the new Pope are mentioned and the politics with their neighboring countries are also discussed, always in the glazed overview of minute details over and over.

The relationship between Henry and Harry, father and son, is also a running theme throughout the book, as the one is destined to succeed the other. The rivalries of the many families are a confusing mess throughout the book, with seemingly every family name featured such as Beauforts, Nevilles, Hastings, Beauchamps, Huntingdon, Kent, Despenser.. the list goes on and on and I am quite thankful for handy reference guide in the beginning of the book: four and a half pages devoted to "The Characters", and I enjoyed the Genealogy tables as well as the preface written by Heyer's husband.


Heyer fans like me who have only read her romance and mystery novels are in for an about face, as this is truly pure historical in nature and not with the usual comedic settings or romantic rendezvous nor the tongue-in-cheek of slapstick comedy romps that Heyer is best known for. At first look I believed I could only recommend this work to those who are very familiar with the background of this turbulent era, and for those who would like a closer look at John and the circumstances of his upbringing and his relationship with his family. But the fact that there was no sense of satisfaction from this book, I now hesitate to recommend this at all. I cannot truly imagine there being any new insights here that would be better be accomplished through reading a less time consuming and more engaging book.

I wanted to really, really like this novel, but this time I have to say that as both a Heyer fan, and Medieval era fan, I obviously did not enjoy this. It started to become a chore for me but I was pulled through only by Heyer's interpreting of the dialogues between the subjects which were interesting if they were not interrupted by Heyer's backtracking through explanatory history. Through the conversations of the nobles is when Heyer's wit shone through, unfortunately there was just not enough of this to make this tome worthwhile to me. It is said that Heyer researched meticulously for this book, which was published after her death, and she originally had intended to publish three books. Perhaps if more drama was inserted within which would merit it a historical fiction work, and indeed separating out and dramatizing the major events throughout the three books, this endeavor would have succeeded. But instead, a billion details about many characters of the time are squashed into 440 pages that lack the typical Heyer flair. The wording that Heyer uses to detail the story does not promote its readability, it actually hindered any progress that could have been made. It also had the feeling of one step forward, two steps back with the myriad of recollections of events amidst the current storyline.

The wording was dull, dry and emotionless and read more like a text book rather than the intended novel. There is zero romance, and I am very confused as to why on the Amazon website the editorial review is "rapturously romantic". Unless the use of 'romantic' the reviewer meant antiquated. Not a single romance brewing unless of course the mere mention of a death of one wife and the marrying of another (or the mentioning of having an affair) is what is called romantic! The Amazon tags also bring up Romance and Regency in several forms and there is none of that in this work. The cover for this book, although pretty, has nothing to do with this book either. I would put a warrior's shield on it in place of the woman (or even a man to represent John). The fact that the book trudges along for endless pages till its absolute insane conclusion in MID-SENTENCE because Heyer's manuscript breaks off there is utterly asinine!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Masqueraders



I confess I had high hopes for this one considering it features a double crossdressing. Unfortunately, Heyer didn't quite bring the rest of her formidable talent to the table.

Don't mistake me. The brother in drag was marvellous, absolutely marvellous. But he was quite let down by our heroine. Our hero was quite unflatteringly described as a mountain, over and over again to the point where I never felt like I was given a chance to fall in love with him. And there was a curious distance between the characters and the narrative, like Heyer hadn't quite managed how to get into the hearts and souls of her lovers, really unpack the intricacies of their personalities so we could love them for all their faults and idionsycracies.

Thing that disappoints me the most? Our heroine didn't do anything. Even in drag, all she did was attend parties and stand around and talk a little. There was no real vivacity, no engagement, no power as a protagonist. And the one time she got into serious trouble, our hero literally rode in and saved her. *sighs heavily* She was entirely too passive and too stolid for my liking.

I mean, part of me really admires Heyer for having such a range of heroines --- the naive pretty young thing, the sarcastic bluestocking, the spirited hoyden, the quiet respectable type --- and how she never writes the same character twice. And one day in the distant future, I fully intend to read all the Regency romances of Heyer in chronological order because I'm beginning to suspect her heroines get a lot more interesting as she grows older. *nods*

It didn't help that it's set pre-Regency so the fashions were not at all sexy to me. All those details of fashion and visuals that I usually adore and savour and cherish here verged on boredom and even caused an occasional cringe.

It could have been so marvellous if Heyer had given both brother and sister an equality of temperament, fierce and volatile and spirited. I know she does like to balance her siblings out which is fair enough but it worked to a completely deleterious effect here. I'd like to have seen them both struggle with their roles, have all sorts of comical mishaps and introduce all sorts of gender discourse. This was just so placid ...

As it was, I turned to the front to check when this particular book was written, thinking perhaps it was a Seventies book. Nearly fell out of my chair when I read 1928. GOOD GOD, HEYER! Would this have been racy then? I don't know nearly enough about the gender discourse and fads of the Twenties to know whether having a guy in drag for three quarters of the novel would be a shocking or a delicious thing then. So perhaps Heyer went as far as she could for the times. I can't help but wish she'd gone further.

Certainly I recognised the whole highwayman romance homage/parody. Pity it's not a trope that appeals to me any more. I think it did at one time, perhaps when I was in the throes of my Scarlet Pimpernel loff. It was glamourous, yes, but far too serious, not nearly enough of Heyer's thrilling sarcasm. And the occasional killing left me a little queasy, with the characters reacting as casually as they did.

Mind you, I did like the cleverness of the final twist. Made me laugh at myself. There's that glimmer of Heyer wit I adore.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Arabella



Vastly amusing, this one, and a damned awesome plot. I was a bit underwhelmed by the naivete of our heroine until she ran into our hero and holy god, the way she fired up was something awesome to behold. Too too awesome.

And the way Heyer writes children and animals just makes me want to clutch her feet and sob total worship. God, imagine if she'd written children's lit! Although it was curious that for the first time I could actually pick out phrases or sentences that were identical to Austen. Don't know if that's Heyer's fault or Andrew Davies' BBC adaptation or Nick Dear's film adaptation --- one word, one look from Persuasion --- or actually Austen. Postmodernism for the argh!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Faro's Daughter


Frankly I wasn't looking forward to Faro's Daughter because nothing bores me more in a story than extended fretting about money and I figured any narrative featuring gambling would bring the inevitable. But man, the violence of our two leads totally took me aback, the way they reacted with such fiery antagonism to each other and flew off the handle at the least opportunity.

Luckily, Heyer reined them in just at the right moment and maybe the novelty of such characterisation kept me reading when I might have cried off in disgust. As it was, their violence made me keenly anticipate the moment when each was brought down, Slain By Their Loff That They Could Not Foight. And ooh, his was marvellous. A great "Ha!" moment. I don't recall hers so clear. Hmm. Ah well. *shrug*

Plus they were surrounded by enough amiable characters to make for lovely subplots, appreciable both in terms of reader emotion and writer skill. I did want to see a novel devoted to Lucius, just to get to know him better and see what sort of woman would match him wit for devious wit. But I suspect maybe I liked him better than Heyer eventually did. Mmm.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Convenient Marriage


Heyer, Georgette. 1934. The Convenient Marriage. Reprinted by Sourcebooks, 2009.

"Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies. In face of the rumour which had come to her ears it would be too provoking if all the Winwood ladies were to withhold themselves."

We meet the Winwood family early on in The Convenient Marriage. We spy on them (in a way) as Mrs. Maulfrey comes to call--or should I say get the juicy gossip on the latest news in the family. Elizabeth, the oldest sister is upset and rightfully so. Her mother, Lady Winwood, has just agreed to an engagement between her and the rich Earl Rule. The problem? Elizabeth is in love with a poor (at least relatively speaking) soldier, a Mr. Edward Heron. Charlotte, the middle sister, doesn't see what the big deal is. After all, in her way of thinking marriage doesn't amount to much. She has no interest--so she claims--in becoming someone's wife. But the youngest sister, Horatia feels her sister's pain. And she's determined--though she stutters or stammer and has thick eyebrows--to do something to solve this dilemma. She gives Mr. Heron her word that she will not let their hearts be broken. Her plan is quite bold and quite wonderful. By that I mean it is deliciously entertaining. The first few chapters of this one are so full of promise. Especially the second and third chapters. If there was an award for the best-ever-second-chapter-in-a-book, I'd nominate The Convenient Marriage.

However, the book soon settles down. As you can probably guess from the title, it is about a marriage--a husband and wife. Marcus Drelincourt (a.k.a. The Earl, or Marcus, or simply 'Rule') and his wife, Horatia (or Horry). And since the marriage occurs early in the book--by page sixty--the reader knows that there must be some drama in the works. And indeed there is. There's the former (and somewhat still current) mistress who's jealous and spiteful, Lady Massey. There's the cousin-who-would-inherit-it-all-if-only-Rule-would-hurry-up-and-die, Mr. Crosby Drelincourt, a cousin. And the villainous and cold-hearted Lord Lethbridge. All three of these people add to the drama--each in their own little way. All want to get revenge on Rule. All want to see the happy little couple become miserable. And oh the plotting that goes on that tries to break up this pair!

Horatia's closest friend is her brother, Pelham. Though he's a bit of a gambler--and often an unlucky one at that--he's got a good heart. I don't know if it was Heyer's intent to make him so likable, so enjoyable, but I just really liked him in spite of his flaws. He truly had his sister's best interests at heart. And she does need someone to look out for her with all the villains roaming about the town (or should that be ton) out for revenge.

None of the characters in The Convenient Marriage are perfect. All are flawed in one way or another. But the relationships are genuinely enjoyable, and are quite well done. The atmosphere of The Convenient Marriage--much like Heyer's other novels--is so rich, so detailed, so luxuriously drawn. The society. The fashion. The wit. The charm. The dangers of being unique in a world where conformity reigns. The delicate balance between being respectable, being boring, and being the Talk or Toast of the ton.

Recommended.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews