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: