“Desolation might make a man fiendish” applies to the count when he makes life for both himself and his family all the more miserable and the mere contemplation that his only daughter is in employment with the duke whom he had reviled all his life is beyond forbearance. If death could only placate the public disgrace…
The first in the series of the Alastair trilogy is the taster of romance, comedy, action and adventure encompassed in one course. TOS is a picture perfect comedy set against the backdrop of pre-regency and post-Jacobite rebellion. The entr’acte of the story spectacles with Leonie dissembling as Justin’s (Avon) page, giving an opportunity for Avon to reprise his arch enemy, the comte de saint vire. It is unbeknownst to the world that comte is Leonie’s father and on unearthing this singularly significant information, Justin manipulates a strategy that would result in the acquaintance of the truth with the society and also right Leonie in the eyes of the world.
Sinsyne, from a page she ameliorates to a position of a ward where she gets launched into the society with a great deal of success. In the mean while, the Comte taking desperate attempts in shielding the truth, in one situation, intimidates Leonie to a situation accentuating debase and infamy; that in cognizance of which she is driven to the folly of leaving the duke’s shelter. This being rendered fallow, his predicament leaves him with no option but to kidnap her. Nevertheless, Leonie’s intellect should not be underestimated; no sooner than being said she slips out of his hold and returns to her monsignor. The Comte envisages a stiff counter in Avon who has expedited obtaining of the proof than the former had expected. A society gathering is what Avon needs to hyperventilate the already disheveled Comte constraining him to shoot himself at the countess’s outburst of the truth. Leonie is righted, but the only missing piece in the wholesome happiness is her fallacy to have fallen below Avon’s standards; in the belief of their union being unbefitting ,her confusion is only momentary to last long, ends in their nuptials.
TOS is a hilarious and a preeminent fiction portraying the best of the hero and heroine along with a laudable supporting cast. Justin (aka devil, as Tracy Belmonair from TBM) essays the role of an outlandish hero with a shady past and an evil smirched reputation (satanas); whose thoughts and principles are practically outside the comprehensions and capability of any normal person. From the start till the end he remains to be on dictating terms, unfathomable and versatile and acts a sculpture lacking emotion and expression. He is quite composed until he sets eyes on Leonie, his complete opposite. The counterpart of Avon, she is quick-tempered, pertinacious, and unruly and to top it, tongue lashing, but the way she twists Avon around her little finger, as Rupert puts it, is pretty on her part. She has a childlike reverence for Avon that purges him of all his flagitiousness. She seems to be the one person Justin would die to please, love and laugh with. Thus the notorious rake redeems in the passionate love making of Leonie. Their love is quite subtle while it expels his one time fascination for Jennifer (Diana Beuleigh).
The incorrigible Rupert (Andrew), the fussy Fanny (Lavinia) and the convivial Merrivales ( supposedly to be jack carstares of TBM) who assist in the plan also add to the story though the best is the Comte who is bad enough to swap his daughter for the sake of the title and his death serves the good purpose of restoring what he impounded from her. His mania for title mists up his vision over the honorable where it shatters his whole family for nothing. His conscience suffers no pang over the unjustifiable sin he had committed and he isn’t anxious to reconcile Leonie even during the last few minutes before he chooses death. Sardonically, it is ignominy and not remorse that drives him to such measures.
TOS is purported to be the resurrection of TBM from the villain's part. The characters of her first novel reappear under different names and enchant us with more humor. Tracy (Justin in TOS), duc of andover falls in love with Diana Beuleigh (jennifer), but is unsuccessful in winning her heart which is already lost to jack.
In an attempt to force her hand, he kidnaps her from under Jack’s(lover of Diana, merrivale in TOS) nose.This gives a likely explanation for the unspoken understanding between jenny and Avon in TOS. He knows he has lost her to jack/merrivale, but not until he meets the titian hair beauty(leonie) that he realizes he is not entirely vanished in fate. I especially like Heyer's concern in setting up Tracy in some way or another so that victory appears on both sides. By bringing Leonie, she has brought life not only to tracy/avon but also to those who deeply felt for Tracy's ill fortune (like I did).
TOS is one of my evergreen favorites as no one but Heyer could cook up a story as sweet and exciting as this.