Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Georgette Heyer Re-Release

Sourcebooks is re-releasing many of Georgette Heyer's classic historical and Regency romances, and I was fortunate enough to receive one to review. Ms. Heyer was first published in her teens and is credited not only for revising the popularity of historical romance but creating the English Regency Romance. I have been reading historical romance for about thirty years and had never read anything by the Grand Dame of this genre until now; boy was I missing out!
The book I received was Devil's Cub, copyright 1932. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it definitely has withstood the test of time. It appears to take place sometime between the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, as our hero and heroine travel from London to Paris and all over France.
Arrogant Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal spends his time gambling, driving his carriage too fast, dueling, and despoiling young women. He has set his eye on Sophia Challoner, a silly girl with good bloodlines, whose family has been cut off from their fortunes, and is encouraged in her romance by her foolish, greedy mother. Mary, her elder sister is not about to allow Sophia to ruin their family reputation, making things even more difficult than the simple but comfortable middle-class existence they currently enjoy. Through a series of intrigues and misunderstandings, Mary ends up on Lord Vidal's yacht as he flees London after a badly played duel. Docking in Dieppe, France, Vidal begins to realize that Mary is not a silly miss like her sister while she nurses a wound she gave him with a rapier. Staying in their inn, the two begin to respect and like each other. While Mary is determined to find a job in France and make her own way in the world, Vidal has decided they must marry to protect her reputation. More characters and sub plots are introduced as family members from both sides follow the couple across the Channel, whether purposely or by happenstance. As this is a romance, I'm sure I don't need to tell you the conclusion of Mary and Vidal's story.
Ms. Heyer has created an interesting, well-rounded character in Mary Challoner. In today's historical romances, the heroine is usually educated, witty, bold; practically a woman of the 2010s, instead of the 1810s. Mary, while being educated and witty, is more subdued than a contemporary author may have written her, but still spunky and intelligent. Mary does not look for trouble, but is resourceful when it finds her, quickly putting together a plan to save her sister's reputation, grabbing a rapier to defend her own, and pragmatically devises a way to support herself in a foreign land. I found Vidal much more difficult to get to know. As the book opens, I actually found him unappealing as a person, which is unusual. His disdain and disregard for anyone else, including his compatriots (I can't call them friends) and family (other than his mother), were more than off-putting. I warmed to him as the story unfolded, but never felt like he truly opened to the reader, or to Mary. Vidal is the aloof hero, a staple of the historical romance. Devil's Cub, as well as many other of Georgette Heyer's books are currently available in paperback. Any of them would make a great gift for the romance readers in your life.


Carla said...

How interesting!! Wouldn't she enjoy your review?!:)

Heart-watch said...

Thank you for your review!