Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter XII

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER XII: MY LORD DICTATES A LETTER AND RECEIVES A VISITOR

Well, as chapter titles go, this one is slightly less thrilling than the turning rescuer and coming nigh to losing his life promise of the last one. However, life cannot be all danger and excitement and have-at-you dueling on country laneways. Sometimes, letters must be dictated, visitors must be received, and so it is that Jack awakens groggily after a convalescence lasting a whole week to be confronted by Diana’s redoubtable Aunt Betty, abjuring him to be still and to stay in bed and not to do such foolish things as to attempt to pen his own correspondence. (They have quite a verbal tussle about it. It’s really quite entertaining.) Hence the dictation, of course: he must at once assure not only the faithful, doubtless apoplectic Jim of his continuing survival, but also his recently rediscovered friend, Sir Miles.

It is in the course of composing his note to the latter that Jack almost makes a colossal blunder and reveals his real name. “Car–” is as far as he gets before catching himself and suddenly becoming the simple Mr. Carr. Another chapter, yet another alias for our ever-incognito John “Jack” Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham.

Before long, the faux Carr receives the promised visitor and it is, of course, the hopelessly devoted Miles. He brings news of not only Jim, but of Jenny the Wonder Horse (in case you’re wondering, she pulled a fetlock or something after Jack was arrested for highway robbery a few chapters back, and had to stay at the O’Haras to recuperate. No mention, though, of the hapless steed tasked to replace her, but who seems to have performed creditably throughout Jack’s rescue of Diana.). Both are hurrying thither, Jim awash with remorse for forgetting to load his master’s pistols, and Jenny… well, whatever it is that horses are.

Our hero then recounts the tale of his roadside altercation with Tracy, Duke of Andover, after which Jack unaccountably defends Tracy from Miles’s insistence that he is a “dirty scoundrel!” Jack’s all convinced that his cunning disguise of mask and French accent must have worked on Devil, because surely “He could not try to kill in cold blood a man he had hunted with, and fenced with—.” Oh, no, surely! Jack’s also weirdly understanding about Tracy’s attempt to (remember, now) kidnap and rape the gently reared Miss Diana Beauleigh. Miles protests against Tracy’s “foul mind” and Jack says mildly: “Where women are concerned, yes. Otherwise–’tis not such a bad fellow, Miles.” Which is kind of like saying that, except for that one little thing where he likes to eat people with a side of fava beans, Hannibal Lecter’s actually a pretty decent guy.

At least Jack doesn’t try to give us any of that “Well, he’s a Belmanoir, he doesn’t have any choice” crap.

After much solicitous inquiry after freaking Jenny again (ugh, what is this, Tijuana?), Miles finally takes his leave, and soon enough servant Jim arrives, full of apologies. He is quickly forgiven the oversight that led to his master being essentially unarmed (“Rubbish! I’d a sword, hadn’t I?” Jack demands, amusingly) and is thence allowed the very great privilege of changing his lord’s bandages. The chapter then ends on this slightly HoYay note that would have the teenagers shipping these two if this were a CW superhero show:

“That is much better,” [Jack] said. “You have such a light touch, Jim.”

The man’s face reddened with pleasure, but he said nothing, and walked away to the window to draw the curtains.

THOUGHTS

Thunder and turf! Zounds! These are just a few of the exclamations Sir Miles is heard to utter in this book; most particularly, here, it is in response to the revelation that Devil Belmanoir had been attempting to make off with Miss Beauleigh in a daring carriage hold up. Why can’t we still talk like that today?

“Darling, I think I’m pregnant.” “Thunder and turf!”

“Did you hear about the boss? He’s been skimming from the till.” “Zounds!”

When you think about it, we are so… limited, in our exclamatory vocabularies nowadays, aren’t we? We’re all “Wow!” and “Cool!” and “Awesome!,” and sure, the kids like to come up with new ways to express their appreciation of the latest zombie-killing video game every week, it seems (all of which are spelt incorrectly, of course), but where’s the poetry gone? Where’s the verve? The denizens of Georgette Heyer’s world make use of “Lud!” and “’pon rep” and “By Jupiter!” and, seriously, “Zounds!”. How great is zounds? It’s “yikes,” but on steroids.

That’s it. I’m bringing “zounds” back. Just you wait and see.


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

 

Jennifer Kloester on Georgette Heyer and Heyer Society

At the Melbourne launch of the book on February 5 at Readings, Carlton, contributor and Georgette Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester spoke on her work, Heyer’s work, and Heyer Society – Essays on the Literary Genius of Georgette Heyer.

Here, we present a few videos of her very entertaining and informative presentation.

Jennifer Kloester on Sir Richard Rougier

Jennifer Kloester on Social Media and Book Sales

Jennifer Kloester on Heyer’s Humour and Legacy

Jennifer Kloester on Heyer Society and Growing Up with Heyer

Jennifer Kloester on Changing Attitudes to Georgette Heyer

POLL: Favorite Pet in Heyer

In all of historical romance — indeed, in all of fiction! — Georgette Heyer wrote some of the very best, most adorable and lovable, pets. Which is your favorite? Or is your favorite not here? Let us know in the Comments!  

Name Your Favourite Heyer Pet.
37 votes

ALL POLLS

 

 

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter XI

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER XI: MY LORD TURNS RESCUER AND COMES NIGH ENDING HIS LIFE

If a thrill doesn’t go through you at that somewhat exposition-y title, then clearly there is something fundamentally wrong with your very soul. Turns rescuer! Comes nigh to ending his life! Oooh!

Can you guess what happens?

So, here’s Jack, farewelling the O’Haras and promising to visit again soon. (Sure, they say they’ll call…) Coming along a lonely road, what should he see but a coach pulled over and a lovely young lady struggling against a would-be abductor while an elderly woman valiantly attempts to guard her charge’s virtue. To one side there is a man silently watching – “the stage manager,” Jack believes.

Yes, friends, you have it! He has come upon the very scene we have long been expecting, the fruition of that devilish Devil, the Duke of Andover’s plans to forcibly seduce that perspicacious young beauty with whom he is infatuated, Miss Diana Beauleigh. Of course, our hero doesn’t yet know this. All he knows is that a lady is being importuned in quite the most ungentlemanly way, and since he is our hero, he cannot be having that. So he dons his highwayman guise, shoots a bad guy “through the neck” – bye, nameless evil Red Shirt! – draws his blade and discovers that his opponent is the very Tracy Belmanoir with whom he has previously had dealings.

Hastily adopting a pronounced French accent, he cunningly disguises his identity from his brother-in-law (you’re related if your siblings are married to each other, right?) and the two fight with swords! It is quite the thrilling combat, too, all things considered, lots of parrying and thrusting and something called “tierce.” Tracy, of course, is an expert swordsman from way back, but Jack was a fencing master in Paris, if you will recall, and we know that he further picked up all kinds of tricks while on his extended European gap year. He bests “M. le Duc,” but never having intended to kill him – though the reverse was not true; Tracy wanted to kill the French guy who had recognized him bad – he allows him to live via a whole bunch of Three Musketeers-esque Gallic wit and gallantry.

A gallantry Tracy totally betrays, the rat bastard! Having promised to be good, he nevertheless draws a pistol on an unarmed man (well, okay, there’s still the sword, but unless he’s Jet Li, that’s not going to do him much good against a  handgun, no matter how old-fashioned), and it is only through a quick, possibly Matrix-style dodge that Jack manages to be hit merely in the shoulder and not the heart. Tracy sucks, man! But Jack manages to hold it together, having captured all of the other guns the attendees of Tracy’s little kidnapping field trip had to hand, and sends the Duke and his minions off rape victim-less, while he is the recipient of much gratitude and cosseting by a very relieved, yet concerned, Diana.

Soon passing out through, one presumes, blood loss, Jack is bundled into the coach with Diana and her aunt – who was the elder lady, of course – and we are told that they are close to the Beauleigh home. And so, with Jack proclaimed “handsome” and “brave” (Diana is immediately taken with his “aristocratic nose”; seriously, what is that?) off they go, the rescuees having neatly become the rescuers, and with one of them half in love with the chivalrous Jack already.

(Someone really should tell her he only has eyes for his mare.)

THOUGHTS

Jack shot a guy through the neck! A bad guy, sure, but a guy nonetheless; perhaps even one with a hopeful family waiting for him at home. Did Jack need to shoot him through the neck? Maybe. The dude was waving about two loaded pistols. But the fact that he did it from concealment, and without even really attempting to discover if what he thought was happening here was actually correct – hey, Diana could have been a fugitive from justice, or something – means that a very good case could be made here for first degree murder.

I’m not saying it wasn’t cool. It was damn cool. What I’m saying is… Jack may be the kind of courtly gentleman who readily plays knight in masked armor to attractive damsels in distress, but in his own way he’s as casually vicious as Tracy; which is not so much an indictment of him as of the brutal times in which he lived. And then! There is not a single mention made of what is to be done with the body of the shot-through-the-neck guy as the chapter concludes. (No one thinks about the henchmen!)

Instead, it’s all just about sending off the Duke like a naughty child, without even a “If you touch her again…” kind of threat made; this, despite the fact that he broke the fragile truce he’d just been given by attempting a little first-degree murder of his own. (Ha! He only managed the shoulder, but Jack shot a guy through the neck at a far greater distance! Tracy is just getting less and less attractive, isn’t he?) The Duke’s the one who’s all “If I ever see you again…” threatening, and Jack’s all just like, “Dude, I don’t care, just give me your filigreed and monogrammed sword. It’s not distinctive at all and I am sure will not show up later as an important plot point.”

Actually, what he said was:

“It will–not be necessary for–m’sieu to–take his sword,” said Jack. “I have a–desire to keep–it as a–souvenir. Yes.”

And all the stammering was because he just got shot in the shoulder, as anyone who was not a moron might have suspected would happen.

Now, look. I get that this world in which Jack resides – or, at least, used to reside – is one built on elaborate codes of honor and such, but how DUMB do you have to be not to check the guy you’ve just beaten in a sword fight and then magnanimously allowed to live for some other kind of weapon? At the very least, you get the old lady to pat him down. It just makes sense! Especially, one would think, if you had any past acquaintanceship with someone as oily as our villainous Black Moth. Jeez, I wouldn’t trust him to give me the correct time, and I’ve only known him for ten chapters or so.

On the other hand, Jack was pretty quick with the French accent when he discovers that he knows the chief architect of the dastardly deed he is about to thwart (which, hey, what are the odds?), and it is an awesome one – far better than Sir Miles’s Lucky Charms-and-Riverdance Oirish attempt. Indeed, Heyer’s French-accented characters, with their quaint syntax and frequent usage of their own language –alors! Mon Dieu! Doucement! Mais non! – are plentiful and ever-captivating, from Léonie in These Old Shades to Eugenie in The Talisman Ring to Phillip Jettan, when he first returns from Paris in Powder and Patch – are some of her most entertaining and enchanting, and it is here in The Black Moth that she first gave the concept a try, and evidently decided she liked it.

Which is probably why we never meet another Irishman who talks like a refugee from Far and Away in all of Heyer’s historical works, while we have a succession of delightful French emigrés and the like. For which, I say, merci!

So, will Jack’s Frenchification continue once he’s been taken solicitously to Diana’s home? Will her father like him? And isn’t it maybe just a little too early to be meeting the parents? Let us proceed to Chapter XII, where I trust we shall find out…


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter X

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER X: LADY O’HARA RETIRES

You may recall that our Jack has been in an agony of mind over allowing Miles to see him in his misbegotten, criminal state, worrying that his friend would refuse to acknowledge him after all that (allegedly) occurred six years earlier. Indeed, he seemed more concerned about being held in contempt for the cheating at cards incident than he was about being hung by his neck until dead – a common punishment for highwaymen at the time. Weird priorities, huh?

Happily for him, however, Sir Miles is beyond delighted to be reunited with his old buddy, card cheating or no, and the two are soon joking around like guys in a college reunion film, but with perhaps a few more “ye”s in place of “you”s. It takes Molly an unconscionably long time to register that her husband and his captive were previously acquainted – adorable, she may be, but quick-witted, not so much – and it is at this point that she eventually retires (as promised in the chapter title).

Jack and Miles share some frank mantalk, discuss the fact that Lavinia never loved brother Richard (no, duh) and profess their undying devotion to one another – although Jack refuses to tell of the fateful night at Dare’s card party that got him exiled from all he held dear, which kind of hurts Miles’s feelings. Then… dammit. More discussion of the awesomeness of Jenny the Wonder Horse?

Dear God!

THOUGHTS

Seriously, enough with the horse.


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter IX

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER IX: LADY O’HARA INTERVENES

The next morning sees Sir Miles at home with his bride, described variously as “pretty,” “birdlike” and like an “inquisitive kitten.” Her large husband – oh, yes; Sir Miles is a veritable giant, it seems – refers to her “five feet nothing” self as “the Midget.”

Sir Miles, by the way, is Irish. And it be a strong accent he be havin’, begorrah, leprechauns and Guinness, t’be sure. 

After a surly start to the day, the already adorable Lady O’Hara becomes more so by teasing out of her husband the story of his highwayman encounter of the evening before. When he comes to the part about the “white hands,” she is overcome. A gentleman-highwayman! She is sure that her husband had to have let the man go!

But, nope. This Sir Miles is not the sort to do such a thing, no matter how white the hands of his captive. His lady is quite put out with this intransigence; even more so upon meeting her new romantic fancy when he saves her from a tumble down the stairs. (Wow! Is there anything Jack can’t do?) And so, just as Jack has been unmasked before his former best-friend, leaving a tense silence behind, Lady O’Hara – Molly, by name – trips into the room and gushes “Oh, Henry!” Pretending that he is her cousin, you see? And that all of this was just a silly misunderstanding; a prank, a jest, a lark!

The jailors who had until then had Jack in custody are thus dismissed. And now Sir Miles turns to look at the man in question…

THOUGHTS

Is there nothing white hands cannot do? They can even make a guy kind of hot to any woman who hears about him. So much so that she may very well go ahead and risk her husband’s wrath to free him from a very deserved fate. (Molly didn’t really think Sir Miles was going to buy that “my cousin Harry” crap, surely?)

Ludicrous! But probably no different to having white other things in modern times, now that I think about it. Way to be woke, Georgette Heyer!

Now, this whole Justice of the Peace thing, because as far as the modern, workaday world is concerned, a JP is often just someone to whom we turn to rubber stamp official documents when filling out an insurance claim—often leading them to be confused with the notary publics found at most any UPS Store.

A little background: The concept of a Justice of the Peace came about with King Richard the Lionheart, who appointed knights as keepers of his laws throughout England. (And yet… Robin Hood!) By Georgian times, the role was basically given to the local squire of a country area, who would go ahead and decide on the probable guilt and innocence of evildoers in his precinct, before sending them on to be tried in a more formal way. A judge, but without any form of official legal training; basically an amateur whose wealth or prestige in the area got him the gig.

Funnily enough, some places still use JPs in a similar capacity to this, although mostly? They just rubber stamp official documents. And occasionally marry people.

To conclude, I would like to make mention—just in passing, if you will indulge me—of the all-encompassing wonderfulness of Jenny, my lord Jack’s awesomest of all the awesome highwayman-enabling awesome horses. Because I am sick of hearing about it. The past two chapters had first Jack, then a random hotel ostler, then Miles, waxing obsessive over the creature. Okay, we get it. As horses go, she’s well trained and… yeah, that’s about it. But she’s basically the pre-Henry Ford equivalent of a tricked-out car, and there is nothing more boring to me than a hero going on and on about his ride. Especially when he actually rides it.

But does more anthropomorphized equine devotion follow? Does Miles flip out over Jack’s disgrace and Molly’s attempted deception? And just how are Tracy’s plans to abduct and rape Diana going, anyway? Let’s make for Chapter X, where we will hopefully find out…


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter VIII

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER VIII: THE BITER BIT

Jack, old buddy, old friend, old pal, nice to see you! It is also lovely to hear of how you spent your winter, all gallant and good-hearted and smooth criminal cool. You see, folks, our Jack may be a highwayman, may even steal stuff pretty much for the fun of it (since, as we know, he has inherited an enormous fortune from his father, the late and sadly unlamented Earl of Wyncham), but at least he has the grace not to take stuff from ladies and old men. Also, how cute is it that he challenged some dude to a duel over his valuables, and even though Jack was the victor, he was so good as to even let the guy keep some of his own things!?

Now, isn’t that nice? Our Jack’s practically a saint.

Along with the, by now seemingly obligatory, apologia for Jack’s chosen profession, we also learn a little of his backstory here, a rundown of exactly how he spent his time after first being exiled from his homeland due to the horrendous faux pas of cheating at cards. He has not been a Georgian-era carjacker the whole time, you know. In fact, at first he taught fencing in Paris, before heading to Italy and becoming a professional gambler—this, despite his notorious ill-luck at such things. It was during this period that he met the faithful Jim (remember Jim, Jack’s manservant? Admittedly, we haven’t seen him for a while), who “guarded the winnings jealously,” ensuring that the two wouldn’t starve.

Finally, after an unspecified time, all this Continental giddiness began to pall, and Jack felt a longing for England that brought him back into the vicinity of our story, although naturally he could not simply settle down somewhere, living incognito, being too well-known. (Really? And yet the Duke of Andover can hang out in Bath and go by Mr. Everard? Really?) So, naturally: highwayman! It’s the only course of action that made sense.

Our hero’s musings on his checkered career are interrupted at this juncture by the rattling of coach wheels. He pulls his whole “stand and deliver” routine, only to be caught with an unloaded pistol (damn you, Jim!) and suspiciously white hands for such a scoundrel. The man he held up, meanwhile? His old, and one-time best-friend – aside, apparently, from that dick, Dick – Sir Miles O’Hara. With a cheery brogue and a discerning eye, Sir Miles captures the toothless Jack without a fight, and Jack enjoys a little chuckle at the idea of him, an Earl, being tried before his friend, the Justice of the Peace. After, that is, he has this whole crisis of conscience thing over being “nothing but a common highwayman.”

Ah. So, at last, he admits it!

THOUGHTS

“White hands.” That is what we are here to discuss today. Jack’s “white hands,” that gave him away as a gentleman, and thus led Sir Miles to instruct his flunkies not to cuff the dangerous ruffian who had dared hold up his coach.

Okay, I get it. To have white hands was to never have worked a day in your life, and to have been able to afford such a luxury item as a pair of gloves to protect your hands from the sun. To have manicured nails was to have servants to do such things as manicure your nails for you, and leisure time in which to have this service performed on your person. And to have all of those things be true of you most probably meant that you were of respectable, perhaps even noble, birth—especially in a society with, at the time, no middle class.

But… come on! You’ve got this guy, who holds you up at gunpoint. Never mind that the gun isn’t loaded. Never mind that he seems strangely familiar. It’s dark, he’s masked, has a gun, and plots to steal your belongings. You’re understandably put out, are not a fan of this guy at all. And then you take a look at his hands. My, those are nice hands! you think.

I mean, what about the guys who turned highwayman because their families were starving, and not because they were bored of traveling through Europe with their servants living a life of professional debauchery? Would any of them have received the same courtesy?

Talk about racial profiling.

Let’s hope there’s less of that in Chapter IX. But, no, probably not.


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter VII

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER VII: INTRODUCING SUNDRY NEW CHARACTERS

Ah, sundry new characters! Joy! (And yet… is anyone else missing Jack? We haven’t seen him for ages.) One of said sundry new characters is, if we’re not mistaken, our heroine. Diana by name, and beloved of Devil Belmanoir himself. She is lovely, good-natured, and highly intuitive, being more than a little wary of His Grace, the Duke of Andover—although she knows him only as Mr. Everard.

Quite how such a lofty and distinctive a personage as the idiosyncratically-clad Duke of Andover can be incognito in such a fashionable gathering place as Bath is something of a mystery. Certainly, we know that he hasn’t abandoned his conceit of only ever wearing black and silver while playing the part, because Diana describes her first sight of him as putting her in mind of “… a black moth amongst the gaily-hued butterflies.” (Why, isn’t that the title of this book? Does that mean Tracy is our hero after all? How confusing!)

One gets the feeling that even if Diana did know he was a Duke, she still wouldn’t encourage his attentions. She’s a young lady of principle, we can already tell, and she just does not like him. He makes her uncomfortable—probably because he’s casually plotting her abduction and rape; which, good call, Diana!—and as a result, she and the sickly aunt who is the reason for her presence in town stop going to the Pump Room to promenade at the fashionable hour. Which neither of them seems to consider a sacrifice; and we like them both the better for it.

Yep. Diana’s our heroine, alright. At last!

Meanwhile, it turns out that the abominable Tracy actually has a friend! Frank Fortescue by name, he drunkenly counsels his “poor Devil” to “… give up this mad life you lead! Give up the women and the drink, and the excessive gaming; for one day, believe me, you will overstep yourself and be ruined!”

(It’s basically the Georgian gentleman equivalent of “I love you, man.”)

But does Tracy listen? No, he does not! We know this, because he says:

“We Belmanoirs are all half-mad,” replied Tracy sweetly, “but I think that in my case it is merely concentrated evil.”

And we also know this because there are still twenty-two chapters left, plus an Epilogue…

THOUGHTS

I have to confess that my natural ill-feeling towards Tracy at this juncture is tempered by the love I bear for Justin, the Duke of Avon, of These Old Shades fame. An austerely-clad Duke with a wicked wit, shady past, gambling habit and well-deserved reputation as a playa is redeemed by the love of a good—nay, adorable—woman, and there can be no mistaking the similarities between Avon and Andover. While not a sequel, the 1926 attempt is definitely in the light of a self-homage; it sets right some wrongs of the first go round and also brings the captivating cleverness of our titular figure (Coming Soon: Tracy Belmanoir is The Black Moth) very much to the fore.

Although, he’s very much to the fore right now, isn’t he? What with the plotting of rape and all. (And this, more than anything, is why I think These Old Shades is not a direct sequel to this book. Heyer painted Tracy just that little bit too dark and depraved to be able to rehabilitate him – remember, this was written in a time before the Fifty Shades of Grey and its ilk – and so she had to settle for recreating him, but making him slightly less… well, icky.)

Brought out to join him is a new sundry character who is not our heroine: friend Frank, who is Hugh Davenant to Tracy’s Justin, if we are to continue to point out the obvious parallels. (Meanwhile, Lavinia is Fanny, Richard is Marling, Andrew is Rupert and Jack is Lord Merivale. Oh, and there was a card party in Chapter VII hosted by one Lord Avon. Heh. Or, at least, “heh” if there wasn’t so much discussion thereat of good-humored dueling with swords over trifles like a shared sex worker considered little more than property.)

Frank is the only person for whom Tracy exhibits a fondness—even going to the extent of having paid his debts to get him out of prison—and his very existence humanizes our scoundrel somewhat. Which would be a good thing if he weren’t, and I will say this again, plotting the abduction and rape of a young girl. I mean, it’s bizarre: here, he’s portrayed as a romantic if ultimately doomed anti-hero, when he talks of kidnapping and “having.” On SVU, he’d be locked in a room with an irate Christoper Meloni right about now, whose face would be wearing that vein-popping-out look as he accused the creepy, all-in-black thirty-something man of planned sex crimes against a teenage girl who’d previously spurned his advances, reported (one would hope) by his sister, to whom he’d confided the sordid details.

It was a simpler time, wasn’t it? And in many ways, a truly awful one.

But will Tracy succeed in his dread purpose? And where the hell is Jack? Let’s set course for Chapter VIII to find out more, shall we?


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter VI

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

ALL CHAPTERS

CHAPTER VI: 29 QUEEN SQUARE

If you’d had even the merest shred of liking for the horrible Veruca Saltiness of Lady Lavinia Carstares before now, it will doubtless be readily dispelled in the first paragraph of this chapter. Remember how weary she was of being immured in the country, at the palatial estate of her brother-in-law, the new Earl of Wyncham? Well, her husband, the aptly named Dick, gave into her blandishments and took her to London, indulging her there in pretty much her every whim whilst constantly being confronted by her flock of adoring swains, Lavinia being the kind of woman who only feels alive when the cynosure of all possible male attention.

But now this unlikeable pair have taken a house in Bath—even though one of them would rather have returned home to their young son, John. But Lavinia “… did not care to be with the child, and was perfectly content that Richard should journey occasionally to Wyncham to see that all was well with him.”

Ugh.

Also in Bath is… why, hello again, villain-of-our-piece Tracy! And, what’s this? You’re in love? With a young lady who has no interest in you? Who is, in fact, afraid of you? And so you plan to… wait… abduct her?

Oh, okay then. Awesome.

Wait, again. What was that you said. You plan to abduct her but not marry her? You just want to… ohhhh.

Well, not liking you so much either, buddy. Be as suave, sarcastic and scene-stealing as you like from now on, it won’t matter a bit. No one is going to be your friend. Except, perhaps, for your equally repellent sister, who’s main objection to your dark design is that a scandal such as this would bring your family name into disrepute, and not the… ahem… “forcible seduction” of an innocent.

Yes, that’s right, be off with you, Tracy. Leave your sister to her apparent manic depression (she’s up and down like a yo-yo, this Lavinia), her obsession with gowns and her foolishly lenient husband. Get out of here, and go force yourself on some poor young woman you’ve apparently taken a shine to because she doesn’t like you at all.

What could possibly go wrong?

THOUGHTS

Look, I would like to discuss in greater depth Lavinia’s evident undiagnosed mental disorder and the whole “taking the waters at Bath” thing, and at some point I will – doubtless, the opportunity will arise again –  but let’s focus here on the main gist of this chapter: Tracy plans to kidnap a young woman on whom he has a crush, and then, to use his words, “have her.” He’s going to “bring her to heel” and “break her” and “tame her.”

“She is the daintiest piece ever a man saw, and I’ll swear there’s blood and fire beneath the ice!”

he exclaims with relish. Aw, how sweet. He loves the fire so much he can’t wait to extinguish it.

And Lavinia’s protests?

“Heavens, are you mad? Kidnap a lady! This is no peasant girl, remember.”

Because if it had been a peasant girl, then this course of action would be perfectly acceptable, we collect? Wait… has Tracy done this kind of thing to “peasant” girls before?

Ugh, and double ugh.

Almost as ugh as Lavinia’s aspiration to make humble dimity gowns all the rage. Dream bigger, Lavinia!


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

POLL: Best Alastair-Audley Book?

Unlike many writers in the genre today, Georgette Heyer didn’t really go in for series among her historical romance novels. Most stand alone entirely, with the exception of the Alastair-Audley sequence of four books, following the doings of the Alastair clan from Georgian times through to the Battle of Waterloo, and the Audley and Taverner families in the Regency. But which of these four is the best of the bunch, do you think? Vote and let us know! 

Best Alastair/Audley Book?
71 votes

ALL POLLS