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.

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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?
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POLL: Which of Georgette Heyer’s “Suppressed Novels” Have You Read?

We all know that Georgette Heyer ranked high among her own harshest critics, and some twenty years into her career she made a decision to withdraw six of her titles from publication: two early historical novels, The Great Roxhythe and Simon the Coldheart, and her four contemporaries, Instead of the Thorn, Helen, Pastel and Barren Corn. While Simon was blessedly restored to us after her death, the other five remain out of popular print, available only from boutique publishers and in second hand editions. But what we want to know is, who among us has read them anyway? Select all that apply… 

Which of Georgette Heyer's "Suppressed Novels" Have You Read?
101 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter V

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 V: HIS GRACE OF ANDOVER

We get, here, our first description of the chapter’s titular figure, this oh-so-wicked Tracy Belmanoir of whom we already know so much, and suspect yet more. His brother had previously implied there was something off-putting about his appearance, but we learn here of an arrestingly attractive man, thin-lips and hooded eyes counter-balanced by high cheekbones and aristocratic nostrils (whatever those might be).

Arrived at Wyncham, he visits with his sister, whom we know to be quite devoted to him—but how cold and formal were aristocratic families of centuries past! She’s paid special attention to her outfit and anxiously awaited his arrival since Andrew told her Tracy planned to call, and yet she greets the Duke with nothing more than outstretched hands, over which he actually bows.

Do you think they did that as kids? Wow, playtime sure must have been fun at the Belmanoir house.

Of course, Tracy has not come to see his sister merely to revel in courtly obeisance. He, it transpires, is actually on the same errand as Andrew. Though Dick had lent/given him a thousand pounds just days before, additional funds are needed, and Tracy is most put out to learn that Dick is not, in fact, the bottomless well of familial charity he had thought him to be since the old Earl’s death. (Yes, remember the Earl, Jack and Dick’s father? He just died and stuff. Sad.) Lavinia reveals in shrewish accents that it was not Dick who inherited the Wyncham lands and riches, however, but the banished Jack, and at Dick’s urging; he’d convinced his dying father to reinstate his wronged brother, and… wait, are we supposed to be thinking Dick’s not so bad after all here? ’Cause, um, no.

Tracy is no more impressed than us at this news – but for a different reason – although he is not unamused. (“To think of the worthy Richard so neatly overturning all my plans!”) And, aha! It all begins to make sense.

Knowing he could never have used our good Lord Jack as a Georgian-era ATM, Tracy proved himself to be very devilish indeed when he had then schemed to disgrace the elder Carstares and have his sister wed the younger, who might thence be more easily manipulated or blackmailed, and who would presumably also be the new heir to the substantial Wyncham fortune.

Seriously, the selfishness of these Belmanoirs knows no bounds. Really. Just ask them. (Of which, more anon.)

In the end, and after discussing direfully their family finances and the lamentable continued existence of brother Bob (“I hate Robert!” declares Lady Lavinia crossly. “I wish he might die!”), it is decided that, pending Dick’s approval, Lavinia will return with Tracy to their childhood home, there to act as his hostess at a series of parties of the kind she has so been craving. Now, it might seem to us that a man come begging for five hundred pounds from his brother-in-law to cover some debt or other would then be unwise to start talking of the lavish entertainments he plans to throw and for which he requires a hostess, but… no, it really is unwise.

Or just astonishingly arrogant. So, yeah. Very Tracy.

Pouting and cajoling, Lavinia gets her way, and we are left with the distinct impression that Richard will go ahead and hand over that five hundred quid this Devil Belmanoir was after… and probably a lot more besides.

THOUGHTS

These damned Belmanoirs. They are like the Jessica Rabbits of this historical idyll: they claim they’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way.

Quoth Lavinia, in Chapter IV:

“I cannot live without gaiety–you know I cannot. Oh, I do not doubt but what I am very selfish, but ’tis the way I am fashioned, and I cannot change my nature.”

She goes on:

“We Belmanoirs–as God made us, so we are–and He made us spendthrift, and pleasure-loving, and mad!”

Because God is notorious for taking a hand in such things, of course.

Then Lord Andrew joined the self-justifying pity party, claiming its all in the genes:

“I tell you, Dick, what with the racing, and the cards, and the bottle, I shall be a ruined man before you can turn round! And the pother is I’ll never be any different. ‘Tis in the blood, so where’s the use in trying?”

Well, they do say the first step is admitting you have a problem…

And here, even Tracy sings a verse or two of “Our Family, Right or Wrong,” most notably with:

“My dear Lavinia, like all Belmanoirs, you care first for yourself and secondly for the man who masters you.”

Myriad problems lie in this sentence. For a start, I am just not buying that this entire family of ne’er do wells would not have benefited from a few stints in the naughty corner, and perhaps a year or two with a 17th-century version of the Peace Corps. I think there is a lot to be said for Nature, but Nurture is also a powerful force, and saying you can’t help being an egocentric wastrel because you’re a Belmanoir is like claiming a vicious temper is tied to having red hair or that poor eyesight automatically makes people smart.

Another issue I have with this claim, though? “All Belmanoirs” care secondly for “the man who masters [them]”? Let’s examine that, shall we? Does this mean Tracy is gay? That all Belmanoir men are gay? Or is it just that they would become completely devoted to a guy if he, say, beat him in a duel? Should it perhaps have read “… like all Belmanoir women and same-sex orientated men…”?

(You know what: if Tracy were to have been revealed as gay in this book? Awesome! But, alas, it is not to be. Indeed, there are no openly gay characters in Heyer, sad to say… although, there are a whole lot of “confirmed bachelors,” some of whom express a disdain for women bordering on the gangsta rap-esque, and they are all very finicky about their clothing and hair. Hmm.)

It’s just a weird sentence, I think.

Meanwhile, I totally want to read a gay Regency romance now. Some surely exist somewhere. I intend to find out.


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

POLL: Showdown: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer

Ah, the patented Heyer imbroglio ending*! Last week, we asked for your thoughts on which riotous conclusion is funniest out of The Black Moth

But what of The Unknown Ajax? A write-in campaign has been mounted, championing the Darracott clan’s general wackiness. So let’s try this again: Sophy vs. Hugo. Go!

* Term coined by Heyer Society‘s own incomparable Jennifer Kloester.

Showdown: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer
126 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter IV

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 IV: INTRODUCING THE LADY LAVINIA CARSTARES

Finally, we get to meet the woman so fascinating, so bewitching, that she would (unwittingly, we hope) cause a seemingly decent enough fellow like Richard to turn cheat and coward, thereby consigning his brother to a fate worse than death: social ostracism.

This chapter kicks off right where the previous one left us, with Dick sighing manfully and wallowing in his guilt and despair (as he damn well should), when this is interrupted by the ostentatious arrival of his lady wife. “She came rustling into the room, embroidery in hand,” we are told, and at once we have the measure of her. And we are soon proved right. She is a vain, shallow, empty-headed termagant, beautiful and vivacious and certainly not without her charm, but so unashamedly self-involved that there really is no excuse for it—although she gives us at least a dozen.

She’s exhausting, and very… er… emphatic. When Richard dares refuse to promise never to disgrace her by revealing the truth of the events that terrible night at Dare’s card party, she lets loose such a succession of exclamation marks as to put one of those old Batman fight scenes to shame. (BIFF! WHAM! BOP!)

Oh, and she really doesn’t seem to like her own son. What a stone-cold bitch.

On the other hand, one must feel some sympathy for her. Oh, why did you tell me you cheated after you had wedded me?” she sobs furiously, and of course she’s just being manipulative here, but she also has a point.

’Cause yeah, Dick, why did you? Oh, that’s right! As previously established, you’re kind of a dick.

Then there’s a whole bunch of repining over being stuck in the country. Poor Lady Lavinia, with her maids and her manor house and her enormous wardrobe of silks and brocades that her husband can ill-afford, is just so bored, Dicky—like a child at the end of summer vacation. Damn it, she wants the bright lights of the big city or she vows she’s going to be even more hateful (if that is possible). She begs Dick to reform, to be carefree and indulgent; she’s “dull” and “ill-tempered” and “discontented” and only London, and an unlimited credit limit, will set her to rights.

(Which, if we’re honest… doesn’t sound half bad, does it?)

Thwarted, Lavinia retreats forlornly, at which we can only heave a sigh of relief. And now we get to meet two more male members of her clan: the five-year-old John, her apparently despised child (yes, Dick named him for his brother; okay, we get it dude, you feel bad!), and Lord Andrew Belmanoir, the brother of whom she doesn’t seem to think much more.

Andrew is an engaging but rackety fellow who has but one purpose for this visit: money. It seems he has run up some gaming debts numbering in the thousands of pounds, and naturally enough, his Ducal brother Tracy can’t help him out. So here he is, frankly begging a loan from Dick, and then even more frankly admitting that he won’t be paying it back. (“I shall have a run of luck soon–a man can’t always lose. Then I shall be able to repay you, but, of course, I shan’t. It’ll all go at the next table. I know!”)

And almost despite ourselves, we can’t help but fall a little under Lord Andrew’s careless spell. He may, like Lavinia, be self-obsessed, but at least he is also self-aware (and also, he appears to like her son). He’s just so delightfully… Bertie Wooster about it. Similarly decadent, indolent and possessed of a cleverly vapid way with words, but adorned in satin instead of spats. Though if Dick is his Jeeves, then boy, is he in trouble.

Also in here is the first we hear of the other other Belmanoir boy, Bob (really? Lord Bob?), as cash poor as the rest of the family, but at least having entered into gainful employment, in one of the few industries allowed to the sons of the nobility: war.

THOUGHTS

Throughout much of Heyer, especially her Georgian works, one peculiarity has always plagued me: her usage of the word “doubt. I have long not thought it meant what she thought it meant. To wit, this piece of dialogue, from the lovely Andrew, when he is asking Dick for money:

“Here’s Tracy turned saint and swears he’ll see me damned before he hands me another penny. I doubt he means it, too.”

This kind of thing has puzzled me for the longest time in the reading of Heyer, and others of her ilk. Didn’t Andrew actually mean he “didn’t doubt” Tracy meant it, too? I mean, at times, Heyer’s “doubt” seems to be what we all know as “doubt.” For example, in Chapter I:

“Apoplexy, I make no doubt?”

– Jack, to Warburton, on how his father the Earl had died.

But then, this, from that fat merchant we all hated in Chapter II:

“I doubt I shall never see my money again,”

– by which he seemed to be saying he had no doubt he’d never see his money again.

I have no idea why I have never researched this before, but it turns out that this is no mere eccentricity in Heyer’s writing. Anyone who has ever read any of Bill Bryson’s exacting yet enthralling texts on the etymology of our wacky language will know just how screwed up the whole thing is; indeed, anyone who ever wearily tried to explain to, say, a stubborn French-speaking friend how a “recess” can be both a break in a court case and a handy place for shelving in their new apartment (okay, yes, that was me who did that… for an hour), will know it, too.

In its Archaic form but one still used in the 17th-century and even beyond, “doubt” was used as a synonym for “fear” – so Mr. Fudby feared he’d never see his money again; Lord Andrew feared Tracy meant it, too. And yet, at this same period in time, the modern usage of “doubt” as meaning “uncertainty” was also, confusingly, common.

So… there you go.

What other mysteries of the English language might we further uncover, going forward in this landmark novel? An explanation of that “i before e except after c” rule? Exactly how often “bimonthly” is? Why there is nothing that rhymes with orange? Let us head to Chapter V, and find out together!


 

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

QUIZ: Short Stories, Getting Drunk and More

Our latest weekly Georgette Heyer Quiz! 10 questions, of varying degrees of difficulty… Go to it, Heyerites! Show us what you’re made of!

Georgette Heyer Quiz 4

Think you know your Heyer? Let's see if you're a regular out and outer, or simply make a mull of it...

POLL: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer

Ah, the patented Heyer imbroglio ending*! A cast of characters brought together to sort out differences and misunderstandings, and to put our happy couple back on their path to lifelong happiness. Which do you find the funniest? Is it Sophy, manipulating everyone at her ancestral home, or Mary Challoner, confronted by some very august personages at a French inn? Is it Sherry, foiling his Kitten’s accidental abduction, or Jack Carstares, foiling his Diana’s very real one? Perhaps it’s Cleone, engaged to too many men, or those poor souls in Bath, tangled up and engaged to the wrong ones? Or perhaps it’s a different imbroglio entirely… Let us know in the comments!

* Term coined by Heyer Society‘s own incomparable Jennifer Kloester.

Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer
120 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter III

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 III: INTRODUCING THE HON. RICHARD CARSTARES

Ah, now has the time come for us to meet the cause of our mischievous Lord Jack’s villainy upon the High Road. His brother, Richard – or “Master Dick” to the good people of the countryside – paces impatiently, awaiting the arrival of Warburton, the family man of business whom we met in the first chapter. While he (and we) must wait, we get some background on the grand manor house in which we lay our scene (“Wyncham!,” Heyer exclaims; and it really does sound lovely), some insight into the differing personalities of the brothers Carstares, a snapshot of the county residents’ love of Jack and disdain for his “glum” younger brother, and the definite impression that Dick is punishing himself for his youthful transgression (remember: he cheated at cards, the scoundrel!) and his brother’s subsequent banishment by eating little (he’s described as “very thin”), sleeping less (he’s twenty-nine, but looks “twice his age”), and worrying a whole lot (his eyes are “haunted” and “care-worn”).

Sucks to be Dick.

Upon this wretchedness at last descends the censorious Warburton, who is full of tidings to know and share. He tells Richard that Jack is doing very well, all things considered; the “all things” basically being that his brother is a big fat lying liar who lies. Warburton, alone of almost all of Jack’s acquaintance, it would seem, never believed him capable of such reprehensible conduct as cheating at cards, and thus is Dick both abashed and forced to share the sordid tale of the night that he, in fact, did—and thus proves himself worthy of his name.

’Cause… what a dick.

It all happened at a private card party held at the home of Jack’s good friend, a Mr. Dare. Never very lucky at cards, Jack quite uncharacteristically won big at a particular table, and using a particular deck. Dick soon came to sit at the same table, with the same deck, and worrying over some outlandish gaming debts he’d already accrued—and at the same time “mad” for love of a young lady, Lavinia by name, whom he darkly suspected his brother of also coveting—he, in a fit of IOU-fuelled insanity, decided to scratch the cards slightly with his cravat pin, thereby letting him know the disposition of the Aces and Kings. Which… hm. Yes, probably would be helpful, wouldn’t it?

It is at this juncture that we meet again, via this breathless confession, our old friend from the Prologue, Hugh Tracy Clare Belmanoir, the Duke of Andover – who goes by “Tracy,” by the by. It also transpires that he is brother to that very Lavinia for whom Dick was so “mad” that he totally ho-before-bro’d, thereby precipitating this tale.

Tracy, so sharp-eyed as to be positively The Mentalist-like, noted the marked cards, was all like “J’accuse!” – but with great subtlety, of course – and Dick dickishly let his brother take the fall rather than lose his lady love. Jack, though hugely charismatic and beloved of all, was suddenly number one with a bullet on his friends’ Dead to Us board, and while Dick went on to marry his Lavinia and take unto himself as a brother-in-law the very man whom we now realize orchestrated the whole scandal (for, we must assume, inscrutable reasons of his own), his elder was cast penniless from their childhood home and left no recourse but to turn outlaw.

And you thought your siblings had done you wrong.

The rest is just Dick making excuses as to why he can’t ’fess up now (his wife, don’t you know; can’t have her “dragged through the mud”), and Warburton being a little more understanding of the circumstances surrounding his Master Jack’s exile – even as we, too, are more understanding. Although at the same time, you can almost hear him thinking: “What a dick.

THOUGHTS

Richard: you’re kind of an asshole. The “Hon.” Richard Carstares, my eye! (As an aside, I always felt that it is unfair – and is unnecessarily confusing – that all of the daughters of an Earl get to use the honorific “Lady,” whereas only the eldest son of that self-same peer can use “Lord” before their name, if they should chance not to be styled a Viscount or Baron. And yet younger sons of Marquises and Dukes are Lord Whomevers! And daughters of lesser nobility, like Barons and Viscounts, are mere “Honourables,” and apparently not ladies at all. So, why all of an Earl’s daughters but not all of his sons? And if an Earl’s daughters, then why not every nobleman’s daughters? WHY?)

(And, as a further aside: why do so many historical novelists get it wrong?)

Meanwhile, how about that Tracy Belmanoir, huh? What a repellently Machiavellian, yet thoroughly fascinating and increasingly tantalizing, piece of work. Dude’s so observant, he’s like Sherlock Holmes, Shawn Spencer and Lord Peter Wimsey all rolled into one. What did he have against Jack, we must wonder, that he would conspire to rid Society of that worthy gentleman’s… society? Why would he knowingly allow his sister to marry a man a who would, horrors, cheat at cards? Or are we wronging him, and in fact he’s just your garden variety tattletale?

We can only move on to Chapter IV, for whatever answers it might hold…


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