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.



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!


“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.

A Dance with Jane Austen (2012) by Susannah Fullarton

Jane Austen loved to put on her satin slippers with shoe-roses, her white gloves and muslin gown, and go off for an evening of fun at the Basingstoke assemblies. The Bennet girls share their creator’s delight and go off joyfully to dance, and of course to meet future husbands.

Drawing on contemporary accounts and illustrations, and a close reading of the novels as well as Austen’s correspondence, Susannah Fullerton takes the reader through all the stages of a Regency Ball as Jane Austen and her characters would have known it. Her subjects learn their steps, dress in readiness, find transport to convey them to a ball, choose between public and private balls, worry over a shortage of men, prefer a cotillion to a quadrille, talk and flirt with their partners, sustain themselves with supper, fall in love, and then go home to talk it all over at the end.


“… an enjoyable insight into Austen’s world.” Abbeys Bookshop

 “Written in a lively and accessible manner Fullerton delves into the subject with the energy of a fluttering fan cooling an overheated dancer. As an Austen enthusiast, and president of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, her knowledge and authority take us on a journey from learning to dance, dressing for a ball, types of balls, transportation, music, food, etiquette, conversation and even a short bit about the movie adaptations. It is primarily a cultural reference, but she liberally uses quotes from her novels, letters and family recollections throughout making it very personal and incisive.” Austenprose

“… readers wishing for more details about Austen’s ball scenes, for a clearer sense of what would be worn at a ball, what kind of music would be played, and what sort of manners were typical, will want to consult A Dance with Jane Austen.” Times Literary Supplement


Heyer’s Peerage

As we all know, Debrett’s Peerage — more properly known now as Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, and in previous years as Debrett’s Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage — is the go-to catalogue of members of the British aristocracy, a thorough listing of their titles and their antecedents and their progeny and their hereditary lands, among much more.

But what about Heyer’s Peerage? Her characters come to life so thoroughly that surely they should have their own listings in a comprehensive record of their lives and families?

Our goal is nothing short of this: we at Heyer Society intend to document each Heyer scion of each Heyer noble house in as much detail as we can possibly glean from her works. Each week we will tackle a new figure, until at last — probably many years from now — we have a complete database of these alternate history historical figures.

We will add their names here as we complete their entries. Stay tuned!


QUIZ: Heyer Heroes V

Our latest weekly Georgette Heyer Quiz! Over the next few months, we’ll be testing your knowledge of Heyer’s heroes and heroines… Go to it, Heyerites! Show us what you’re made of!

Georgette Heyer Quiz 9 — Heyer Heroes V

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

The Great Roxhythe Cover Gallery

Over the decades Georgette Heyer’s dozens of books have been released in multiple editions across multiple languages. In each Heyer Cover Gallery we attempt to collect every cover in every available format and language from across the years.

Have a cover not shown? Send us a scan, with publisher and date information, to editor (at) heyersociety (dot) com.

LEGEND: HC = Hardcover | PB = Paperback | EB = Ebook


Originally published by Hutchinson 1923


Heyer for Beginners — The Convenient Marriage (1934)

Heyer Society‘s fearless leader, Rachel Hyland, tells me that this is the first Heyer she ever read, when she was eleven, and it got her immediately hooked. All I can say is, Rachel must not only have been a super precocious kid but also have been weirdly okay with disturbing romances, because this story of the seventeen-year-old Horry marrying the much older Earl of Rule to save her sister from a similar fate, and then loving her new life as the plaything of a nobleman who might as well be her father, is not at all the kind of thing I would have liked at eleven.

I don’t like it now.

Yes, I can appreciate the depth of historical detail, Heyer’s Georgianisms and her wit is very clear, especially in Rule’s often supercilious conversation and in Horry’s adorable frankness. But the other massive age gap so far in Heyer, Avon and Léonie in These Old Shades, bothered me far less than this one, because it developed naturally and organically as the story progressed and then they got married. And Léonie was nineteen.

Read More “Heyer for Beginners — The Convenient Marriage (1934)”

POLL: Is The Spanish Bride Historical Fiction?

Last week’s poll set off some controversy among our Heyerite fellowship: does The Spanish Bride count as historical fiction, or is it better classified as a Regency Romance? Our position is that it is based on a true story, and that its main characters were real people, so it’s historical fiction for sure, regardless of that fact that it is set in the Regency period. Where do you stand on the question?

Vote and let us know! 

Is "The Spanish Bride" Historical Fiction?
55 votes




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.



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…


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.

Bath (2015)

Throughout recorded history, Bath has been famed for its hot springs. The Romans bathed there; Elizabeth I promoted the spa town; Hanoverians visited it for their health. By the eighteenth century Bath was the fashionable venue for high society. Entrepreneurs of all types seized the opportunity. ‘Beau’ Nash instituted a strictly regulated social life; eager young architects including John Wood the Elder and his son Wood the Younger transformed the cityscape. In this text, Kirsten Elliott tells Bath’s story through the centuries and brings it up to date, celebrating the modern city as a vibrant place attracting visitors from all over the world. Illustrated with over 200 stunning color photographs by renowned location photographer Neill Menneer, text and pictures come together to make a book which is a joy to anyone who loves Bath, a must for any visitor.

Bath maven Kirsten Elliott’s gorgeous coffee table book — with photography from the talented Neil Menneer — evokes Austen and Heyer and beyond, giving a detailed history of the ancient city that is also visually stunning.


Heyer Society Profile: Ruth Williamson

In which we get to know our Heyer Society contributors — and their Heyer cred — a little better…

Name: Ruth Williamson
Nationality: New Zealand
Heyer Society Essay: “Heyer’s Kissing Cousins”

1. How old were you when you read your first Georgette Heyer novel?

I was in my very early teens and looking for an entertaining holiday read.

2. What was it?

The Talisman Ring, almost immediately followed by Friday’s Child, and both from     the same place. I was captivated immediately.

3. How did you discover her work?

An astute bookseller recommended I try Heyer’s novels. It was a smart move, because I acquired many from that source!

4. Did Heyer lead you to read other authors in similar genres?

I did read other historical novels by the likes of Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge, and later, Laura Black, but never Barbara Cartland, and none with the same kind of enjoyment as I gained from Heyer. Her wit, humour and convincing settings are unparalleled in the genre.

5. What is the Heyer book you read most recently?

I usually binge read several in quick succession. Most recently they were Venetia, Black Sheep and Cotillion — all great favourites.

Read MoreHeyer Society Profile: Ruth Williamson”