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.
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…
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.