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 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.”
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?
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.