In which we serialize Society Patroness 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 Sunday for another installment, or buy the book here.
CHAPTER XIII: MISTRESS DIANA IS UNMAIDENLY
Gasp! Mistress Diana is what now? That hussy! Jezebel! Trollop! Goodness, is this Georgette Heyer or Amanda Quick?
Actually, as it turns out, Di is somewhat unmaidenly here, in a perfectly innocuous, no-unlaced-corsets-or-hands-in-naughty-places kind of way. You see, the heroic Jack has fallen hard for her throughout their time together – no, really! Astonishing, isn’t it? – but he must resign himself to the realities of his situation. He is a highwayman and persona non grata in the Polite World, and so therefore can “never ask a woman to be my wife.” He’s all noble and self-sacrificing and “what a dastard and cur and jerkface I would be if I asked the woman I love to join me in my awesome life of irresponsibility and freedom from all of Society’s irksome rules; I live on the edge and am bad to the bone and I ain’t no good for you, baby” yadda yadda yadda. And then she is all “yeah, but, hadn’t you heard? Some women dig that.”
Who knew Diana was so cool?
And that’s pretty much all that happens here, except that Sir Miles makes an early appearance, worrying his pretty little head over Jack’s incipient, seemingly doomed love of the unmaidenly Mistress Di; the delightful Lady O’Hara appears via letter and grows even more delightful; and Jack spends most of this chapter treating it like his own private confessional booth, going about the place in fits of Tourette’s-like honesty, doing crazy things like telling Diana’s largely unseen father his true, criminal profession (dude is Not. Impressed) and then opening up to Diana about the whole cheating at cards debacle.
He then leaves the Beauleigh home behind, devoutly wishing he’d never even met his cowardly brother Dick – the real cheat, you remember – as his ladylove stares wistfully after him.
At least he still has Jenny the Wonder Horse, though, right?
One of my very favourite passages of this book comes in Chapter XIV, and it is one I feel I have to share:
“I–once—” heavens, how hard it was to say! “I once . . . cheated . . . at cards.” It was out. Now she would turn from him in disgust. He shut his eyes in anticipation of her scorn, his head turned away.
“Only once?” came the soft voice, filled with awed admiration.
His eyes flew open.
She drooped her head mournfully.
“I’m afraid I always cheat,” she confessed. “I had no idea ’twas so wicked, although Auntie gets very cross and vows she will not play with me.”
He could not help laughing.
“’Tis not wicked in you, child. You do not play for money.”
“Oh, did you?”
“Then that was horrid of you,” she agreed.
I don’t really have anything major to say about it, except that I just feel it so eloquently illustrates the genius of Georgette Heyer. Her dialogue truly sparkles, at almost every turn. Um. Now that I think of it though: “child.” If a guy had ever called me that, I would have decked him. Even when I was one. And Jack is only the first of a legion of Heyer heroes to use that particular endearment to their ladies love. Hmm. This bears further analysis…
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Sunday. Or buy it here.