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 XVII: LADY O’HARA WINS HER POINT
Lady O’Hara really is adorable, isn’t she? Out in the gardens enjoying a gentle afternoon picnic with her husband (Aww…), she awakens him from his nap to talk about Jack’s love life. She reveals how she went to visit Diana, and that she found that young lady not only lovely but thoroughly in love with Jack, too. (“Who could help falling in love with him? He’s so monstrous captivating, I would like to marry him myself.”)
Miles is aghast at her meddling, but Molly will have none of it. She is determined that he will settle down and clear his name. And when Jack happens upon the pair, she sets about it with gusto. She manages to get him alone, all but commanding him to escort her on a walk through the grounds, and winsome, passive-aggressive wheedling to get him to agree to stay with them rather than depart for France is simply a wonder to behold. But when she ventures to mention having invited the Miss Beauleighs over for a visit, Jack rather wins his point, explaining gently that if Diana is entrapped into seeing him then he will have to go away.
Chastened, she runs into her husband’s comforting arms, declaring that Jack had made her feel like a naughty little girl, and that “perhaps, I shouldn’t like to marry him after all!”
Lucky, that, or this would have been a whole other kind of book.
Let’s just dwell a moment on this particular, kind of hackles-raising, exchange:
“Molly, tell me this: do you think you are being quite good to disobey your husband?”
The blue eyes were dancing. She smiled doubtfully.
“What do you mean, Jack?”
“Do you tell me that Miles did not expressly forbid you to mention this subject to me?”
She pulled her hand away, her mouth forming a soundless “Oh!”
“Well–well–well, how horrid of you!” she cried, and shook her fist at him. “I’m going now!”
Of course, Molly totally was “disobeying” her husband. But… how awful, that when this was pointed out to her, she even cared. Yet another reason to remember, if ever you start longing wistfully for this mannered, many-splendored time of carriages and gowns and servants: not only had women no rights, no properties of their own and no real control over whom they married, but they were also expected to include the word “obey” in their wedding vows—while their husband was not.
Viva le revolution! And, as Mrs. Banks so memorably immortalized in song: “Well done, sister Suffragette!”
What fresh reminders of just how far we have come might we encounter from here on in? Will Diana ever be permitted to visit Molly? And what’s going on with Richard (of whom Molly, by the way, is not at all a fan)? Let us explore further, in Chapter XVIII!
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Sunday. Or buy it here.