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 XXII: DEVELOPMENTS
Well, after the past twenty or so… shall we say descriptive?… chapter titles, the pleasingly cryptic “developments” certainly has one intrigued. And, you know what? It couldn’t be more apt! Developments there are indeed, and aplenty, as Richard goes slowly mad with guilt over the whole cheating at cards incident – seven years later; talk about your delayed reactions – and Captain Lovelace, really and truly in love with Lady Lavinia, tries to entice her into running away with him by revealing that her husband Dick spends all his time in the company of that Mrs. Fanshawe whom we like so well.
Of course, you and I know that Dick only visits with the little widow to discuss things Jack, but all the town sees is him paying very diligent attentions to her. Lavinia, horrified to discover that she might have been supplanted in her husband’s heretofore steadfast affections, throws herself into acts of wifely awesomeness – she even kisses him, this one time – only to be rebuffed on all fronts. Suddenly, she is brought to realize that she has been taking her Dicky for granted, that she truly does love him, and that her demands and her cruelty and her flirtations must cease if she is to be the light of his life once more.
Of course, you and I know that it is not Lavinia’s capriciousness that has Dick so frazzled but his burgeoning determination to Do the Right Thing, no matter what the cost. Convinced by now that his wife is in truth in love with Lovelace, he decides he no longer has anything to lose and invites a large gathering of interested parties to join him at his family’s country home of Wyncham – not to be confused with the family’s London home, Wyncham House – in a week’s time. Among those invited are, of course, Lavinia’s brothers Tracy, Duke of Andover and Lord Andrew Belmanoir, of whose scapegrace ways we are quite fond but whom we haven’t seen since about Chapter III. He shows up now in his brother’s study, interrupting the now typical Tracian machinations regarding the forthcoming kidnap and rape of Diana Beauleigh (dude: get a hobby) with a plea for information about Richard’s odd behavior, a lament over a ruined pair of stockings and an almost reflexive request for fifty guineas – which he is understandably astonished to find granted, by a Tracy clearly in very good spirits. Kind of like getting approved for an extravagant home loan by Scrooge McDuck on the day he finally manages to ship Huey, Dewey and Louie off to college, one imagines.
Of course, you and I know that the whole reason Dick has called this gathering is to confess his dreadful crime –cheating at cards! Alert the media! – and thus clear Jack’s long-besmirched name; Tracy realizes this as well, and one can’t help but feel it is in his best interests to put a stop to it, though we don’t yet know how this will be accomplished. Likewise does Lavinia wish to silence Dicky, and she even threatens to leave him if he dares to so disgrace her. But he’s all “yeah, I know, I’m good with that” and she begins to cry, running from the room believing that he’s tired of her and in love with Mrs. Fanshawe and now she practically has to elope with Captain Lovelace, even though she doesn’t even want to! Because, if Dicky doesn’t want her, she has no money and nowhere else to go!
Astonishingly? It really is very easy to sympathize with Lavinia in here. And Dick, too. Good thing Tracy remains a dastardly villain, or this chapter’s titular developments would have been far too much to swallow.
Many of them. And mostly nice ones about Dick and Lavinia. I’m not sure I like it, but it is very, very impressive indeed. Of which, more most definitely anon.
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Sunday. Or buy it here.