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 XXIV: RICHARD PLAYS THE MAN
Silly Lavinia! Foolish Dicky! There they sit, both married to the love of their entitled lives, and yet both have been plunged into the depths of despair by misunderstandings and jealousies enough to fuel several seasons of any given soap opera. Lavinia contemplates her coming elopement with the smitten Captain Lovelace and sighs; Dick contemplates the same thing and is resigned but despondent. You’ll only really understand just how depressed they both are at this juncture with the news that neither could even touch their morning hot chocolate!
Yes, it’s just that serious.
Longing to see his beloved just One. Last. Time. (and we thought Lavinia to be the only master of melodrama in that family) he trumps up an excuse to visit her in her bedchamber – dude even knocks; imagine, your partner standing on such ceremony with you in your shared home – and is so overcome with her general adorableness that he suddenly realizes He. Will. Not. Have. It. He cannot let her run away from him; he can’t live without her!
“By God, you shall not!” he cries, and then she’s all “Please, please forgive me and let me stay with you!” and their reconciliation is covered over with a paragraph or two, all made well with copious amounts of tears and declarations of undying love and the occasional decorous kiss. Dick’s Jack-based fascination for Mrs. Fanshawe is thoroughly explained, as is that worthy’s determination to Do the Right Thing after all this time and clear his maligned brother’s name. Lavinia – who, you may remember, was so put out at the very suggestion that she threatened to leave him – is seemingly now reconciled to her inevitable disgrace, the luckless Lovelace jilted abruptly as he is no longer needed in the plot.
Lovelace, it turns out, is even more to be pitied, since even as this charming scene is being enacted, Lavinia’s Machiavellian brother Tracy pays a visit to “a certain Colonel Shepherd” and thereby has the fatally charming Captain reassigned to parts unknown. He brings this news to a Dick whom he finds in excellent spirits, and the Duke seems almost impressed with his despised brother-in-law’s moxie in having thwarted the sorry affair without him.
Elsewhere, the gentlemen of the town are in a flivver over Dick’s summons to Wyncham and what he could possibly want to see them all about – and really, this is quite troublesome of Dick, isn’t it? He means to Confess All and Beg Pardon for his dastardly, cheaterly actions seven years earlier and yet he has the gall to bid the interested parties to attend his declaration of guilt out in the country, foregoing any other engagements and costing his guests time and money and generally just making a pest out himself. Basically, his Big Reveal is a destination wedding, and one to which Tracy now RSVPs a big, fat “Cannot Attend” as he has less exculpatory, more kidnap-and-rapey things to be doing that day.
Soon after, Dick is visited by that worthy Mr. Warburton of whom we have seen naught since the book’s opening chapters, but who is the steward of all Wynchamish happenings and who has been scouring the country looking for Jack at Dick’s behest… but of whom he has been able to discover no sign. Dick frets over his brother even as he heads out to make a clean breast of it all, his travelling carriage containing not only himself and his guilt but Lord Andrew Belmanoir, en route to his family estates… And why should he not pay them a visit? Surely Tracy wouldn’t be about to use them for any nefarious purposes?
I will brush over our tortured beta couple’s marital bliss with only a passing comment on this passage, coming after Lavinia has discovered that Mrs. Fanshawe holds no fascination for her husband:
“My poor love! Why, ’tis the kindest lady imaginable, but as to loving her—!” He kissed her hand lingeringly. “I love–and have always loved–a far different being: a naughty, wilful, captivating little person, who—”
Lady Lavinia clasped her arms about his neck.
“You make me feel so very, very dreadful! I have indeed been naughty–I—”
“And you’ll be so many times again,” he told her, laughing.
“No, no! I–will–try to be good!”
“I do not want you good!” Richard assured her. “I want you to be your own dear self!”
On the surface, this is quite simply a funny thing for Dick to say. As backhanded compliments go, it’s pretty awesome; the “I don’t want a pretty girl, I want you” kind of thing. But on a deeper level, this is just so accepting of Dick; he loves his petulant, high maintenance wife just as she is, and even after more than half a decade of marriage he finds all her foibles and flaws endearing—which may be helped by the fact that she is, by all accounts, superhot, but is nevertheless really very sweet.
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Sunday. Or buy it here.