Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter XXIX

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.



We kick off with the chapter-eponymous Lady O’Hara, who has spent a fretful night wondering what has become of Diana, Jack and her husband, Miles. Also fretful is Jack’s faithful servant, Jim Salter, who is convinced that ill has befallen his beloved master and companions. Molly looks to him for comfort in this time of need, but all Jim can say, ominously, when she talks herself out of her doldrums and begins to think it has probably all come off alright—especially as Jack is such a famous swordsman—is: “Your ladyship forgets his wound.” Heh.

It is perhaps lucky for him that a carriage bearing Jack and Miles arrives just then, and into Molly’s ecstatic ears is poured the tale of Jack’s daring rescue of, and then engagement to, Diana. Apparently, Mr. Beauleigh’s permission was indeed sought on the occasion, and it turns out that he was way more accommodating of Lord Wyncham’s desire to wed his daughter than he was of Mr. Carr’s similar one, even though they are both the same person and both are former highwaymen. Shocking. Molly, of course, is giddy with relief and delight at this totally unexpected turn of events—what? Diana didn’t get defiled? Huzzah!—and claims all the credit for it, because if she hadn’t passive-aggressively insisted that Jack stay with the O’Haras after departing Littledean, then hey, who knows what might have happened?

(If we’re using that logic, of course, then Jack and Diana’s Happily Ever After is, in fact, due to Dick and his card cheatiness. Or even to Tracy, who manipulated Jack into taking the fall for it. Ha! Talk about hoist on your own petard.)

Then all that is left is for Jack and the faithful Jim to have a chat—yes, Jack’s a lord; yes, he still wants Jim to work for him; yes, Jim can still call him “sir,” Jack’s egalitarian like that—and then for the latter to dress the former in what sounds like a stunning outfit of rose with silver lacing, and a “cream–very pale cream waistcoat, broidered in with rose.”

Who says real men don’t wear pink?


It is with a bittersweet sense of satisfaction that I come to the end of this quite mammoth examination of The Black Moth—but then, that is not an unusual emotion for me, when concluding a Georgette Heyer novel. Because on the one hand, each Happily Ever After has been lovingly crafted and is usually well-deserved by our often clueless protagonists, and we all want to get to it, but on the other hand, who would ever want a Georgette Heyer novel to come to an end? (Well, okay…maybe Cousin Kate.) They are simply too much fun.

And this one, her first, was still as enjoyable for me on the—I estimate – twentieth reread as it was the very first time I pulled it down from my mother’s bookshelves. Perhaps even more so, because I get to share it with my fellow Heyerites, who know as well as I the genius of our author, and know that while I may occasionally have pointed a little fun throughout these pages, it is all coming from a place of very deep love.

The closing chapters of The Black Moth, from the excitement of Jack’s daring rescue of his lady to the farce of him then sharing a jovial dinner with her dastardly kidnapper, epitomize all that Heyer would later become known for; they are exciting, well-plotted, romantic and with a deep devotion to historical detail. (Well, okay… again, maybe not Cousin Kate). Above all, they are witty, her dialogue singing to us, even in the most archaic of the dialects that she so skillfully employs.

And as our Jack and Diana at last find themselves free to marry (two Georgian kids becomin’ the Earl and Countess of Wyncham… sorry, just once last Mellencamp reference for the road), as the ever-foolish Dick and Lavinia feel once again the lovelight shine in their long-wed eyes, as even Jim Salter is set to get hitched, by permission of his lordship (“Marry that nice girl at Fittering, and she shall maid my lady,” abjured Jack to his faithful valet; it is to be assumed the nice girl at Fittering will have no objections to this plan), and as the villainous Tracy comes to at last realize that perhaps kidnap and rape are not the way to go about attaining lasting happiness, all that is left for us to do is marvel at this outstanding debut novel by its then teenaged author.

Oh, and there is also the Epilogue…

The final chapter of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society next Sunday. Or buy it here.