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 XXV: HIS GRACE OF ANDOVER CAPTURES THE QUEEN
Remember Harper, his Grace’s groom tasked with inveigling himself into the Beauleigh’s service? It is here that his purpose in doing so is at last realized, when he accompanies Diana on a ride through the countryside in search of some fictional berries and instead leads her right into the waiting arms of her would-be husband’s none-too-gentle goons.
Given into Tracy’s iron-willed company, Diana learns that he is not the mere Mr. Everard she had thought him at Bath but the Duke of Andover, though if he hoped for her to be overcome by this news and fall at his feet – or coronet – then he can only have been disappointed. She, we know, loves Jack to distraction and yet has no idea of his true peer-of-the-realm status, and so obviously she is not the kind of girl to be swayed by such worldly considerations as potentially becoming a Duchess. The two exchange the kind of barbs that surely cannot have Tracy feeling particularly sanguine about their happy future together, and yet he persists in his admiration of her and continues to terrify his lady love with threats of their impending, inevitable union. She is defiant, all “I’ll never say yes!” and good on her, but Tracy makes with the coldness and drawls things like “Wait. I think you will be glad to marry me–in the end,” which are enough to send shivers of dread down her (and our) spines, and really make one admire the poise with which she tackles this most uncomfortable situation.
Tracy, for all his suavity and cunning wit, really is a villain and a cur, and at no point has he been more hateful than he is right now.
Tracy is such a douche. As exemplified by this, coming after he has abducted Diana:
He was enjoying her as he had rarely enjoyed a woman before. Others had sobbed and implored, railed and raved; he had never till now met one who returned him word for word, using his own weapons against him.
This passage disturbs me no end. “Others had sobbed and implored, railed and raved…” Okay, we knew that he was certainly no saint, and it has been borne in upon us more than once that he had often been known to run off with some serving wench or farmer’s daughter and have his wicked way with her, but somehow implicit in all of that—for me, at least, and I realize now that it was merely wishful thinking—was the idea that these girls had consented. Like, maybe he had lied to them and promised them marriage when all he was after was a bit on the side, Willoughby-style. That, of course, was bad enough to make Tracy questionable even as an anti-hero; throw in the sobbing and imploring, the railing and raving, and clearly, for all that I have been wanting to give him as much benefit of the doubt as I could, the Duke is indeed the serial rapist I had feared him, the likes of which someone like Patrick Jane or Seely Booth would earnestly hunt down and bring to justice. Hey, for all we know, he’s a serial killer, too. I mean, what happened to all of those dishonored, deflowered girls, huh? Does no one even care?
No wonder he’s known as “Devil.”
At least Diana got a few good shots in past his reserved superiority, including this one, which is perhaps quite my favorite of all the things she has said in this novel:
“My name is Tracy,” he remarked.
She considered it with her head tilted to one side.
“I do not like your name, sir,” she answered.
“There was no thought of pleasing you when I was christened.” he quoted lazily.
“Hardly, sir,” she said. “You might be my father.”
Nice one, Di! Or, as the Duke says: “Merci du compliment, mademoiselle! I admire your wit.” Aw, isn’t that lovely. He admires her wit! No wonder he wants to rape her.
But surely the Duke will not succeed in his dark design? Jack will come to Diana’s rescue, right? And, hey, how is Jack? We’re getting close to the thrilling conclusion now… Right?
New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Sunday. Or buy it here.