The Foundling, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Claire of The Captive Reader

Originally published in 1948, The Foundling was one of the very few Heyer Regency novels I had not read.  As is always the case when you’re working against a deadline, I had some trouble tracking down a copy (even the library large print edition had multiple holds!) but I found one and settled down for what turned out to be a very energetic and amusing read.

At twenty-four, the Duke of Sale (Gilly) is still being cosseted by his extended family and staff who, having gotten into the habit of caring for the Duke in his invalid youth, have not yet realised that he’s grown into a capable, if frustrated, young man.  When Gilly’s young cousin becomes entangled with the beautiful foundling Belinda and her enterprising guardian, Gilly immediately spies a chance to rebel against his protectors and to test his competence.  Quickly, he becomes entangled in an exhilarating adventure, and, with two rather troublesome dependents in tow, finds that he needs all his wits about him to manage the extraordinary circumstances into which he’s been thrust.

What fun this was!  It is truly an old-style romance, by which I mean an adventure tale with sinister villains, daring kidnappings, a beautiful damsel, and the appropriate comic relief.  Except that Gilly, for all his titles, is hardly the dashing hero such circumstances usually require.  It’s lovely to see how he grows and manages to handle the extraordinary situations on his own, having been cared for by others his entire life, but it is just as nice to know that such success is unlikely to go to his head.  Gilly, the reader is assured, shall remain as kind and stable as ever, only more confident of his own abilities and far more independent.

If you’re familiar with Heyer’s style and, more importantly, her plots, there won’t be many surprises here but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment.  Indeed, part of the fun with any Heyer novel is comparing it to those you have previously read, recognizing a certain plot twist from one, a secondary character with a doppelganger in another.  Most obviously, The Foundling is very similar in plot to its inferior successor Charity Girl (originally published in 1970).  Indeed, Harriet from The Foundling is almost identical to Henrietta in Charity Girl, in name, personality, and fate.  Gilly has less distinct relations among Heyer’s heroes, being of a more gentle and retiring nature than most.  In his evolution though and the reactions of those around him, I can’t help but draw comparisons with Cotillion’s Freddy.  The Foundling truly distinguishes itself with its villains.  So few Heyer novels have any true villains but here we have swindlers and kidnappers and a very young, very poor excuse for a highwayman (hardly qualifying as a villain, he is however the only one to successfully get arrested).  Indeed, the chief villain is the brilliantly named Mr Liversedge, a name that Dickens himself would applaud.  Of course, because it’s Heyer, even the villain is treated to a very neat and quite extraordinary fate.

Considering the relative simplicity of the plot, The Foundling is a surprisingly long novel.  This length gave Heyer ample opportunity to show off her impressive period knowledge.  Typical of her stories with young male protagonists, there is perhaps an over-zealous use of Regency slang.  I personally adore it, but I imagine it could be disorienting for those new to Heyer’s style.  I particularly loved getting such a detailed glimpse into the male domain, usually relegated to the periphery of Heyer’s stories.  We’re treated to far more information on male pastimes and clothing than in most (any?) of her other books.  For me, it’s this obsession with detail, with creating a vivid and accurate sense of time and place that first established Heyer as one of my favourite novelists and keeps me returning to her books.

The Foundling, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (448) pages
ISBN: 978-1402219481

Claire is a twenty-something Canadian girl trapped in the corporate world, desperately seeking escape through an ever-expanding library and the world of book-blogging.  Having been introduced to the delights of Georgette Heyer by her grandmother during a summer visit as a teenager, Claire continually struggles to interest others in what they dismiss as “silly romances” and to prevent herself from using Regency slang in normal conversation.  She has had little success with either endeavour.  She began blogging as The Captive Reader in January 2010, having run out of coworkers, friends and family members willing to listen to her rant about her reading habits and interests.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 08 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Foundling, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 09   Aug 15 – Review: Arabella
Day 09   Aug 15 – Review: The Grand Sophy
Day 10   Aug 16 – Interview with Vic Sanborn
Day 10   Aug 16 – Review: Friday’s Child

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

30 thoughts on “The Foundling, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

  1. Finally, a review of a Heyer I’ve read! I agree with you about Gilly’s similarity to Freddy in Cotillion. I’m still somewhat new-ish to Heyer, so I didn’t find this plot too predictable. Fun stuff!

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  2. My first Heyer was Talisman Ring and The Foundling was mys second discovered at the back of my aunt’s bookcase in Brighton when I was visiting her on holiday as a teenager. I remember it well, a narrow red covered book printed during the Second World War so on cheap paper and tiny print but I devoured it and loved Gilly. BUT, I loved even more his dashing Cousin Gideon, very similar to George Wrotham in Friday’s Child who I thought the very epitome of glamour and gorgeousness.

    Not one of Heyer’s most loved books I fancy, but it is well worth a read and just thinking about it has made me want to re-read again.

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    • I ADORED Gideon! My first draft of this review had a full paragraph devoted to him, but it was cut to meet the word limit. I definitely see the similiarities between him and George Wrotham but, for my part, I do prefer Gideon. He reminded me so much of the heroes I used to read about in Victorian and Edwardian novels and children’s stories.

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      • While I enjoyed this novel, Gideon is what made it memorable for me. I’ll have to reread it again some point and pay more attention to Gilly.

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  4. I love Gilly – I think my favourite scene is where he rescues himself from his dungeon – or perhaps when he finally blows his uncle out of the water!

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  5. I’m reading The Foundling now. It had a bit of a slow start (for me) but I’m starting to get to “the good part.” I agree with you that is interesting to compare all the different Heyer novels. That is why I think her novels are *so* enjoyable, so satisfying.

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  6. Sounds like the minor characters upstaged the protagonists in this one. Can’t wait to meet Gideon and Mr. Liversedge (that is a great name for a villain!). Isn’t it amazing how Heyer is able to draw such fine and distinct portraits of even minor characters? =)

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  7. This is one I have not yet read, but the review demands that I add it to the wish list. A favorite scene in Devil’s Cub which I just finished involves the hero’s valet explaining how difficult his past jobs have been, dressing men who do not have the proper physiques. The idea of male POV in descriptions in this book sounds very appealing.

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  8. The Foundling is among my best loved Heyers. It is true that Gideon is appealing and Mr. Liversedge is both a villian and amusing in a bizarre way. However, I don’t believe either of them or the other players overshadow Gilly. He is an appealing character, and it is always fun to see the worm turn! I too, loved the scene where he established himself as an independant free of his uncle. While Gideon was trying to head off his Father, because he knew what was going to happen. But a part of Gilly’s appeal was that he immediately begged his Uncle’s pardon, but didn’t change his mind.

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  9. I do love Gilly. Just reread this after the review, and enjoyed it tremendously. But Harriet is not getting her due! I love how she comes into her own in this book too.

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  10. This one is great fun. I like that the two main characters are quiet, shy people who learn a bit about how to assert themselves in the course of the story. I love both Gilly and Harriett. In the typical romance, Gilly’s cousin Gideon would have been the protagonist, but in typical Heyer fashion, the plot elements are twisted into a delightful play on expectations. Leversedge is the most unusual, voluble, opportunistic of villains, and the plot elements verge upon farce at times, but resolve themselves into a most satisfying story.

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  11. I’d be curious to read this one because the last Heyer novel I read was Charity Girl, which I enjoyed but thought the ending was a bit flat.

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  12. Liversedge is such an enjoyable bad guy, and Gideon is another one I always wanted another book about. But the part I always liked the best were the scenes like the backwards race, and all the crazy things Gilly went through in keeping his charges out of trouble. Belinda’s purple beaded gown is not to be missed!

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  14. One of the last ones that I haven’t read! The plot sounds fun and interesting, but it’s Gilly that I most look forward to meeting when I first read get to read this one!

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  15. The Foundling sounds like a different book with villains, kidnappers, a damsel in need and a hero testing his wings. I look forward to this adventure.

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  16. Gilly is one of the first type B heroes in Heyerdom and also one of the youngests, perhaps he is not so appealing to a great number of female readers, but for them as you have already said, there is his cousin Gideon. I’ve seen ladies at the former Heyer list rivaling for a turn with Capt. Ware in the ballroom.

    The novel itself is also not exactly a romance, it is more a road adventure and the plot would be used again, but not as effectively in Heyer’s last Regency novel, Charity Girl.

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  17. Oh yes, I liked Gideon ;-)

    I liked the humour and the hero, but I didn’t like the foundling subplot. Very contrived IMO.

    I read Charity Girl first and I didn’t know which she wrote first. Indeed, Hetta and Harriet resemble although Hetta is more memorable.

    It’s not among my favorites, although I appreciate the point that the review makes: the male perspective comes to the fore here. I’ll re-read it, paying attention to this aspect.

    I own this Heyer in German and the cant is a real PAIN in German translation. I buy English Heyers and it’s a great pleasure to re-discover the books in the language they were written. I’ll have to look for the English version of the Foundling, I may like it better then.

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  18. It has been a long, long time since I read this, so I remember very little. I would like to read it aghain to watch Gilly’s development.

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