The Reluctant Widow, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Jane Greensmith of Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

The Reluctant Widow, first published in 1946, was Heyer’s 32nd novel and her 17th Regency.  It was my first Heyer, and it hooked me completely.  I confess that I sometimes find it hard to differentiate one Heyer story from the next.  The headstrong heiresses and their plights tend to merge in my mind over time, but the heroine of The Reluctant Widow is different.  She’s still plucky and headstrong, but Elinor Rochdale has an appeal that transcends the other Heyer girls.  Maybe it’s the fact that she is a working girl, albeit one with pedigree; maybe it’s her inherent honesty.  You get the feeling that she simply couldn’t lie, however much she wanted to.  Unlike so many other Heyer heroines, Elinor is not a schemer.  She doesn’t have an agenda, other than to live decently and without a lot of fuss. She’s not out to hoodwink, bedevil, dazzle, or charm anyone, and this makes her so very appealing as a heroine.

Plus the story is first rate.  The plot is awfully convoluted, but the upside is that this means you can read it a few times and it still feels fresh. To begin with the beginning, we first meet Elinor when she is on her way to a new governess post—her aristocratic father died after losing all his money and she is determined not to live off her relatives. She accidently gets into the wrong carriage when the coach drops her off at her stop, and she ends up being talked into marrying an absolute scumbag of a man, who is dying and must marry so that he can leave his estate to a wife instead of the cousin he abhors. Turns out the cousin is a hero of the first order, Lord Carlyon, but Elinor finds him “odious,” which is actually Heyerian code for “simply irresistible.”

The mystery of the novel involves Elinor, Carlyon, and his flighty, tonnish brother Nicky figuring out what the heck is going on in the ramshackle house, Highnoons, which Elinor inherited when her husband died but a few hours after marrying her. Catherine Morland types will be delighted to know that the house comes complete with hidden staircases, secret entrances, and other wonderfully “horrid” attributes. Continue reading “The Reluctant Widow, by Georgette Heyer – A Review”

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Helen of She Reads Novels

The Masqueraders, originally published in 1928, is one of Georgette Heyer’s earlier novels. It’s only the second Heyer book I’ve read and I found it very different to my first, The Talisman Ring, in setting, language and plot.

Set just after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, it follows the adventures of Prudence and her brother Robin. Along with their father (referred to by his children as ‘the old gentleman’) Robin had been involved in the failed Jacobite rebellion and is now in danger of being hanged. To prevent him being captured, the brother and sister have created new roles for themselves – Robin has disguised himself as the beautiful ‘Miss Merriot’ and Prudence has become the handsome young ‘Peter’. All very Shakespearean! Not surprisingly, this leads to a number of misunderstandings and narrow escapes.

Things get even more interesting when Prudence, still posing as Peter Merriot, begins to fall in love with Sir Anthony Fanshawe – and then ‘the old gentleman’ arrives on the scene, claiming to be the lost heir to the Barham fortune.

I found the story confusing and difficult to follow at first. I spent several chapters trying to work out exactly why Prudence and Robin had found it necessary to masquerade as people of the opposite sex and what they were hoping to achieve. It also took me a while to get used to the Georgian-style dialogue, with all the egads, alacks and other slang terms of the period.

Robin made a face at his sister. “The creature must needs play the mother to me, madam.”
“Madam, behold my little mentor!” Prudence retorted. “Give you my word I have my scoldings from him, and not the old gentleman. ‘Tis a waspish tongue, egad.”

After a few chapters, however, various parts of the story started to fall into place and then I had no problem understanding what was happening. I ended up enjoying this book more than The Talisman Ring, which surprised me as a lot of people have told me that The Talisman Ring is their favourite Heyer, so I wasn’t expecting this one to be as good.

There were many things that made this book such a success for me. I thought the Georgian setting, with its powdered wigs, card games, sword fights and duels, was perfectly portrayed. The plot was full of twists and turns that kept my interest right to the end. And I loved the characters. The calm and cool-headed Prudence was the perfect balance for the more impetuous Robin – and both were fun and likeable. Watching Prudence’s relationship with Sir Anthony develop was one of my highlights of the book. Robin’s romance with Letty Grayson, who knew him only as a masked man known as the Black Domino, was equally well written.

Most of all, I loved the ‘old gentleman’. He was conceited, arrogant and a scheming rogue – but he was also hilarious and capable of coming up with such ingenious schemes that maybe his arrogance was justified.

“Have you limitations, my lord?” asked Sir Anthony.
My lord looked at him seriously. “I do not know,” he said, with a revealing simplicity. “I have never yet discovered them.”

I may have only read two of Georgette Heyer’s books so far, but I’ve enjoyed both of them – particularly this one – and can’t wait to read more of her work!

Helen is a 29 year old book lover from the North East of England. She particularly enjoys discovering 19th century classics and immersing herself in long historical fiction novels, but also reads other genres too. Her blog, She Reads Novels, is a place for her to post reviews of all the books she reads and to share her thoughts on reading in general. The title of her blog is inspired by a line from Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s 1864 classic The Doctor’s Wife – “She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers”. This isn’t completely true, as she does sometimes read the Sunday papers – but has to admit she would rather be reading a novel! Follow Helen on Twitter as shereadsnovels.

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1402219504

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 03 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Masqueraders, 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 04   Aug 06 – Review: Devil’s Cub
Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: The Convenient Marriage
Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck
Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: The Talisman Ring

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

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Helen of She Reads Novels

The Masqueraders, originally published in 1928, is one of Georgette Heyer’s earlier novels. It’s only the second Heyer book I’ve read and I found it very different to my first, The Talisman Ring, in setting, language and plot.

Set just after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, it follows the adventures of Prudence and her brother Robin. Along with their father (referred to by his children as ‘the old gentleman’) Robin had been involved in the failed Jacobite rebellion and is now in danger of being hanged. To prevent him being captured, the brother and sister have created new roles for themselves – Robin has disguised himself as the beautiful ‘Miss Merriot’ and Prudence has become the handsome young ‘Peter’. All very Shakespearean! Not surprisingly, this leads to a number of misunderstandings and narrow escapes.

Things get even more interesting when Prudence, still posing as Peter Merriot, begins to fall in love with Sir Anthony Fanshawe – and then ‘the old gentleman’ arrives on the scene, claiming to be the lost heir to the Barham fortune.

I found the story confusing and difficult to follow at first. I spent several chapters trying to work out exactly why Prudence and Robin had found it necessary to masquerade as people of the opposite sex and what they were hoping to achieve. It also took me a while to get used to the Georgian-style dialogue, with all the egads, alacks and other slang terms of the period.

Robin made a face at his sister. “The creature must needs play the mother to me, madam.”
“Madam, behold my little mentor!” Prudence retorted. “Give you my word I have my scoldings from him, and not the old gentleman. ‘Tis a waspish tongue, egad.”

After a few chapters, however, various parts of the story started to fall into place and then I had no problem understanding what was happening. I ended up enjoying this book more than The Talisman Ring, which surprised me as a lot of people have told me that The Talisman Ring is their favourite Heyer, so I wasn’t expecting this one to be as good.

There were many things that made this book such a success for me. I thought the Georgian setting, with its powdered wigs, card games, sword fights and duels, was perfectly portrayed. The plot was full of twists and turns that kept my interest right to the end. And I loved the characters. The calm and cool-headed Prudence was the perfect balance for the more impetuous Robin – and both were fun and likeable. Watching Prudence’s relationship with Sir Anthony develop was one of my highlights of the book. Robin’s romance with Letty Grayson, who knew him only as a masked man known as the Black Domino, was equally well written.

Most of all, I loved the ‘old gentleman’. He was conceited, arrogant and a scheming rogue – but he was also hilarious and capable of coming up with such ingenious schemes that maybe his arrogance was justified.

“Have you limitations, my lord?” asked Sir Anthony.
My lord looked at him seriously. “I do not know,” he said, with a revealing simplicity. “I have never yet discovered them.”

I may have only read two of Georgette Heyer’s books so far, but I’ve enjoyed both of them – particularly this one – and can’t wait to read more of her work!

Helen is a 29 year old book lover from the North East of England. She particularly enjoys discovering 19th century classics and immersing herself in long historical fiction novels, but also reads other genres too. Her blog, She Reads Novels, is a place for her to post reviews of all the books she reads and to share her thoughts on reading in general. The title of her blog is inspired by a line from Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s 1864 classic The Doctor’s Wife – “She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers”. This isn’t completely true, as she does sometimes read the Sunday papers – but has to admit she would rather be reading a novel!

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer

Sourcebooks (2009)

Trade paperback (352) pages

ISBN: 978-1402219504

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 03 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Masqueraders, 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, Friday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Saturday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: Devil’s Cub

Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: The Convenient Marriage

Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck

Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: The Talisman Ring

Celebrating Georgette Heyer August 1 – 31, 2010

These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Keira of Love Romance Passion

For a truly exceptional read, Regency or otherwise, that makes you giddy with glee you need to pick up These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer. It’s a delightful story about a cross-dressing female who goes from rags to riches and from unloved to abundantly loved. It’s even a guardian/ward romance! Not to mention the kidnapping sequence and the revenge plot! It’s positively action packed.

The hero is a cross between a dandy-like Corinthian, with his scented handkerchief, heeled shoes, and fan — and — the veriest devil of a man with fierce eyes, keen intelligence, and a merciless thirst for revenge. The heroine is a Nonpareil who can sword fight, capture princes with a flutter of eyelashes, and shock matrons with her language!

What really pleased me is the slightly different formatting. There seemed to be much more dialogue in this novel than in others also by Heyer. In addition, every chapter has a little summary-like heading telling you what you’ll find in the upcoming section. It was very nice and a source of amusement with titles such as ‘Lady Fanny’s Virtue is Outraged’ and ‘Mr. Marling Allows Himself to be Persuaded.’

One of my absolute favorite parts is a reflection of what’s going on between some side characters:

‘I don’t trust him.’

‘Why, I think I do for once.’ Hugh laughed a little. ‘When last I saw Léonie – Léon she was then – it was “Yes, Monseigneur” and “No, Monseigneur.” Now it is “Monseigneur, you must do this,” and “Monseigneur, I want that!” She twists him round her little finger, and, by Gad, he likes it!’

‘Oh, but there’s naught of the lover in his manner, Hugh! You have heard him with her, scolding, correcting.’

‘Ay, and I have heard the note in his voice of – faith, of tenderness! This wooing will be no ordinary one, methinks, but there is a bridal in the air.’

‘She is twenty years behind him!’

‘Do you think it signifies? I would not give Justin a bride his own age. I’d give him a babe who must be cherished and guarded. And I’ll swear he’d guard her well!’

‘It must be. I do not know. She looks up to him, Davenant! She worships him!’

‘Therein I see his salvation,’ Hugh said.

These Old Shades, pp 274

I hardly have the words to describe how awesome that last line is and indeed this whole section. The only thing that could make this story better is more of it! I did not want it to end!

These Old Shades is a must read for Heyer fans and one I would very much recommend for new comers to try first. You will not be disappointed.

Read an excerpt on Scribd

Keira is the webmistress of LoveRomancePassion, a website featuring the latest news, reviews and interviews in the romance world. She’s a longtime romance reader, a new Kindle owner, and a junkie for USA TV shows. She loves marriage of convenience plots and angst ridden breakups that ultimately end up in gooey happily ever afters. You can follow Keira on Twitter as ReviewRomance.

These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (384) pages
ISBN: 978-1402219474

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 03 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of These Old Shades, 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 03   Aug 04 – Review: The Masqueraders
Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: Devil’s Cub
Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: The Convenient Marriage
Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck

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

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage (Naxos AudioBooks): A Review & Giveaway

Did you know that Georgette Heyer is British author and literary critic Margaret Drabble’s favorite historical novelist? I know! High praise from an author who has written eighteen novels, introductions to all of Jane Austen’s major and minor works, been awarded a Doctorate in Letters from Cambridge University and the CBE and DBE by the Queen of England. Drabble is a living national treasure, as Heyer should have been if her novels had been taken more seriously during her life-time. However, she has always been highly esteemed by her faithful readers for close to ninety years and out of her thirty-eight Regency romance novels, Venetia is one of the most beloved.

Set in the countryside of the North Riding of Yorkshire three years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Venetia Lanyon is not your conventional Heyer heroine. Unmarried at age twenty-five she has never been in love, is close to being on the shelf and has resigned herself to the narrow fate of spinsterhood. Raised by her reclusive father since her mother’s death fifteen years prior, Venetia has seen little of life beyond the family estate of Undershaw Manor or an occasional country dance at Harrogate. Since her father’s death shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, she has been overseeing the household of her younger brothers: twenty-two-year-old Sir Conway, a soldier overseas with the Army of Occupation in Cambray, France and sixteen-year-old Aubrey, a brilliant scholar studying for Cambridge who abhors his physical limitations from a pronounced and ugly limp. Also within her small sphere are two improbable suitors who would like to win her hand: Edward Yardley, a dull, pompous egoist who thinks NO is a YES, and Oswald Denny, a bumbling teenage wanna-be rake who idolizes Lord Byron. Life as a maiden aunt in her brother’s household seems a far preferable fate until a chance encounter with an estranged neighbor, the “Wicked Baron” of Elliston Priory, leaves a surprisingly favorable impression. Continue reading “Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage (Naxos AudioBooks): A Review & Giveaway”

Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer, as Read by Richard Armitage – A Review

Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer, Naxous Audiobooks (2009)Today, August 16th is author Georgette Heyer’s birthday. In celebration of the uncontested Queen of Regency Romance, I thought it quite fitting to read one of her novels this week and review it. However, what I ultimately selected was not based on a plot, or characters, or a recommendation by other Heyer aficionados such as Vic (Ms Place) at Jane Austen’s World, but by pure fangirl fervor. Yes, gentle readers, I do freely admit to succumbing to the charms of a handsome face and sexy voice as quickly as the next fawning female in selecting a Heyer audio book recording of Sylvester solely based on its reader, Richard Armitage. 

For those who know of this talented British actor, I need say no more. For the benefit of the unenlightened, (and I am truly shocked by your egregious remiss), he has starred in both period and contemporary television dramas, monumentally as John Thornton in North & South (2004) and Sir Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood (2006-2009). Known for his dark, brooding, bad-boy looks, piercing blue eyes, and hypnotic voice, the good folks at Naxos Audiobooks may have unknowing chosen the one actor who could elevate Georgette Heyer into the limelight that she so richly deserves. He speaks – and half the world swoons. 

On to the review … Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle was originally published in 1957, and is one of Georgette Heyer’s more popular Regency novels. The wealthy, arrogant and pragmatic Sylvester Rayne, the Duke of Salford, in his twenty-eight year has taken it upon himself to marry, much to the surprise of his widowed mother, producing a short-list of five suitable debutantes that meet his exacting standards. However, among the list of beautiful and accomplished young women she does not see her first choice, the Hon Phoebe Marlow, granddaughter of his godmother Lady Ingham. Sylvester travels to London to consult Lady Ingham, but he is put off by her inelegant First edition cover of Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer (1957)attempt to fix the match solely based on the fact that her daughter, Phoebe’s mother, and his mother were best friends. Meanwhile, word reaches Phoebe’s spiteful stepmother that the Duke of Salford will shortly make an offer for her hand and commands her to accept. Horrified, Phoebe is also put off by the reasons for the alliance and her memory of the cold, proud Duke of Salford from her London season. When they are formally introduced she is shy and dull, and he is unimpressed. In a panic, Phoebe runs away to London, and the sanctuary of Lady Ingham, escorted by her childhood friend Tom Orde. A carriage accident interrupts their journey happened upon by Sylvester who thinks he has discovered a runaway marriage in progress. When a snow storm traps them all together at the local Inn, Sylvester begins to see that Phoebe is actually quite intelligent and interesting, and not at all the young woman of his first impression. Gallantly, he removes any concerns that she may be harboring on his proposing marriage to her. She in turn, is gratefully relieved sharing that nothing could possibly induce her to marry him! 

In typical Heyer fashion her independent heroine and staid hero are the most unlikely couple imaginable. How she will bring them together is a humorous and engaging adventure, filled with pride, prejudice and misunderstandings. In addition, Heyer’s cast of secondary characters are predictable, but most welcome: Ianthe the spoilt and impulsive widow of Sylvester’s twin brother who thinks he is a villianous brute, Sir Nugent Fotherby her foppish and absurd fiancé, Tom Orde the steady and trusting family friend, and Lady Ingham the meddling but well meaning older relative among others. Heyer excels at bringing out the eccentric and the ridiculous in her characters played against dry humor like few can. The subplot of Phoebe anonymously writing a Gothic novel mirroring the personalities and physical characteristics of her family and friends is brilliant. When Sylvester’s signature devilish-looking eyebrows show up on the villain Count Ugolino scandalizing the Ton, she unintentionally admits that she was the authoress resulting in a hillarious fallout. As with all of Heyer’s romances, there is a hard wrought happy ending. How all the ill-informed opinions and misconceptions will be resolved, I will leave to the reader to discover. 

Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South (2004)Richard Armitage’s reading of this Heyer classic was a delight. My only disappoint, and he is certainly not at fault, is in the abridgement of this novel. Not only does the reader deserve all of Georgette Heyer’s witty dialogue and opulent descriptions of Regency finery, furnishing, and social machinations, but every sumptuous and simmeringly seductive word uttered by Richard Armitage possible. Like the narrator who so wisely advised us in Mansfield Park“Nobody minds having what is too good for them.”  

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer, and read by Richard Armitage
Naxos Audiobooks, USA
Abridged edition 4 CD’s (4 h 51 m)
ISBN: 978-9626349250 

Further information & reviews 

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: