Book Review: Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

Unlike a majority of Georgette Heyer’s romances, Devil’s Cub is not set in Regency England. Instead, it is set about 30 years before, prior to the French Revolution.

Like Georgette Heyer’s other romances, though, Devil’s Cub includes a supercilious man who is an expert shot, a couple foolish male foils, a rather silly and romance-headed girl, a sensible female, and several other major players. As is usual, it took me a couple of chapters to get the characters straight in my mind – but once they were fixed, I was transfixed.

Murder in the first chapter. Female squabbling in the second. A love interest in the third. High-stakes cards in the fourth. Before the book was out, there was mistaken identity, abduction, and an elopement (or was it two elopements?). Just the sort of thing to get one’s mind off the laundry and the dishes.

I enjoyed this book, as I usually do Heyer’s romances. I did find a few bits jarring – a groom starts off the book taking the Lord’s name in vain (there are usually quite a few “damn’s” in Heyer’s books, but this seemed out of place compared to what I’m used to), and the different time setting meant the terminology and attire were a little different (requiring me to work a bit more than usual to understand what the characters were saying and wearing.)

It was also plain to see that this was a sequel – that Heyer had previously written the story of the parents of the “Devil’s Cub”. While the story was plenty enjoyable without knowing the back story, there were frequent allusions to the parents’ story that would probably have been more enjoyable had I read These Old Shades prior to reading Devil’s Cub.

In all, I was glad I read this – but it probably wouldn’t be my recommendation for a first foray into Heyer.

Rating: 3 stars
Category: Historical romance
Synopsis: Straight-laced Mary Challoner attempts to save her sister from the clutches of the notorious “Devil’s Cub” – and ends up embroiled in scandal herself.
Recommendation: Fellow fans of Heyer will enjoy this one – but it’s not the best intro to Heyer’s writing.

The Ideal Miss Trent

A frequent charge leveled against romance novels is that they make you discontent with the husband you’ve got by setting up a paragon of a hero.

This may well be true, but I think I’m just as likely (or more so) to fall in love with the heroines.

Take Miss Trent from Georgette Heyer’s The Nonesuch:

“She was always very simply attired; but she wore the inexpensive muslins and cambrics which she fashioned for herself with an air of elegance; and never had he seen her, even on the hottest day, presenting anything but a cool and uncrumpled appearance.”

She was a self-sufficient woman, becoming first a schoolteacher and then a private governess-companion rather than live beholden to her brother. She was, of course, accomplished in the female arts that make one suited for such a post – but above that, she had that certain something that made her universally respected.

The daughter of the house worshipped her as a heroine, yes – but she also won over the low-born mother who had been determined to keep the governess in her place:

“She had been too much delighted to regain possession of her niece to raise any objection to the proviso that Miss Trent must accompany Tiffany; but she had deeply resented it, and had privately resolved to make it plain to Miss Trent that however many Generals might be members of her family any attempt on her part to come the lady of Quality over them at Staples would be severely snubbed. But as Miss Trent, far from doing any such thing, treated her with a civil deference not usually accorded to her by her children Mrs. Underhill’s repressive haughtiness was abandoned within a week; and it was not long before she was telling her acquaintance that they wouldn’t believe what a comfort to her was the despised governess.”

What’s more, Miss Trent was so above-reproach that she even won the respect of the self-absorbed heiress under her care:

“Tiffany took an instant fancy to the new teacher, who was only eight years older than herself, and in whose clear gray eyes she was swift to detect a twinkle. It did not take her long to discover that however straitened her circumstances might be Ancilla came of a good family, and had been used to move in unquestionably genteel circles. She recognized, and was a little awed by, a certain elegance which owed nothing to Ancilla’s simple dresses; and bit by bit she began to lend an ear to such scraps of worldly advice as Ancilla let fall at seasonable moments.”

Miss Trent is just the sort of person I could wish to be: always elegant, always genteel, universally liked, and capable of saying and doing just the right things at the right times.

But, alas, I am myself. And while I can work to stay cool and uncrumpled even on the hottest days, can work towards being genteel without being haughty, can seek to live in such a way as to be above reproach – I am still myself. I sweat and stress, I can be common, I fail.

The important part is not that I be the ideal Miss Trent (which I am not), but that God be seen as Perfect (which He is.)

Book Review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

I’ve been reading and enjoying Georgette Heyer since my early teenage years, but until this month, I could not have pointed out a particular Heyer book as my favorite. I am now happy to announce that Cotillion has filled that long open spot.

The rich but notoriously tight-fisted Matthew Penicuik has summoned his four grandnephews to his country home, declaring that he intends to settle his will. Almost everyone understands what this means. Penicuik intends to settle his fortune on his ward, Miss Kitty Charing – and intends that one of his grandnephews marry her. In fact, he so intends that one of his grandnephews marry her that he makes her inheriting conditional upon this term. If she does not marry one of the four, Uncle Matthew will leave his fortune to charity, leaving Kitty penniless and his nephews without any portion of his estate.

After Uncle Matthew announces his intentions to the two of his four nephews who answered the summons, he leaves his nephews with Kitty in the drawing room. Dim-witted Lord Dolphinton, at his mother’s behest, announces to Kitty that he is an earl and therefore a desirable match. Kitty clearly sees the designs of Lady Dolphinton behind this proposal and graciously declines Dolph’s offer – much to his delight. At this, the Reverend Hugh Rattray announces his own suit. He, of course, has no desire for the money, but does not wish for Kitty to end up penniless – and since neither Freddy nor Jack have shown up to press their own suits, he shall do the honors. Kitty summarily rejects this offer too and decides to run away, so humiliating is this whole situation.

But in the course of her running away, she happens upon “Cousin Freddy” who is a bit late in coming to hear his uncle’s announcement. He received the message late and hadn’t intended to go anyway since he had no interest in his great-uncle’s fortune (and no thought that the way of obtaining it would be to marry Kitty.) Yet when Cousin Freddy ran into Cousin Jack at a club, Jack had convinced Freddy that he really ought to go. When Kitty runs into Freddy, she at first berates him for coming – she had thought better of him than to angle after her for money – and then begs him to become engaged to her once she realizes that he had no intention of offering for her.

Her would be her chance, she thought. If she were betrothed to Freddy, she could go to London to visit his mother and enjoy a month-long reprieve from her tiresome life in the country. She could at last see the town – and perhaps, well, see… But no, of course, she had no desire to see Jack. That was not at all the plan. Although…betrothed to Freddy, she could perhaps prove to Jack that she wasn’t just waiting for him to offer for her in his own sweet time.

Thus begins a delightful romp of sham engagements and secret engagements and attractions that can never turn into engagements. That said, it’s not a super-sappy romance full of long speeches and loverly looks. Instead, it’s like watching a complicated country dance, in which partners are always switching and the usual comedies of unmatched partners arise.

I highly recommend this particular Heyer title.

Rating: 5 stars
Category: Regency Romance
Synopsis: Country-bred orphaned Kitty embarks upon a month in London under the watchful eye of her faux-fiance
Recommendation: If you like romances or Heyer or comedy – or if you’ve been told you should read Heyer at some point – this is the book for you.