A Regency romance that is so funny that it made me laugh out loud is rare, especially when I read quite a few! This novel features the young Marquis of Vidal, son of the Duke of Avon and his wife Leonie, who is notorious for his scandalous ways. Lord Rupert, with all his bluster and banter is back in this novel, and there are some wonderful scenes of his confusion. The Marquis is a mixture of his parents, quick tempered and impetuous, not worried about scandal for himself. He is a gambler, a drinker and certainly not adverse to spending time with women who he has no intention of marrying. While Avon was known for his scandals, and Leonie not adverse to using a gun if available, neither was so reckless as to shoot a fellow gambler. His infamy means that while many people admire him, he is known to take risks and gamble with life. This novel also introduces a Miss Mary Chancellor, who decides to take action when one of Vidal’s plans threatens her sister’s future. This chase across France takes on some farcical elements, and the characters involved are brilliantly drawn. Altogether this is a most enjoyable and entertaining read, and an example of an excellent historical novel.
This novel opens with a mysterious traveller who casually shoots a highwayman and shockingly orders the body to be left. Vidal is soon identified, and his actions give quite the impression of a man who cares more for his appearance than the people around him. He indulges in a night playing cards when alcohol is taken, and ignores advice to finish playing and not get involved in weaponry. Meanwhile Juliana, Vidal’s cousin, has fallen in love with an unsuitable but respectable young man, a Mr. Comyn, and they resolve to go to France to be together. Meanwhile, a young woman called Sophia, superficially attractive but not overly clever, attracts Vidal’s attention , so when he realises he must disappear to France to avoid further trouble he makes it plain that he would like her to accompany him. Her elder sister intercepts a letter confirming the details, and decides that she will impersonate her sister to save her reputation. Vidal discovers the impersonation, and forces her to travel to France. When they arrive, they discover a mutual attraction and Vidal decrees that they must marry in order to save her reputation. Mary refuses as she knows that his parents will never accept the match. What happens then involves fast journeys, accidents and much more.
This book does suggest a certain amount of violence from the wealthy which is scarcely acknowledged, and at least one point when Vidal is unduly rough with a woman. Having said that, this is a fantasy written in another age, 1932, about a historic period. Vidal is shown to be genuinely concerned for Mary’s reputation. I really enjoyed this book, which is steeped in the detail of the period, even to Vidal’s valet on some of the problems of dressing a gentleman. Some of my favourite characters from “These Old Shades” continue into this book to great effect. Every character behaves consistently and often humourously, and this book is a joy to read from beginning to end. It is a superb example of Heyer’s ability to create a whole new type of historical novel, and I recommend it to anyone who feels like exploring her Regency novels.
One of the things at this moment is the fact that many of us have more time to read without distractions, or at least different ones. I really enjoy Heyer’s novels when I get into them but to begin with I have to pick my way through the titles rather than names of the characters. This book made me really laugh, as an episode towards the end is really is funny. The characters who are in both books really work in both stories, and in this situation I am glad I read the books in the correct order!