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GEORGETTE HEYER'S REMARKABLE FIRST NOVEL
Diana Beauleigh is caught between two men.
Seven long years ago, Jack Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham, sacrificed his honour for his brother and has been in exile ever since.
Returning to England, Jack pretends to be a gentleman named Sir Anthony Ferndale but makes his living in a most ungentlemanly fashion, as a highwayman and a gambler.
When Jack encounters his nemesis, the Duke of Andover, in the midst of kidnapping Diana Beauleigh, the two old enemies come to blows.
Can Jack save the beautiful Diana from rakes, kidnap and ruin...?
'One of my perennial comfort authors. Heyer's books are as incisively witty and quietly subversive as any of Jane Austen's' Joanne Harris
'Absolutely delicious tales of Regency heroes . . . Utter, immersive escapism' SOPHIE KINSELLA
'Georgette Heyer is second to none' Sunday Times
'Fabulously witty' Stephen Fry
© Georgette Heyer 1921 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
A delightful Georgian romp
My thanks to Penguin Random House U.K. Audio Cornerstone Digital for a review copy of the unabridged audiobook edition via NetGalley of ‘The Black Moth’ by Georgette Heyer. The audiobook is narrated by British actor Stewart Clarke.
‘The Black Moth’ was Georgette Heyer’s first novel, published in 1921 when she was nineteen. She had initially written it when she was seventeen to read to her poorly younger brother.
This Centenary edition contains an introduction by Philippa Gregory that places both the novel and Heyer’s historical romances in context.
While Heyer is best known for her Regency romances, ‘The Black Moth’ is set in the Georgian period; likely the early 1750s based on historical references, including a mention of Madame de Pompadour. So there are sedan chairs, card games, beautiful gowns, elaborate wigs for both men and women, and the occasional highwayman. Heyer is well known for great attention to historical detail, though her focus was high society, the ‘haute ton’, rather than on social issues of the period.
The plot involves a beautiful woman and two men. Yet it’s not a triangle given the honourable intentions of one suitor and the extremely dishonourable ones of the other.
Six years ago, Jack Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham, sacrificed his honour for his younger brother and went abroad. He has now returned to England and assumed the false identity of Sir Anthony Ferndale, who makes his living as a gambler and highwayman (though a polite one).
When he comes across the dastardly Duke of Andover in the midst of kidnapping the beautiful Diana Beauleigh, well of course he must intercede. Yet will the Duke be deterred? Will Jack reclaim his honour and the heart of Diana?
Given Heyer’s original intention of entertaining her brother it is an adventure-packed romp with emphasis upon fencing, duelling and definitely swashbuckling. I naturally thought of the little boy in ‘The Princess Bride’ worried about there being kissing.
With respect to the audiobook, Stewart Clarke was brilliant. He brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the reading. With some of the more comic female characters, especially Lady Lavinia, Jack’s frivolous sister-in-law, he effected a high falsetto that had me in tears of laughter. Indeed, his ability to adopt different voices for the characters was very impressive.
I am pleased that Penguin Random House is celebrating the Centenary of the start of Georgette Heyer’s writing career with beautiful new editions of her novels, including producing audiobooks narrated by noted actors. It has given me the opportunity to rediscover the works of Georgette Heyer, who was one of my favourite authors when I was a teenager.
Overall, this was a wonderful, light-hearted romp that is certain to not only please her established fans but delight a new generation of readers.
I realise that this is the earliest book in the author’s career, but I did wonder at why a person would absent himself from his family and country for seven years over a card game. I could understand absenting himself to the country for the season but seven years? John was too noble for his own good and others needed to step up and be less selfish. I did enjoy it, though and it does have a satisfying ending.
What really brought this book to life was the amazing narration. Stuart Clarke had such an easy voice to listen to and he used a variety of tones and accents for the different characters. This was no mean feat as there were a plethora of characters. I can say that this narrator is one of the best I’ve heard.