Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Talisman Ring

Talisman 1The Talisman Ring (1936) is not one of Heyer’s most well-known novels. It’s one of those for which you can’t quite remember who the hero was, whether he was Regency Buck Mark I or Mark II (biographer Jane Aiken Hodge’s useful terms), or whether the heroine was spirited and tempestuous (see Bath Tangle for the classic redhead heroine-in-a-strop) or meekly mature (see The Nonesuch for the obvious future wife of the hero disguised as a demure and witty governess). The Talisman Ring contains so many characteristic Heyer events, characters, actions and relationships, that it’s a very good introduction to all things fabulously Heyer. It does lack her magnificent high society scenes, so if you want those you should look at These Old Shades or Powder and Patch for the pre-Regency period, or The Grand Sophy or Venetia for heroes in unpowdered hair. But for a rollicking well-plotted Regency adventure, in which the leading characters develop interestingly over the course of the novel and are all deliciously charming, I recommend The Talisman Ring. I simply love this novel, and return to it often.

Talisman 2The Talisman Ring has two heroines (the enchanting Eustacie and the practical but quizzically romantic Sarah Thane) and two heroes, the dashing Ludovic, the new but exiled Lord Lavenham; and his cousin, Sir Tristram. This helps with the doubling of roles and situation comedies that all Heyer novels must have. There is also a dastardly villain (he is silkily polite, so therefore he is a villain), a clown-chaperone in the form of Miss Sarah Thane’s brother (for a lady must not put up at an inn alone), and a multitude of smugglers and faithful inn servants. There is smuggling, there is a highwayman, there are bullet wounds in wild midnight rides, and there is drama in the hunt for the lost antique ring that will clear Ludovic’s name of murder. There is also laugh-out-loud comedy, which is why Heyer is so much beloved. She is never stuffy, or earnest and melodramatic. She can write passion very nicely, but she is far, far better at the scintillating situation comedy and the farce in a crumbling old house with too many doors for the wrong person to walk through at the wrong moment. Her half-French heroines (Eustacie is a very close relative of the pre-Regency Léonie, Duchess of Avon, of These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub) are great fun because they speak in a, how you say, Anglais of the most precise and ungrammatical, and they are fierce, practical, unafraid of getting into arguments and keen to see their enemies dead at their feet.

Talisman 3The older heroines of the Heyer pantheon are not really that old, since they must still be marriageable in the modern reader’s mind, so they rarely get beyond 30. They are witty, humorous, understanding, far too kind to their irritating dependents and relations, and possess a stunning command voice when faced with an impertinent landlady. Miss Sarah Thane is slightly different, in that she enjoys so much being Eustacie’s temporary chaperone, due to Eustacie’s insistence on having an Adventure. Sarah is possessed of a sense of humour that no-one except her counterpart Sir Tristram (we’ll get to him soon) can perceive. She revels in the melodrama that the marooned Eustacie insists on introducing to the really rather prosaic situation of being holed up in an inn with a wounded smuggler hidden in the landlord’s secret brandy cellar, and the wicked cousin prowling about looking for evidence of smuggling so he can denounce his so-dear young cousin Ludovic to the arms of the law, and inherit the title.

Sir Tristram will have none of this nonsense, and steadily tries to bring common-sense, rationality, even logic to the riotous goings-on in the inn, but no-one will listen to him, and so he too is dragged into a ridiculous plot to break into the wicked cousin’s house and find the secret panel in the library wainscoting where the ring must be hidden. Sir Tristram finds himself in a boxing match (he has a punishing left) with the evil valet, and has to save his countenance by acquiescing with every farrago of lies into which Eustacie and Sarah fling him. When the Bow Street Runners arrive, we feel that we have entered the nineteenth century properly, and that middle-class respectability and universal suffrage will soon follow.  In the end, the solution to the mystery is found, the villain is undone, the marriages are arranged, and the happy characters emerge from their pastoral forest and return to a real life we never need know anything about, since they exist only for our amusement.

Georgette Heyer, The Talisman Ring (1936) is available is many second-hand editions, and is undoubtedly still in print.

Kate was introduced to Georgette Heyer’s novels by her Aunt Jeanette, to whom she is forever grateful. She reviewed Jennifer Kloester’s biography of Heyer here, and podcasted about Heyer’s The Masqueraders here.

About Kate

Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher, and publisher (, in and on British literary history. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence.

12 comments on “The Talisman Ring

  1. Andrea ( aka rokinrev)
    November 17, 2014

    Kindle has a few, and one title is free, and try Project Gutenburg too

  2. kirstyjane
    November 17, 2014

    I enjoyed this a great deal and especially the dry and concise references to the classic Heyer narrative scheme!

  3. Desperate Reader
    November 17, 2014

    This is almost certainly my favourite Heyer, it’s just so much fun.

  4. Jackie
    November 17, 2014

    This is a review only someone with great familiarity with the author could have done, providing a nice overview of other books while ultimately focusing on a single one. “Talisman…” does sound enjoyable, with lots of humor & likable characters.

  5. Claire (The Captive Reader)
    November 18, 2014

    This was one of the last Heyers I discovered, only reading it for the first time in 2013. How many years wasted when I could have been rereading it! It immediately became one of my favourites, classed alongside The Grand Sophy, A Civil Contract, and Sylvester.

  6. Maggie
    November 18, 2014

    A marvellous summary of a very entertaining book. I too have been late coming to Heyer and I’m loving it. The Talisman’s Ring is also a favourite of mine along with Frederica and Venetia. But I could list them endlessly. I am working my way through the lot, before starting all over again!

  7. sema4dogz
    November 19, 2014

    What a wonderful review . As a long time GH fan, I really enjoyed it -as another commenter says, it is replete with familiarity with GH’s canon, yet fully and amusingly focussed on TTR

  8. Kate
    November 19, 2014

    thanks all! Simply writing about the component parts of a Heyer makes me want to read them all again.

  9. Leena
    November 19, 2014

    Marvellous review, Kate! You made me determined to give The Talisman Ring a second chance. I read it ages ago, when I was very young, so you’d think I’d have enjoyed it; but though I quite liked Sarah and Sir Tristram, I was so annoyed by Eustacie that I often found myself impatient with this novel. I might be more forgiving of Eustacie nowadays…

    I agree about Heyer’s flair for situational comedy – it’s pure Wodehousian gold, whenever she allows it to shine. Her witty dialogue in the comedies of manners is wonderful as well, but I do wish she’d written even more scenes of a farcical kind.

  10. Lori Dowell Helms
    November 20, 2014

    One of the very first Heyers I ever read, over 30 years ago, and still one of my very favorites!

  11. Pingback: Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer | The Captive Reader

  12. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
    November 23, 2014

    One of my favorites too! The whole thing is so much fun, and I love how the characters enjoy it too.

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