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.
Unlike most of the other Book Foxes, I had never read Georgette Heyer before we planned this week. Though Founder Fox Leena had been recommending her books for years and it was she who suggested I do this novel for our theme week. “Faro? What is faro?” I asked myself, thinking maybe the setting was Ancient Egypt with different spelling. But faro is a card game and one our hero,Deb, who is one of those spunky women so beloved by romance novelists, is an expert in.
Deb is a card dealer in a higher class gaming house run by her widowed aunt, Lady Bellingham, who has fallen on hard times. Her beauty and vivaciousness has attracted several would be suitors. Adrian is a wealthy young man who is soon to come into an inheritance and follows Deb with puppyish devotion. Lord Ormskirk is an older wealthy man whom her aunt is indebted to, considering he holds the mortgage to the house, as well as some other outstanding bills. Evidently in Regency times, banks weren’t the only ones who could foreclose on one’s home, which is a scary thought. He is looking for a third wife to oversee his home and children. Deb keeps the men at arm’s length, even as her aunt laments that they must do something to be able to afford green peas for their dinners.
Adrian’s mother, desperate to prevent her son marrying a “vulgar” “honey-pot”, enlists her nephew, Max Ravenscar, to intervene. Along with the superb name, conveying danger and mystery, Ravenscar is appropriately handsome and wealthy. Reluctantly, he agrees to look into the situation to see what he can do. Of course, upon meeting Deb, all of his preconceptions are shattered. Because they dislike each other so much, they embark upon a series of actions intended to outwit each other with some unintended consequences. And after a number of misunderstandings and thwarted plans, well, you can guess how they feel about each other by the end of the story.
Leena told me this was the perfect romantic comedy and it is; snappy dialogue, some genuinely surprising moments and likable characters. Deb is no bimbo, continually swooning, but considers herself the equal to any man and is well able to match wits with them. She is not naive, but not bitterly cynical. She’s actually quite modern, which is remarkable for a novel published in 1941. Ravenscar is a bit more conventional, with his steely gaze, but is never condescending or dismissive of any of the women in his life.
Heyer’s writing is well done, even the secondary characters, such as servants and acquaintances, are distinctly drawn. I was fascinated with her ability to describe a room or outfit with enough words to make it vivid, yet not in tedious detail. That seemed a particular skill. All in all, this book, which I liked better than expected, was a great introduction to the author and I am thinking of sampling some of her others. Belatedly, I finally understand the appeal of Georgette Heyer.
Sourcebooks, Inc. 2008 (orig. 1941) 285 pp. ISBN-13:978-1-4022-1352-6
VULPES LIBRIS has moved to Facebook.