rushthatspeaks: (Default)
I have read a great deal of Heyer, but hadn't run across this one.

Traditionally I think of Heyer as comedy of manners, with her own peculiar slang, her Regency-that-never-was, witty and charming and mostly spun-sugar but with its occasional darker moments, and the odd thing like The Talisman Ring or The Masqueraders that subscribes to and/or satirizes a different school of fiction entirely. The Black Moth is one of the latter, and more completely the latter, the old-style blood-and-thunder drama: it has a different voice than I've seen Heyer have elsewhere, both more historical about the little insignificant details and more over-the-top about the generalities.

I mean this is a book in which there is an Earl who has taken to being a highwayman because he took the blame for his brother's cheating at cards. And a Duke who abducts a young lady not once but twice. And multiple duels. And scenes in which Honor Does Not Allow Them To Marry, and a night gallop over the countryside to Prevent A Fate Worse Than Death, and oh, you can't even see the top below the plot of this book, I am completely unsurprised to find it is her first novel, and yet--

underneath all that, these people are more real than she usually allows herself. They hurt each other for silly reasons, but they do hurt each other. They are drawn more roundly than I usually expect of Heyer. Her villain here is genuinely a rat bastard, who has made his sister marry someone he does not expect her to love for the sake of money, who as I have mentioned abducts a young lady twice and explicitly intends her violence; but he is not one-dimensional. He eventually realizes that it is not sufficient excuse that he actually believes he loves her. And the one who actually cheated at cards, and his wife, are an impressive portrait of a couple who are managing to make each other totally miserable because they have no idea how to talk to each other, and nearly leave it until too late to learn.

I can't believe a word of the plot, all the chasing about, but she did make me feel for her characters more than I am accustomed.

This is a direction I rather wish she'd continued with. She might have turned into Dorothy Dunnett (who clearly had this book memorized, I recognized some of the blocking). But then we would not have some of the later things-- I don't know, that's the sort of messing about with the timestream I'm not qualified for. At any rate, I very much enjoyed this, because I tend to value the plausibility of characters over the plausibility of events, and because there is nothing like a good blood-and-thunder drama.


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March 2017

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