Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Georgette Heyer”

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #31: Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

Heyer’s work is divided into dashing Regency-set romances and mostly light-hearted detective novels set 1920-1955ish. I very much enjoy the latter in the same way as I enjoy Agatha Christie, but they differ from Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple series in that the actual police rather than private detectives play a central role, and  I’d say they’re slightly inferior in quality as well – read individually every now and then Heyer’s detective fiction is fun but read many at the same time they start to blur into one as there is usually a central romance and main characters are rarely given features other than “pleasant,” “cynical and snide with a heart of gold,” “cynical and snide with the cold dead eyes of a killer,” “flamboyant foreigner,” “obviously gay and unmanly interior designer” and so on. The villains are generally well-drawn and various, though, and overall there’s a sense of ease rather than serious moral questions or threat.

Footsteps in the Dark is typical in that it involves young upper-class people who become embroiled in strange happenings in a country house that two of them have inherited. There are mysterious groaning noises, secret passages, and it’s all quite Gothic, a fact variously relished and feared by the group – until it’s realised that it must be human agency causing the eerie events, and there are, of course, several suspicious characters in the neighbourhood.

The novel generates a bit of suspense, there is an unlikely love story, and there is plenty of good-humoured banter. The solution to the mystery is a bit different than the usual missing will or long-standing grudge, and it’s a fun, if slight read.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #55: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

I’ve tried several times this year to love Georgette’s mysteries as much as I love her romances, but after listening to Sylvester on audio book on my way home for Christmas, I’ve decided it’s no use – there is a lightness in her romances that is missing from her mysteries. Sylvester was absolutely delightful. Plus, it was read by Richard Armitage! It’s not hard to love a book when it’s read to you by the king of the dwarves.

Phoebe Marlow is a budding author who wrote a book skewering several prominent members of the upper-class Ton after her first season in London. She is horrified when Sylvester, Duke of Sulford, shows up at her father’s house to supposedly make an offer for her hand. Sylvester has a reputation for being cold and arrogant, and she had made him the villain of her book (under a pseudonym, of course – genteel young ladies didn’t do such vulgar things as novel-writing). He needs a wife to run his estate, and Phoebe is unfortunately eligible.

Determined to marry only for love, Phoebe flees with her childhood friend Tom. They get stuck in an inn in a snowstorm, coincidentally alongside Sylvester and his hired man. Naturally, they all get to know each other, Phoebe learns to like and respect the man behind the villain, and they become friends as they both settle in London (Phoebe decides to move in with her grandmother, continuing her plan to run away even after she finds out Sylvester doesn’t want to marry her anyway).

The rest is pretty typical – budding love, misunderstandings keeping them apart, flirting and arguing – but the wonderfulness of Georgette’s writing makes even the most unexceptional story sing. The downside of the audio book was that I couldn’t flag pages for favorite quotes and words to look up, but it definitely made my road trip more fun.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #49: Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

I seem to be on a Georgette kick this year. This was another one of her mysteries, and it was pretty interesting. I always picture Georgette books as taking place back in regency romance days, so when her more modern mystery characters talk about answering the telephone it always startles me.

At one of Mrs. Haddington’s bridge parties, one of her guests is murdered. Chief Inspector Hemingway must sort through the guests, the staff, and the hostess and her daughter to find the culprit. Things are hopelessly muddled, with Mrs. Haddington herself emerging as the main suspect, up until she is also found murdered. The victims and suspects are all majorly upper-class, with the exception of Mrs. Haddington’s secretary, Miss Birtley, and nobody wants to lower themselves to speak to a (gasp!) policeman. Hemingway is calm and unflappable and handles the rich folk with ease. He’s a great character, and very fun to watch. Miss Birtley is probably the closest thing to a usual Georgette heroine: she’s got some spunk and a rich love interest (a guest at the party), but I wouldn’t call her a main character. There are gobs of people in this book, but each is memorable enough that it’s easy to follow, even if you don’t get to spend much time with them. The upper-crusties definitely come off as the villains of the piece, regardless of the murderer. It’s delightful to watch Georgette skewer them – her writing is always so delicious. Some favorite lines:

“She gave her empty tinkle of laughter, and flitted off to exchange over-affectionate greetings with a raddled brunette in petunia satin.” (I had to look up raddled – it means unkempt or run-down in appearance.)

“He was not precisely known to the police, but once or twice the breath of ugly scandal had wafted perilously near to him.”

Good police work, good characters, a fairly brisk read – I enjoyed this one, but I still like Georgette’s romances better.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #25: Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

I have regained my faith in Georgette! After reading and hating her mystery Penhallow, I was worried about trying another one. Footsteps in the Dark was much more in line with Georgette’s romances, with likeable characters and snappy writing. It’s a mystery about three siblings (and one in-law) who inherit a house that’s rumored to be haunted. They hear strange noises, see glimpses of the hooded Monk, the resident ghost, and even find a skeleton in the wall.

Peter and Charles (brother and brother-in-law) set out to find out who the Monk really is, dismissing the idea of a ghost. Sisters Margaret and Celia agree that there’s probably no ghost, but think that if someone’s maliciously trying to scare them out of the house, maybe it would be a good idea to move back to London. Every time something spooky happens, Celia is ready to pack up and leave, but her husband Charles talks her into staying. There are suspicious townsfolk, bumbling local policemen, and colorful neighbors. The story moves along quickly, and the four main characters are delightful. They’re clever enough to come up with several theories about what’s going on in the previously-abandoned house, but human enough to get things wrong and get themselves into trouble. As always with Georgette, the writing is the star of the show. A few of my favorite lines:

After Margaret makes an insensitive comment and then says she didn’t mean to be rude: “I’m glad to know that,” said Charles. “I mean, we might easily have misunderstood you. But what a field of conjecture this opens out! I shall always wonder what you’d have said if you had meant to be rude.”

A neighbor, asking if they’ve seen the Monk: “Do harrow us! I adore having my flesh made to creep.”

Thank goodness for good writing that comes with likeable characters. One or the other doesn’t seem to be enough for me to like a book. But when Georgette gets it right, she gets it really right!

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #7: Penhallow by Georgette Heyer

Man, this review is hard to write. I loooooove Georgette Heyer, and I actually pulled this one off my to-read shelf thinking it would be delightful to get to gush about Georgette to the Cannonballers. Unfortunately, this book was awful! Georgette writes splendid Regency Romances, which are kind of embarrassing to read in public, but beautifully written and amazing. Penhallow was one of her mysteries, and it was very different. I kept comparing it to her romances, and couldn’t get past the differences.

Her romances usually take place in the 1800s. There’s always a plucky heroine, a handsome (usually rich) love interest, and a happy ending. They’re terribly formulaic, but the writing saves them from being run-of-the-mill romances. These are not Harlequins, by any means. I usually keep a pad of paper close by when I read a Georgette novel, to write down words I don’t know and quotes I want to remember (my favorite vocab word is ‘Laodicean’ and fave quote is “she had more hair than wit”). The writing is smart, snappy, funny, and fun to read.

Is it cheating to sneak in reviews to past books? Because her mysteries are apparently nothing like that, but it hurts me to say bad things about Georgette. Penhallow is full of unlikeable characters, a too-obvious murder, and an unsatisfying ending. A cranky old rich man terrorizes his wife and children, ruling over Penhallow Hall from his sickbed and wheelchair. They are all dependent on him for money, and most of them wish he was dead. The old man is a brute, his second wife is shrill and terrified, his children from his first marriage are rude and hateful to each other, all of the in-laws hate the family, and the servants are – you guessed it – unlikeable too. There isn’t really anybody to root for, and when the old man finally gets murdered (not a spoiler – the whole book is working up to it), you don’t feel sorry for him or his suddenly unmoored family. “Grim” basically sums up the whole story. The writing is serviceable, but lacks Georgette’s usually lilt and flair. I learned no new words and no new quotes.

If you like words and beautiful writing, definitely look up Georgette Heyer, but Penhallow is not my favorite of hers. If you can get past the lady in the billowy dress on the cover, gazing off into the windswept moor, pick up a Georgette romance and prepare to be wowed.

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