Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sylvester: Or The Wicked Uncle

Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.


Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle. Georgette Heyer. Read by Richard Armitage. Naxos Audio Books. 4 hours and 51 minutes.

Sylvester stood in the window of his breakfast parlour, leaning his hands on the ledge, and gazing out upon a fair prospect.

I loved this one. I loved, loved, loved it. Of course, I expected to love it. It is Georgette Heyer after all. So what is this historical romance about? It's about the sometimes-arrogant Duke of Salford. Sylvester Raynes. When the novel opens, Sylvester is having a cozy little chat with his mother. Telling her how he feels it's time to get married. He has certain things he is looking for in a wife. And he's got five women on his list that might just do. Unfortunately, love and romance don't enter into it, for him. His mother does set him right on that account at least:
'Thank you, I have heard enough to be able to give you my advice!' interrupted his mother. 'Don't make an offer for any one of them! You are not in love!'
'In love! No, of course I am not. Is that so necessary?
'Most necessary, my dear! Don't, I beg you, offer marriage where you can't offer love as well!' (13)
Sylvester then goes to see his godmother. Maybe her advice will be more useful, more practical than his mother's.
'Now, if you were only a fairy godmother, ma'am, you would wave your wand, and so conjure up exactly the bride I want!' (31)
She can't wave her wand, but she can send him to meet her granddaughter, Phoebe Marlow. The way she phrases this suggestion irritates him, still, he is in need of a wife. And she might just do after all. He had teased his mother earlier saying,
'What could be more romantic than to marry the girl who was betrothed to me in her cradle?' (22)
So off he goes to meet Miss Marlow. But his mother was right to suspect that it might not be that easy. That the girl might need to be wooed. That her son shouldn't assume that any woman would swoon and say yes to his proposal.
'My dear, has it not occurred to you that you might find yourself rebuffed?'
His brow cleared. 'Is that all? No, no, Mama, I shan't be rebuffed!'
'So sure, Sylvester?'
'Of course I'm sure, Mama! Oh, not of Miss Marlow! For anything I know, her affections may be engaged already.'
'Or she might take you in dislike,' suggested the Duchess.
'Take me in dislike? Why should she?' he asked, surprised. (22)
That conversation ends with him boasting, "Well, Mama, you said yourself that I make love charmingly!" and "I'm not hard to swallow, you know."

So who is Phoebe Marlow? She's a young woman who doesn't welcome the idea of Duke Salford coming to offer for her. The two met very briefly in London--so briefly that Sylvester doesn't even remember--and her first impression of him wasn't the greatest. In fact, Sylvester's eyebrows inspired her to write him into the novel she was writing. As the villain, Count Ugolino. (Many of her characters were inspired by people she met during her London season.) So to learn that this man is on his way to see her, to ask her to marry him, is a bit of a shock. To make matters worse, her novel is to be published! Does Sylvester read many novels? Will he recognize himself? What's she to do? Is there a way she can escape this awkward predicament? But of course! But it's not without its risk!

Sylvester and Phoebe challenge one another. And the tension between the two is just about perfect. If you like that sort of romance--think Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, and Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Sylvester is all about overcoming BAD first impressions.

I love Heyer. I love her style. I love her wit. I love her characters. And there are so many characters to love in Sylvester. If you haven't read her before, you might consider starting with Sylvester.

The audio book. I have nothing but good to say about Naxos' production of Sylvester. It is narrated by Richard Armitage. And he does such a wonderful job with it! He brings the characters--both male and female--to life. It was easy for me to follow the story--to know who was speaking at any given time. (That's not always easy to do with just one narrator.) There is just enough drama to keep it lively. It is abridged. But there is still so much to love! I would definitely recommend this one! (And in case you're curious, you can find it on

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Kathy Martin said...

Great review! Sylvester is one of my favorite Heyers. Which is the one with "restorative pork jelly"? Frederica? I love that one too. Happy reading!

Anonymous said...

I love Heyer but I am not familiar with this one. I can't imagine that I wouldn't like this.

Nat said...

I did have some issues with the Naxos' Audiobook, but that was probably my fault, 'cause listening to abridged versions of books you haven't read yet is just silly. Anyway, I ended up reading an unabridged edition and it was LOVELY. So, there. All's well that ends well :)

Becky said...

Bea, I know what you mean. I read this one first before listening to it. I actually like listening to a book so close to having finished it.

Kathy Martin, I LOVE Frederica too :) It is in my top five Heyer, I think.

ReviewsbyLola, I hope you enjoy Sylvester when/if you get to it! It really is a charming little book.

BookChook said...

I sat here nodding vehemently at every point you made, grinning, and remembering. Must be time to re-read Sylvester. One of my favourites in it was Edmund, and that foppish, foolish Sir Nugent who lost his tassel.

My top ten Heyers as of this moment (may change tomorrow!):
Lady of Quality
These Old Shades
Devil's Cub
Faro's Daughter
The Grand Sophy
The Nonesuch
The Toll Gate
Sprig Muslin
Cousin Kate

Becky said...

Book Chook, I loved Edmund too! My favorite description of Nugent was Sylvester's description: "A wealthy fribble, three parts idiot, and the fourth--never mind!" (19)

I don't know if I could pick a top ten--unless I had the liberty to change it every other day :) I love just about everything on your top ten though. I don't think I've read Faro's Daughter yet.

BookChook said...

Oh, do grab it soon! Deb is perhaps the feistiest heroine ever, and Max reminds me of Miles Calverleigh in Black Sheep. Actually, Deb must come second to Sophy who after all shot a man - Deb just kidnaps and imprisons!

Julie P said...

I am not much of a historical romance reader, but your review certainly makes it tempting! Very well written review--great job....