Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Black Moth

The Black Moth. Georgette Heyer. 1921/2009. Sourcebooks. 355 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need ... ~ Bonnie Tyler, "Holding Out For a Hero"
First sentence: Chadber was the name of the host, florid of countenance, portly of person, and of manner pompous and urbane.

Premise/plot: The Black Moth was Georgette Heyer's first novel; it is a historical romance set in the Georgian period. There are many, many characters and the relationships between the characters can be complicated at times. To clarify, NOT complicated for the reader to understand. But instead complicated to summarize in a review.

But. Essentially it's the story of two brothers: John Carstares and Richard Carstares. (John is also called JACK, Anthony Ferndale, Earl of Wyndam,Wyndam, Mr. Carr, to name a few). Richard, the younger brother, cheated at cards. John thought he was being a hero when he took the blame--the dishonor. He left the country and disappeared from public view. Richard married the woman--Lavinia--that they were both in love with. Richard has been plagued with his wife and HER BROTHERS ever since. One of those brothers is a dashing womanizer, the 'black moth' of which the title speaks. His real name is Tracy Clare Belmanoir, Duke of Andover. (He has aliases as well.)

The novel opens with Jack back in England. He's taken up an eccentric hobby: highway robbery. (Though he is far more principled, I imagine, than an actual highway robber.) Only a few know his real identity--at least so far--but he does have some business to handle. His father has died and he is the heir. He wants Richard to keep everything, but Richard is disgusted by his brother's endless generosity. He is determined to come clean and go public. There's only one thing stopping him, perhaps two: his wife and his lack of backbone.

The Black Moth has a love triangle: Both TRACY and JACK fall for the same woman, Diana...

My thoughts: I can't believe it's been six years since I last read Georgette Heyer!!! I do hope to reread many--if not most--of her romance novels in 2019! I'm not sure I'll take the same approach--chronological--but I might.

I enjoyed this one. I loved, loved, loved Jack. And the romance between Jack and Diana is great. Jack definitely qualifies a sweep-you-off-your-feet, larger-than-life, HERO. But his heroic qualities shine bright because of the blackness of the villain, Tracy.

Diana would definitely have ample cause to join the #metoo movement. She finds herself TWICE kidnapped. Tracy's idea of "wooing" is extreme--no matter the century. There's no excuse for his behavior. Actions speak louder than words. He may profess great, deep, abiding love for Diana. That he HAS to have her to live. He can't live without her. But if he really loved her, he wouldn't kidnap her, hold her hostage, threaten her. It matters little whether the marriage ceremony is before or after the consummation--to him. He boasts that her FAMILY will be so THRILLED to get him as a son-in-law--any family would--that it doesn't matter if he "ruins" her. They'll welcome him with open arms and consider themselves lucky and blessed. 

Does Tracy get away with too much? Yes. Probably. He does NOT get the girl. But he doesn't ever get punished or ostracized because of his behavior. He gets to stay a dashing, daring social darling--though a known rake--and the happy couple allows him. After all, they will be in-laws in a fashion. Lady Lavinia--Richard's wife--is his sister.

This one certainly has characters that you can just LOVE. But it also has characters that you love-to-hate and hate-to-love.

The writing tends to the witty side. And when Heyer isn't delighting us with dialogue...she's giving us ACTION and DRAMA.

A scene between Lavinia and her brother, Tracy, (Duke of Andover)

She stamped angrily. 'Oh, where's the good in being flippant?'
'My dear Lavinia, where's the good in being anything else? The situation strikes me as rather amusing. To think of the worthy Richard so neatly overturning all my plans!'
'If it had not been for you, I might never have married him. Why did you throw them both in my way? Why did I ever set eyes on either?'
'It should have been a good match, my dear, and, if I remember rightly, no one was more alive to that fact than yourself.'
'Still,' he continued reflectively, 'I admit that for the smart lot we are, we do seem rather to have bungled the affair.' (63)
A scene between Lavinia and her husband, Richard...

'Richard, I was coming in search of you! Tracy has invited me to Andover for a week--he purposes to ask several people to stay, and there will be parties--and entertainment! You will let me go? Say yet, Dicky--say yes, quickly!'
Carstares bowed to his Grace, who stood watching them from the stairs. The bow was returned with exaggerated flourish. Carstares looked down at his wife.
'So soon, Lavinia?' he remonstrated, and indicated her mourning. She shook his hand off impatiently.
'Oh, Dicky, does it matter? What can it signify? I do not ask you to come--'
'No,' he said half-sadly, half-amusedly. 'I notice that, my dear.'
'No, no! I did not mean to be unkind--you must not think that! You don't think it, do you, Dick?'
'Oh, no,' he sighed.
'Good Dicky!' She patted his cheek coaxingly. 'Then you will allow me to go--ah, but yes, yes, you must listen! You know how dull I am, and how silly--'tis because I need change, and I want to go to Andover. I want to go!'
'Yes, dear, I know. But my father is not yet dead six  weeks and I cannot think it seemly--'
'Please, Dick, please! Please do not say no! Twill make me so unhappy! Oh you will not be so unkind? You will not forbid me to go!'
'I ask you not to, Lavinia. If you need a change, I will take you quietly to Bath, or where you will. Do not pain me by going to Andover just now.'
'Bath! Bath! What do I want with Bath at this time of the year? Oh, 'tis kind in you to offer, but I want to go to Andover and I want to see all the old friends again. And I want to get away from everything here--'tis all so gloomy--after--after my lord's death!'
'Dearest, of course you shall go away--but if only you would remember that you are in mourning--'
'But 'tis what I wish to forget! Oh, Dicky, don't don't, don't be unkind.'
'Very well, dear. If you must go--go.'
She clapped her hands joyfully.
'Oh thank you, Dicky! And you are not angry with me?'
'No, dear, of course not.' (66-7)
 A scene between Lavinia and Tracy...
'In love? You? Nonsense! Nonsense! Nonsense! You do not know what the word means. You are like a--like a fish, with no more of love in you than a fish, and no more heart than a fish, and--'
'Spare me the rest, I beg. I am very clammy, I make no doubt, but you will at least accord me more brain than a fish?'
'Oh, you have brain enough!' she raged. 'Brain for evil! I grant you that!'...
'Altogether she's as spirited a filly as you could wish for. All she needs is bringing to heel.'
'Does one bring a filly to heel? I rather thought--'
'As usual, my dear Lavinia, you are right: one does not. One breaks in a filly. I beg leave to thank you for correcting my mixed metaphor.' (75)
Diana meets Tracy
Then came his Grace of Andover upon the stage.
He drew Diana's attention from the first moment that he entered the Pump Room--a black moth amongst the gaily-hued butterflies. (83)
Frank to Tracy
'If you will not try the straight and narrow way, I can only hope that you will fall very deeply and very honestly in love; and that the lady will save you from yourself.'
Jack to his servant, Jim
'I have conceived a dislike--nay, a veritable hatred--for puce. I will wear blue.' (150)
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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