The Talisman Ring. Georgette Heyer. 1936/2009. Sourcebooks. 303 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Sir Tristram Shield, arriving at Lavenham Court in the wintry dusk, was informed at the door that his great-uncle was very weak, not expected to live many more days out.
Premise/plot: How to introduce this one? Think, think, think. I could mention that it has a heroine that reminds me of Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen fame. Because it does. Eustacie de Vauban is silly and impulsive and much too much into romantic novels with daring adventures and dashing, swoon-worthy heroes. She, like Catherine, has an over-active imagination. But, this book isn't her story alone. So maybe that wouldn't quite be fair.
The book opens with a dying old man, the family patriarch, Sylvester, calling his family together. He wants his granddaughter, Eustacie, whom he rescued from France before the revolution got started with all the guillotining, to be safely married. He wants his great-nephew (Sylvester is Tristam's great-uncle), Tristram Shield, to marry her. He decidedly does not want Basil "The Beau" Lavenham to be the man for the job. Though since Ludovic Lavenham's "death" there is really no one closer in the line to inherit his title and his lands. But is Ludovic really dead?
The more time Eustacie spends with Tristram, the more she knows that he is not the one for her. He is not adventurous. He is not romantic. He is not impressed with her storytelling and imagining. He is much too grounded in reality to ever be dashing and heroic. He's simply put not hero material. So Eustacie makes up her mind to run away. In the middle of the night. On horseback. What could be wrong with that?
Well, maybe just maybe as she's running away...she runs right into the middle of a pack of smugglers. Instead of being scared silly. She's in love with the notion. An adventure worthy of any real heroine! Fortunately for her, her kidnapper is none-other than her cousin Ludovic. He's a man already on the outs with the law--charged with a murder several years previous. But is he guilty of that crime?
Can Eustacie (and company) prove Ludovic's innocent of murder? Can they redeem his name, enable him to come out of hiding, and claim what is rightfully his? It will be a massive undertaking and require some help! (Enter Sarah Thane and company).
My thoughts: It can be easy to forget just how much you enjoyed a particular Heyer romance when you've read so many. The Talisman Ring is certainly enjoyable and quite satisfying...even if it doesn't necessarily stay as fresh in one's memory as being a favorite-favorite. I enjoyed the two romances in this one. But above all, I enjoyed the dramatic, suspenseful mystery! It reminded me a bit of the promise of Northanger Abbey, except in this case, there was actually plenty of adventure and danger and mystery!
A scene between Eustacie and Tristram:
“You would more probably have gone to the guillotine,' replied Sir Tristram, depressingly matter of fact.
'Yes, that is quite true,' agreed Eustacie. 'We used to talk of it, my cousin Henriette and I. We made up our minds we should be entirely brave, not crying, of course, but perhaps a little pale, in a proud way. Henriette wished to go to the guillotine en grande tenue, but that was only because she had a court dress of yellow satin which she thought became her much better than it did really. For me, I think one should wear white to the guillotine if one is quite young, and not carry anything except perhaps a handkerchief. Do you not agree?'
'I don't think it signifies what you wear if you are on your way to the scaffold,' replied Sir Tristram, quite unappreciative of the picture his cousin was dwelling on with such evident admiration.
She looked at him in surprise. 'Don't you? But consider! You would be very sorry for a young girl in a tumbril, dressed all in white, pale, but quite unafraid, and not attending to the canaille at all, but--'
'I should be very sorry for anyone in a tumbril, whatever their age or sex or apparel,' interrupted Sir Tristram.
'You would be more sorry for a young girl--all alone, and perhaps bound,' said Eustacie positively.
'You wouldn't be all alone. There would be a great many other people in the tumbril with you,' said Sir Tristram.
Eustacie eyed him with considerable displeasure. 'In my tumbril there would not have been a great many other people,' she said.”
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