Day 397: Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle

Cover for SylvesterOn occasion, I reread a few of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, which have been some of my favorite reading for many years. Just recently, I reread Sylvester, which in some editions is titled Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle.

The extremely eligible bachelor Sylvester, Duke of Salford, has decided to take a wife. His only difficulty is in deciding which of five eligible girls to marry. When his beloved mama mentions that she and her best friend made a plan for their children to marry many years before, he decides to go inspect the girl, his godmother’s granddaughter, to see if he might like her. Although he is warm and thoughtful to those he cares for, since his twin brother’s death, he has been aloof to others and comes off as haughty.

Sylvester’s visit is disguised as a hunting party, but Phoebe Marlow is informed by her detestable stepmother that the duke is coming to make her an offer. Unfortunately, Phoebe has already met Sylvester and took such a dislike to him that she used him as the villain in a novel she wrote. That novel is going to be published, despite all expectation. Normally, she would not expect him to recognize himself in a silly gothic romance that pokes fun at various society figures, but for the mention of Sylvester’s very distinctive eyebrows.

Fearful of her stepmother’s pressure and not understanding that Sylvester has no intention of proposing, Phoebe talks her childhood friend Tom into escorting her to her grandmother’s house. However, an accident and a snowstorm strand her and Tom with Sylvester in a small country inn.

After Phoebe gets to know and like Sylvester, she is horrified to find out that he has a nephew, since in her silly romance his character is a wicked uncle who wants to steal his nephew’s fortune. Another horror lurks, because Phoebe’s book proves to be a smashing success, much read by society members, who are all trying to identify their friends. Since Phoebe has never brought herself to admit to Sylvester that she wrote a book, she soon fears that people will find out she is the author.

Heyer creates delightful, engaging characters and puts them into silly and unbelievable situations, which is part of the pleasure of reading her novels. They are very well written, with entertaining and sparkling dialogue and a complete understanding of the customs, dress, and speech of the period. If you decide to read Sylvester, get ready for some fun. Many of Heyer’s novels have been re-released in the past few years, so they should not be hard to find.

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