Day 1159: A Christmas Party

Cover for A Christmas PartyThis is the second time recently that I’ve thought a new book by Georgette Heyer has been published, only to find it has not. instead, some of her existing work is being republished under different titles. In this case, Envious Casca, one of her mysteries, has been republished as A Christmas Party.

Fortunately, I always enjoy Heyer, and I read Envious Casca so long ago that I didn’t remember it. However, I didn’t really need a second copy of the novel, so here’s a warning to you.

Wealthy curmudgeon Nathaniel Herriard has no interest in Christmas, but his brother Joseph thinks it would be nice to have an old-fashioned Christmas house party. In an inept attempt to heal family rifts, he invites his nephew, Stephen, whose fianceé Nathaniel disapproves of, and that fianceé, Valerie. He also invites his niece, Paula, who has been badgering Nathaniel to back a play she wants to star in, and Paula brings the playwright, Willoughby Roydon. Also attending is Nathaniel’s business partner, Mr. Mottisfont, who has been arguing with Nathaniel about something. Mathilda Clare, Stephen and Paula’s cousin, has arrived uninvited, and of course Joseph’s placid wife, Maud, is present.

On Christmas Eve, after several tiffs with the various guests, Nathaniel is found dead in his locked bedroom, having been stabbed. Inspector Hemingway cannot find any way that the murderer could have entered or left the room. That being said, things don’t look good for Stephen, who is Nathaniel’s heir.

I was immediately suspicious of one character, and my instincts proved right, but I still couldn’t figure out how the murder was committed. There was a broad hint about that, however, in something trivial that keeps being mentioned. I knew it was a hint but was too lazy to look it up. I don’t really think, though, that the puzzle is the point with Heyer’s mysteries. Instead, it is her entertaining characters and her wit. I enjoyed this mystery, and Inspector Hemingway seems to be a worthy successor to Inspector Hannasyde.

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Day 1150: Snowdrift and Other Stories

Cover for Snowdrift and Other StoriesI keep saying I love Georgette Heyer, so of course when a volume of her short stories appeared on Netgalley, I requested it. Originally, the story collection was released as Pistols for Two, so I’m sure I read it years before but did not remember the stories.

Each of these stories is a romance in miniature. They involve some of Heyer’s hallmarks—cases of mistaken identity, elopements gone wrong, accidental encounters, and a couple of duels. Appealing heroines meet attractive men usually while they are engaged in some mistaken folly.

link to NetgalleyThese are delightful, light stories, perfect for a rainy day and a cup of tea. This is a very short review, but if you like a charming romance laced with humor, you can’t go wrong with Georgette Heyer.

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Day 1143: Cousin Kate

Cover for Cousin KateCousin Kate was one of the novels that I could read for the 1968 Club, during which we read books for the year chosen. Since I love Georgette Heyer, I was delighted to reread it.

Heyer’s Regency romances usually fit into one of two categories—straight romance or romantic suspense—both laced with humor and wit. Cousin Kate fits in the latter category.

Kate Malvern returns with some dismay to the home of her nurse, Sarah Nidd. She has lost her position as governess, because her employer’s brother made an offer of marriage. As she continues looking for a new position, she realizes her lack of success is due to both her lack of credentials and her good looks. She begins to talk wildly of taking a job as an abigail or a seamstress.

Kate’s mother’s family cut her mother off when she married Kate’s ramshackle father. But Kate’s father had a half-sister whom Kate has not met, Lady Broome. Unbeknownst to Kate, Sarah writes to Lady Broome hoping she will offer Kate a home.

She does, but shortly after arriving at the stately Staplewood, Kate realizes it is not a happy home. Sir Timothy is in frail health and lives in his own wing. Nineteen-year-old Torquil is also subject to headaches and extremely volatile in his behavior. He is constantly attended by either his man, Badger, or Dr. Delabole. Lady Broome claims to have work for Kate, but the household runs smoothly, and Kate, used to being active, is soon bored. Lady Broome also showers her with gifts, which makes her uncomfortable.

1968 club logoSir Timothy’s nephew, Philip, arrives. At first, he seems disdainful of her, but soon he is urging her to leave. She does not see how she can do so without seeming ungrateful and hopes there will be something she can do for Lady Broome. Little does she know that there is.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated the truly silly humor of some of Heyer’s funnier novels most. So, Cousin Kate is not one of my favorites. That being said, it still features an engaging heroine, witty dialogue, and an interesting plot. It is hard to go wrong with Heyer for a light, cozy read.

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Day 1120: They Found Him Dead

Cover for They Found Him DeadThe wealthy Silas Kane is celebrating his sixtieth birthday, but the party is anything but jolly. His business partner, Joe Mansell, is trying to talk him into a deal with an American company for Australia, but he thinks it’s too big a risk. His cousin Clement’s self-obsessed wife, Rosemary, is considering leaving Clement for Trevor Dermott. Betty Pemble, Joe’s daughter, can only talk about her obnoxious children.

That night Silas goes for his customary walk along the cliff top. The next morning it is clear that his bed was never slept in. He has apparently fallen off the edge of the cliff.

Clement Kane is now the heir to the estate and company, but he doesn’t seem to be any more inclined to the business deal than Silas. His wife, however, decides to stay with him because she needs money. Emily Kane, Silas’s mother, is angry that the property is going to Clement rather than to her grandson, Jim Kane.

As the businessman from America, Oscar Roberts, appears on the scene, Joe Mansell and his son Paul pressure Clement to agree to their deal. But soon Clement is also dead, shot in his office just as Patricia Allison, Emily’s companion, was about to show in Oscar Roberts for an appointment. To Jim’s surprise, he is the next heir, not his female cousin in Australia, as the estate is entailed to the male heir.

No one knows whether Silas was murdered or not, but Clement certainly was. And soon someone appears to be trying to murder Jim.

Detective Inspector Hannasyde has a plethora of suspects and doesn’t even know how many deaths to look into. Could the Mansells have committed murder for a business deal? Is someone really trying to kill Jim, or is it a blind?

I guessed the murderer and the motive almost immediately, but the puzzle isn’t the point of an Heyer mystery. Instead, it’s the characters and the amusing dialogue. This mystery isn’t very mysterious, but it’s a pleasure to read.

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Day 608: The Convenient Marriage

Cover for The Convenient MarriageThe Winwood sisters are in turmoil. Miss Winwood has gained a spectacular suitor in the Earl of Rule, who has finally decided to marry. He is wealthy, and his generous settlement will save the family from ruin. The only problem is that Miss Winwood is in love with Edward Heron, a mere army lieutenant and a second son with no fortune.

Young Horatia Winwood, not yet out of the schoolroom, thinks she has the solution. Rule wants to marry a Winwood, and it should not matter to him which one. So, she goes to his house and proposes herself as an alternative. She forthrightly points out her unfortunate eyebrows and her stammer and hopes that Rule won’t mind them. Rule is enchanted.

So, Horry gets married without realizing she has made a love match. Since Rule is afraid he may be too old for her, he treats her with a little too much care. She has told him she won’t interfere with him, so she says nothing when she learns about his mistress, Caroline Massey.

Rule has broken with Massey, though, who is jealous and angry. Crosby Drelincourt, Rule’s foppish heir, is eager to make trouble, as is Rule’s enemy, Robert Lethbridge.

Horry soon finds herself very popular. But her efforts to make Rule jealous and the plots of Rule’s enemies land her in trouble, and her scapegrace brother Pelham’s schemes to get her out of it only make things worse.

In Horry, Heyer has created another engaging and feisty heroine. Heyer is an expert on the Regency period, as well as the master of warm and funny romantic escapades, and The Convenient Marriage is one of her best.

Day 433: Black Sheep

Cover for Black SheepI hadn’t read this Georgette Heyer novel in some years. Although it is not one of my absolute favorites, reading it is still a relaxing, amusing way to spend a few hours.

When Abigail Wendover is away from her home of Bath visiting her family, she hears disturbing rumors that her niece Fanny, an heiress, is being courted by a fortune hunter named Stacy Calverleigh. Returning home, she finds that her 17-year-old headstrong niece believes they are madly in love, and she is not ready to listen to arguments that Calverleigh, a much older man, has not behaved as he should. He has also worked his way into the good graces of Abigail’s foolish sister Selina.

Abigail encounters a man named Calverleigh in a hotel parlor, and she is shocked to find him neither of good looks nor address and much older than she is herself. He is further prone to uttering the most shocking remarks that unfortunately make her laugh. Soon Abigail finds that this Calverleigh is not Stacy but his uncle Miles, the black sheep of the family, who was sent away to India after a youthful scandal and has now returned. However, he is unwilling to interest himself in the situation between her niece and his nephew. He is only interested in Abigail herself.

Although Abigail knows she shouldn’t encourage his attentions and finds some of his views about family and duty shocking, he never fails to make her laugh. Soon she discovers that he is even more unsuitable a companion than she thought, for his youthful indiscretion was to run off with Fanny’s own mother, who later married Abigail’s older brother!

Abigail is one of Heyer’s more mature heroines, an intelligent, sensible woman with a sense of humor some of her relatives consider unfortunate. Of course, the journey out of the tangle her niece is in will be enjoyable and entertaining. Although this novel is not as funny as some of my favorites, it is always a pleasure to spend time with Heyer’s creations.

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.