Heyer tour retrospective yesterday, and I thought I would use the opportunity to comment on a few more of the books I have already read (I discussed several of the Regency romances reviewed here). Please forgive the imprecision of some of my references, but we are in the process of moving and my husband (with good, if mistaken, intentions) already packed these books. Today's topic is Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, hero of These Old Shades. The story tells how he meets his brash, volatile, and totally charming Parisian wife Leonie, thereby unleashing a race of miscreants upon polite society. We are in a world quite remote from Austen's: a world of French aristocrats, villainous morality, and cross dressing. The period is sometime in the early 18th century (I think) and Alastair (known by Satanas, for good reason) is walking down the dark, unsavory streets of Paris, as if he hadn't a care in the world, when he is suddenly plunged into by a young boy, whom he first expects is a thief, running for his life. His pursuer isn't far behind and proves to be his older brother. On a lark, the Justin buys the child from his sibling and makes him his page. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, mystery, deception, and wild good fun.
In every archaic sense of the word, Alastair and Leonie are a most exceptional characters. Despite their impeccable blood lines, I can assure you that Lady Catherine, as well as every other matron in Austen, would be seriously displeased with their behavior. Nonetheless, they are thoroughly charming and must be adored, especially Leonie. One of Heyer's great strengths is taking characters who you want to not like and forcing you to do so, regardless of any intentions otherwise. Indeed, it is the desire for more of this remarkable couple that made me instantly seek out both Devil's Cub and An Infamous Army upon completing These Old Shades. The first is the story of their son, the second of their great-granddaughter. Neither enthralled me like These Old Shades, but both have their merits. Read The Classics Circuit review of These Old Shades at Musings.
Devil's Cub (so aptly named) is a frolicking story about the abduction of the wrong lady who, of course, turns out to be exactly the right wife. Dominic Alastair, the Marquis Vidal, is just as rash and reckless as his father, though sadly not as indomitable. For him, shooting a man and being forced to flee to the continent is an everyday adventure, so it takes a rather extraordinary lady to pierce his heart, as Mary Challoner almost literally does. I'll say no more, but for a very approving review of this book and a comparison between it and These Old Shades, please read The Classics Circuit review of both at The Adventures of an intrepid Reader. Michelle's Masterful Musings found Devil's Cub less impressive.
Regency Buck (which I will get to in a moment), and Waterloo. According to one Amazon editorial, An Infamous Army "must be the most accurately researched and detailed battle description that has ever appeared in a book of romantic fiction." It would be rediculously presumptuous of me to attempt to properly review it without a copy of the text on hand, especially after having read it more than a month ago. It is unlike any other of the Heyer novels I have read: epic in scope, almost entirely consumed with scenes of battles rather than ballrooms, and there is this curious background character,Wellington, who orchestrates the whole while remaining enigmatic, much in the manner of a mythic hero. I much preferred this story to Devil's Cub, mostly because it bring back two favorite characters, Lord and Lady Worth (formerly Judith Taverner), who hold more interest for me than Justin and Leonie's descendants (from who I expected much more). No one reviewed Regency Buck for The Classics Circuit either, so I will have to make a point of doing so at some point once we have moved and unpacked the books, as it is an excellent Regency romance.