Though I now write sweet Regency romance, I fell into the genre because of a lifetime of reading them, from Jane Austen to Barbara Cartland to Georgette Heyer, and of course, a good number of newer authors though many of those are sensual rather than sweet. When I was having some difficulty wrapping my head around my latest book, I dug up two Georgette Heyer novels to reset my brain into the right timeframe. The results were entertaining, but also fascinating from a “how the world has changed” point of view. First, I’ll talk about the book, then my other observations.
Faro’s Daughter is a delightful romp illustrating what happens when two headstrong people, used to getting their way, end up on opposite sides. Georgette Heyer may, in fact, be at the root of my love for well-written “misunderstanding” romances. The story begins with Mr. Ravenscar and his aunt making an assumption based on Deborah’s circumstances as to her character, and devolves from there.
Could Deborah have pulled him aside and gently explained the true circumstance in the face of his slander? Sure. But why should she have to bow to his arrogance when he never once entertained the possibility that he might have misunderstood the situation?
That arrogance is certainly not one-sided either, nor do the lengths to which either of them goes make much sense to outsiders. But within an escalating war of wills, anything is game, while there are others happy to manipulate the circumstances for their own interests as well. The nature of Deborah and Mr. Ravenscar’s responses build a much different picture of how they perceive each other as the story progresses, allowing the reader to see the change in circumstances in a lovely fashion before the characters themselves have recognized the source of their extravagance.
As you might have guessed, I enjoyed this story as much as I may have many years before, though it’s possible I had not read this particular title as of yet. However, I promised some observations about the style, so here they are:
Heyer has a particular way of writing with many exclamation points and an exaggerated nature in both the narrative and the dialogue that is very different than today’s standards. It is as though the characters and everything that happens to them is larger than life even when simply sharing a game of cards. Of course, to these two, there is nothing simple about a card game either.
Part of what I enjoyed was the inclusion of the historical circumstances. Families were constantly faced with life-altering decisions such as desperate attempts to save the family fortune through good marriages, and yes, through running a gambling establishment. The quality of the company and the good food could let the proprietors pretend a moral standard but ultimately little separated them from the gaming hells.
It’s not just the difference in their circumstances that set Deborah and Mr. Ravenscar apart but also the difference in reputation. Mr. Ravenscar is not the only one to believe Deborah to have a price that has little to do with her virtue or reputation despite the quality of her bloodline.
One other aspect that deserves mention when current views of the past have blinders is the presence of a black pageboy. It’s only a passing reference, but when you compare that to so many claiming there were only white-skinned persons in London during the Regency, it’s worth mentioning. Apparently, this whitewashing of the past is a more recent event as Heyer (this novel was first published in 1941) saw nothing of note in the inclusion of non-white staff, much like how the skin tones in Regency Era artworks show a variety in all levels of society.