The Toll Gate #1954 Club

The 1954 Club started this Monday, hosted by Karen and Simon, who ask everyone to read one or more books published in 1954 – in any language, format, or place – and share their reviews. Together, they will put together an overview of the year.

I’ve read several of the posts about previous years but haven’t actually written a blog post for it before. However, 1954 was such a great year for books that I felt I had to join in and reread one of my favourite books from that year.

I’m celebrating Georgette Heyer this month. With the release of Season 2 of Bridgerton, it seems appropriate to remember the all-time queen of Regency romance novels. I’ve read lots of Regency novels by more modern authors but none of them quite measure up to Georgette Heyer’s masterpieces.

“How can I know you are to be trusted? I never set eyes on you until yesterday?”

Blurb from the back of the Pan paperback:

Georgette Heyer is famous for her delightful Regency romances and there is a modern sophistication about her handling of them that makes the stories irresistible. This post-Waterloo adventure is no exception.
A handsome captain of Dragoon Guards becomes involved with an engaging highwayman, a taciturn Bow Street runner and a stolen hoard of golden coins whilst protecting the squire’s attractive grand daughter from black villainy.

Blurbs obviously had a very style back in the early sixties!! I used to scour the local market for my collection of Heyer books and this one cost me the grand sum of 30p sometime back in the 1970s. It’s very battered now and probably needs replacing as a page is now falling out 😢

Heyer is most famous for her London based Regency stories featuring balls and the London season but some of my favourites are the ones set in more traditionally Jane Austen setting of a small country house. This one is a variation of that setting as it’s set in a Toll House in the Wilds of the Derbyshire Peak District.

Captain Jack Staples is bored and when he stumbles on the mystery of the missing Toll Gate keeper as he travels to visit a friend, he can’t resist the temptation to stay and find out what is happening.

He then meets Nell Stornaway, the grand daughter (not the niece as stated in the blurb above!) of the local squire who is dying and immediately falls in love. The book is about their romance but this is set against a backdrop of the mystery of the missing gate keeper and Nell’s cousin having turned up with a decidedly dodgy friend in tow. Jack is sure that the arrival of Henry Stornaway and his friend are connected to Ned Brean’s disappearance and is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery as well as pursue his romance with Nell.

Jack Staples is one of Georgette Heyer’s gentle giant heroes and unusually, this story is told from his point of view. The book has a lot in common with another of my favourites, The Unknown Ajax whose main character is very similar. The romance between Captain Jack and Nell is quite low key but very tender. The main focus of the book really though is the mystery of where the gate keeper is and the situation that Jack has found himself in.

As always with Georgette Heyer, the secondary characters are brilliantly written. She does a great line in young boys and 11 year old Ben in this book is one of my favourites. I loved the character of Rose too, Nell’s old nurse who doesn’t stand for any nonsense from anyone. All of the characters come alive though from the dying squire to the landlord of the local pub.

The only downside to this book could be that there is a lot of thieves slang in it which could make it hard for someone who might not have read a lot of this type of thing before. Don’t let that put you off though, if you haven’t read this before, then give it a try.

There were many other books published in 1954 that I loved. Obviously the first two volumes of Lord of the Rings will always be a favourite but some of my others are below.

Katherine by Anya Seton
I just loved this historical novel about the affair between John of Gaunt and the wife of one of his knights, Katherine Swynford. The fact that he married her when he was free to do so and after so many years seems to me to show that it really was a love affair.

Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
This was the first of Asimov’s robot novels and is a murder mystery so that ticked two of my favourite genres, Sci Fi and Crime. I also loved the way that he eventually linked this series with his Foundation series.

The Horse and his Boy by C S Lewis
I always much preferred this book to the ones involving Eustace who just used to annoy me. I really enjoyed reading about the Pevensey children as adult rulers and I loved Bree.

The Chalet School and Barbara by Elinor M Brett Dyer
As a young teenager, I adored the Chalet School books and spent many happy hours day dreaming about becoming a pupil there. This one was always one of my favourites as I always felt that I could identify with Barbara. I still have my collection of over 50 Armada paperbacks up in the attic.

These are my favourite books that were published in 1954. What would yours be?

Author: Janette

Recently retired Ex-Assistant Head of a large primary school in Leicestershire although I seem to be in school teaching quite a bit still.

12 thoughts on “The Toll Gate #1954 Club”

  1. I also read this one for 1954 Club, as you know. I agree that Ben and Rose were great secondary characters – I forgot to mention them in my review! 1954 seems to have been a good year for publishing. Katherine is one of my favourites too.

  2. I haven’t read this one so far though I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of Heyer’s regency romances and am working my way through her mysteries. I like that the setting of this one is different from the usual London ones and that there’s a mystery involved.

    I never thought of looking up Chalet school titles for the year. I’m yet to pick up one of those.

    1. They don’t appear in any lists of 1954 publications but I knew she must have published at least one that year so I went and checked 💕

      1. Glad you thought of it; there were a few authors for which this was the case, only when I looked up by name (like Bellairs and Lorac) did I find their books for the year; even with Blyton, the list showed only two, but the Blyton Society Page pointed to over 50

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