Twice a year, Karen and Simon host an online book club where they choose a year and everyone comes together to review and discuss books published in that year. Today kicks off the start of the week dedicated to 1929 and what a year it was for publishing, especially for detective fiction.
I was surprised by how many books I have already read that were originally published in 1929. These include:
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
Goodbye to all that by Robert Graves
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
Grand Hotel by Vicky Baum
It’s a really busy time of year at the moment and so I decided to start the week off quite gently with a reread from a favourite author.
Georgette Heyer is most famous for her romances set in the Regency period but she did write a couple of more historical novels, one of which is Beauvallet. This is set in Tudor times when Sir Francis Drake had just sailed around the world and the Spanish and English navies were spoiling for a fight. As in her Regency romances, Georgette Heyer introduces real figures into her stories and so we meet Queen Elizabeth 1 and King Philip of Spain as well as Sir Francis Drake and other members of the Tudor court.
Nicholas Beauvallet is a classic swashbuckling hero who always has a joke when he is in danger and is irresistible to women. We first meet him at sea as he boards a Spanish ship to carry off its treasure. On board the ship are his excellency Don Manuel and his daughter, Dona Domenica who are returning to Spain from the Americas. Of course, the result of the battle is never in doubt and neither is the romance. But then, the beauty of a well written romance is the journey that the two parties undertake before they can ride off into the happily ever after.
Beauvallet is a true gentleman and returns Don Manuel and Dona Domenica to Spain but he promises that he will come for her before the year is out. He keeps his promise and comes to Spain in disguise, travelling right to the heart of the Spanish court and meeting King Philip while masquerading as a French nobleman.
Domenica is now living with her aunt after the death of her father and is in danger of being forcibly married off to her cousin as the family want her inheritance for themselves. There are some lovely scenes equal to any in Heyer’s romances where Beauvallet pretending to be the Chevalier de Guise becomes the darling of Spanish society. Domenica’s aunt, Dona Beatrice is a worthy opponent for Beauvallet as she is determined that Domenica will marry her son even if he has to kidnap her to achieve this.
This doesn’t quite have the sparkle of some of her best romances such as The Grand Sophy and sometimes the dialogue becomes a bit stilted as Heyer is possibly less comfortable with Tudor phrasing. Domenica too, doesn’t have the depth of some of her later heroines. However, it is still a gorgeous bit of escapism and there are thrills galore in the last third of the book.
If you love Georgette Heyer and haven’t read this one, then it is definitely worth picking up.