The 1929 club – Beauvallet

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.

This is post 24 for Blogtober 2022

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?

Spell the Month in Books – April

Official Link up button

April has been here for a week so definitely time to try and spell the month in books. Spelling the month in books is a monthly link up organised by Jana at Reviews from the stacks It’s got a whole lot easier for the next couple of months as the names are quite short and don’t involve too many strange letters. We’ll worry about June and July when we get there!!!!

For April I am celebrating the new season of Bridgerton by featuring the all-time queen of Regency Romances, Georgette Heyer. When I was growing up, there was no such thing as YA books. There were children’s books and then there were adult books. The first adult books I remember reading were Georgette Heyer as my mum had a small collection of them. I have loved them ever since and still think that she is absolutely the best in this genre. I really wanted to create a physical stack for this month but one of my books has mysteriously gone missing. Sadly, it was the only book that she wrote beginning with the letter I 😢

A – Arabella

This was the first Georgette Heyer I ever read. Arabella is the well born but not rich daughter of a clergyman who pretends to be a rich heiress . She is a brilliant heroine and Mr Beaumaris is one of my favourite heroes.

P – Powder and Patch

This is a really early book written in 1923 and is not one of her best. Philip Jettan is rejected by the love of his life and so he travels to France to transform himself into the refined aristocrat that Cleone desires.

R – Regency Buck

This is my oldest book. It was actually published in 1960 although I bought second hand in the mid 1970s. Before the days of charity shops, there were second hand book stalls on Leicester Market and I used to search for Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie novels.

This is one of my favourite books. Judith is a strong willed heroine who hates being the ward of Lord Worth and there are some lovely battles of will between them.

I- An Infamous Army

This is the book that has inexplicably gone missing so I’m obviously going to have to replace it. It is a very different book to most of her others as it is focused on the battle of Waterloo and Georgette Heyer did an incredible amount of research into the battle and the events leading up to it.

It’s also unusual as most of her books were standalones but this one is the sequel to Regency Buck as well as finishing the Alastair family saga begun in These Old Shades and continued in Devil’s Cub.

L – Lady of Quality

A lot of her novels were set in London as ‘The Season’ was in full swing however, others are set in quieter places such as Bath. This is one of them and the heroine, Annis, has reached the old age of 26 and therefore too old to be thinking of marriage.

There are so many book in this field now including Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series but I still think Georgette Heyer at her best is incomparable.