The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1936. This book doesn’t feature on my 20 Books of Summer list but I really needed a book to cheer me up. The news pandemical and political is bad enough, but the days and days of constant rain just about pushed me over the edge. I knew that a Georgette Heyer book would hit the spot, accompanied by some chocolate of course. I recalled that someone recently said that The Talisman Ring was her favourite Heyer – and it was sitting unread on my Heyer shelf – such luck! I think it has become my favourite too. More than any others it seemed to be a Regency version of one of Heyer’s crime/mystery books and there was plenty of scope for snappy and witty dialogue between the male and female characters.
The elderly Lord Lavenham is dying and three of his grandchildren have gathered at Lavenham Court. Ludovic the heir to the estate is absent as he has had to skip the country after he was suspected of murdering a fellow gambler. Lord Lavenham makes Tristram promise to marry his much younger cousin Eustacie as there’s no one to look after her, her branch of the family had recently come to grief in the French Revolution, but neither of them are attracted to each other. Basil or Beau as he is nicknamed will inherit the estate in the absence of Ludovic.
Eustacie believes that she would have a more exciting life if she became a governess (maybe French governesses have an exciting life!) so when her grandfather dies she sneaks out of the Court to ride to London, having to ride through a notoriously haunted forest. Instead of meeting the Headless Horseman she bumps into a group of smugglers, one of whom turns out to be Ludovic.
Events lead them to have to put up at a nearby coaching inn and so begins an adventurous romp with Eustacie being enthusiastically aided by Sarah Thane who is staying there while her brother Sir Hugh samples as much of the liquor in the cellar as he can get his hands on.
This book has great characters and a good plot too, it was just what I needed, mind you I’m still fed up with all the rain.
The first shelf is in a small bookcase which is situated at the top of the stairs, it’s a tight space and I was really happy when we managed to get a wee bookcase to fit in. This shelf is where most of my British Library Crime Classic books reside. I’ve discovered quite a few authors that I hadn’t experienced before through these books and I tend to read them as soon as I get them so these books have all been read. I like this series, they feature covers appropriate to the time they were originally published, often from British Rail posters advertising holiday destinations in the UK. I love those posters too and have quite a few wee repro ones framed and hanging on the staircase walls.
More vintage crime, I rarely come across any original Penguin crime paperbacks, but when I do manage to find them I almost always read them straight away, so these ones have all been read too. The books by Jean Potts and Holly Roth were bought when I hadn’t even heard of those authors but I really enjoyed the books. If you are a fan of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances then you will almost certainly like her crime/mystery books. They feature the same witty dialogue that make her historical books such fun.
The last shelf isn’t a shelf at all, it’s a book trough, although at the last antiques fair I went to (remember those heady days when we had the luxury of doing things like that and we took it all completely for granted?!) anyway, I bought another book trough but was amused to see that the label on it described it as being a book troff. The one below is on the floor in the hall at the moment as I have nowhere else to put it. There’s some more vintage crime in it, it’s a mixture of books that are waiting to be read and some I have read already. The big thick book is called The Herries Chronicle and it’s by Hugh Walpole. I think this trilogy was wildly popular when they were first published in the 1930s but I’ve never known anyone who has read them. The books are set in the Lake District, which seems like a plus to me. This volume contains four books – Rogue Herries, Judith Paris, The Fortress and Vanessa. Have any of you read any of Walpole’s books?
Despite still being in lockdown, or maybe because of it, the time is going so fast and already it’s time for another Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith Reader in the Wilderness.
Click on the photo to enlarge it.
When we moved house and I grabbed a spare bedroom as a room for some of my books I really thought that I would be able to have them all in alphabetical order but that hasn’t happened. I now realise that I only have some of my Rumer Godden books on these shelves, others are downstairs.
I think I’ve read most of the Georgette Heyer books, but I haven’t read The Talisman Ring yet. I might read that one next as I’ve just finished a Virago book. I have all of Heyer’s crime/mystery books, but they are all in a crime fiction bookcase elsewhere.
Kingmaker Divided Souls by Toby Clements was a gift from a friend who loved reading it, but didn’t want to hold on to it. It’s another Wars of the Roses book.
I totally forgot that I had this copy of The Scent of the Water by Elizabeth Goudge, another possibilty for my next read. I love the rather twee cover.
I’ve been using this meme to find forgotten books on my shelves, I used to keep unread books in piles on floors, but that got too untidy as inevitably they collapsed from time to time causing even more mess. But it did mean that I could see at a glance what was still in my TBR book queues. Have you read any of these books?
Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1966 and my copy seems to be a first edition. If you’re wondering which book to read next from your to be read stacks and you just can’t make up your mind – as I often can’t, then a Georgette Heyer book will always hit the spot – I find.
The setting is Bath where unmarried sisters Abigail and Selina Wendover share the custody of their seventeen year old niece Fanny. Fanny’s parents are dead but have left her very well off when she comes of age, meaning that she’s a prey to all fortune-hunters – a type of beast which haunts the streets of Bath.
Stacy Calverleigh also inherited a large fortune but he has run through it all with his serious gambling habit and in no time at all he’s targetting Fanny for her money, and she very quickly believes she’s in love with him. But her Aunt Abigail knows of Stacy Calverleigh’s reputation and is determined to protect Fanny from him.
This brings Abigail into the society of Stacy’s Uncle Miles. He is the Black Sheep of his family and was sent out of the way to India to find his fortune (or fail) twenty years ago. Miles Calverleigh has just returned from India for good but he isn’t interested in his nephew, he’s enamoured of Abigail. But she believes Miles is a bad lot, she knows that he was expelled from Eton before being packed off to India, so she’s not interested in him.
If you’ve already read Georgette Heyer’s books you’ll know that there’s a lot of witty dialogue involved. The blurb on the inside dustcover says:
Black Sheep is one of Miss Heyer’s lighter-hearted romances, with a charming heroine and a most intriguing hero – mysterious, good humoured, cynical, outrageous and in the end irresistible.
This is my first year of participating in the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Gilion @ Rose City Reader
This is my wrap up post but I never did get around to posting any of these review links at Rose City Reader. I’ve enjoyed doing this challenge although I joined up fairly late in the year, with the aim of getting me out of my usual reading comfort zone. In fact I think I got mixed up between this challenge and something else as I had it in my mind that the books should have been originally written in another language – but I was wrong about that. Anyway, it’s just a bit of fun so – here goes.
I managed to add eight more books to the many waiting in my TBR queue while we were away in Wales and East Sussex a few weeks ago. I bought All the Books of my Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith in a secondhand bookshop in Rye which is owned by a lovely Irish woman – who of course had no problem understanding our accent. I dread to think what trouble she must have had over the forty years or so that she has lived in Rye. I must admit that I had never heard of Sheila Kaye-Smith but she seems to have been local to East Sussex and ‘world famous’ in her neighbourhood.
I already have a few Monica Dickens books to read, I read some in the 1970s but none since then. The Room Upstairs seems to be quite different though – with the setting being America. I’m not going to pass up on a chance to buy a Heyer or even a Persephone which Doreen by Barbara Noble is, and I recall the Raffles series when it was on TV back in the year dot so I thought I’d give The Amateur Cracksman a go. The other three that I bought are Penguin Crimes which seem to be getting more and more thin on the ground.
All the Books of My Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith
The Room Upstairs by Monica Dickens
False Colours by Georgette Heyer
Doreen by Barbara Noble
Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung
and three Penguin Crime books
Poison in Jest by John Dickson Carr
Comes the Blind Fury by Douglas Rutherford
The crimson in the purple by Holly Roth
An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1937, but mine is a modern paperback with an introduction by Rosemary Sutcliff and also an author’s note at the beginning in which Heyer says that she had always wanted to write a book about the Battle of Waterloo but the spectre of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair had loomed over her. Thankfully she got over her reticence. Before beginning to read An Infamous Army I had a squint at the back pages to see if there was a bibliography – and indeed there is. Heyer had done her homework, and it shows. I have to say that Highland brigades feature a lot, which I don’t remember from when I ‘did’ the battle at school, but I have no doubt that she was right and the Scottish regiments were thrown in there first. There’s a lot of battle and a fair amount of gore, but before we get there we meet Lady Barbara Childe.
Lady Barbara is a young widow who had married a man much older than herself, for money no doubt. But now she’s footloose and fancy free and spends her time breaking young men’s hearts, even to the stage of one of them destroying himself. So when Charles Audley becomes smitten by her all of his friends and family warn him against Babs. Of course Charles thinks he can tame her, and for a while he almost does before everything falls apart and he apparently becomes yet another of Lady Barbara’s victims. We all know what’s going to happen, after all, it is a Regency romance.
But An Infamous Army is so much more than that – as you would expect from Heyer. Fashion features for the men as much as for the women but it isn’t all fol-de-rols as there’s a lot about the horror of war and the futility. Wellington is appalled at the loss of so many of his friends and generals at Waterloo at a time when the leaders didn’t sit safely in castles miles behind the front as they did in subsequent wars.
I have read Vanity Fair and was quite surprised that so many people went to the battle as tourists, with wives and would be wives following the army and the whole lead up to the battle being more like a grand holiday which ended with a big bang. I suspect that Heyer might have got closer to the atmosphere of the many pre-battle balls than Thackeray did.
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1950 and it’s a hoot. Sophy’s father Sir Horace who is a widower takes Sophy to live with his sister Lady Ombersley while he has some work to do in South America. As Sophy is twenty years old she’s overdue for being introduced to society and Lady Ombersley promises her brother that she will arrange some balls for Sophy, along with her own daughter Cecilia who is just slightly younger. Lady Ombersley has a large family to cope with but the children are nothing compared with the problems that Lord Ombersley brings her. He’s a compulsive gambler and has piles of debts. Luckily the family home is entailed and although he tried to break the entail he wasn’t successful. He has handed the running of the family finances to his eldest son and heir Charles who is weighted down with cares before his time.
When Sophy arrives she’s not the shrinking violet they expected. She’s determined to do exactly what she wants – and to the devil with conventions. She’s a gifted horsewoman and in no time she has bought a carriage and pair of horses which would be the equivalent of a woman buying something like a V8 Ferrari nowadays. Her cousin Charles is appalled by her behaviour.
Sophy couldn’t be more different from the strait-laced Miss Wraxton that Charles is engaged to marry. She’s joyless and a nasty gossip and definitely not the right match for Charles, but that’s main theme of The Grand Sophy, everyone seems destined to be with the wrong partner, until Sophy gets to work on them all.
As you would expect this book is full of humour and the last chapters are more akin to a farce – but such fun!!
At the moment I’m reading Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy and really enjoying it. I’m not quite half-way through it but I really had to laugh when on page 165 I read:
Lord Ombersely, who had gone away after dinner, now reappeared, accompanied by an elderly and immensely corpulent man in whom no one had the least difficulty in recognizing a member of the Royal Family, He was, in fact, the Duke of York, that one of Farmer George’s sons who most nearly resembled him. He had the same protuberant blue eye and beaky nose, the same puffy cheeks and pouting mouth, but he was a much larger man than his father. He appeared to be in imminent danger of bursting out of his tightly stretched pantaloons, he wheezed when he spoke, but he was plainly a genial prince, ready to be pleased, standing on very little ceremony, and chatting affably to anyone who was presented to him. Both Cecilia and Sophy had this honour. His Royal Highness’s appreciation of Cecilia’s beauty was quite as broadly expressed as Mr. Wraxton’s had been, and no one could doubt that had he met her in some less public spot it would not have been many minutes before the ducal arm would have been around her waist.
A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1961 and it’s quite different from her other books as there’s really not much in the way of humour in it, no witty repartee between couples. There’s a lot of history in it, but it’s never dry. Apparently Georgette Heyer hated this book and she had a very tough time writing it. The problem was that her mother was seriously ill and in fact dying while she was writing it, so it would have been strange if she had been able to write in her normal fashion. I’d like to be able to tell her how much I enjoyed it though, in fact I think it’s my favourite so far, despite the fact that I so enjoy her more usual witty dialogue.
A Civil Contract features Adam, Lord Lynton, a young man who has only just come into his title after the death of his father. His father had been a spendthrift, womaniser and a gambler and has left nothing but debts. The only way out of the mess his father has left him with is to sell the family estate. Adam’s mother is dead against that and he isn’t keen on it himself.
Adam’s lawyer knows a way out of the problem – he suggests to Adam that he can arrange a marriage between him and the daughter of a very wealthy businessman whose ambition is for his only child to marry into the aristocracy.
So – very different from Heyer’s more usual romantic relationships and the upshot is a more realistic progress of the development of a marriage.
Sometimes music accompanies me in my mind as I read a book and with this one it was Mama Cass’s It’s Getting Better. Completely inappropriate for a Gerorgian setting I know but the sentiment is the same. It occurs to me that you have to be of a certain age to remember Mama Cass though!