The Quiet Gentleman

Through the course of my blogging travels, I have seen the name Georgette Heyer appear from time to time on a few of the blogs I love to read. Totally unfamiliar with this famous and prolific author, I agreed to review The Quiet Gentleman for Sourcebooks.

Georgette Heyer’s writing quite resembles that of Jane Austen’s. (What an adjustment from the likes of Hemingway whose writing I’ve feasted on this summer! Consider these two descriptions of spring, the first from Georgette: “It was a fine day towards the close of March, the ground rather heavy from recent rains, but fast drying under a strong wind, blowing from the east. The hedgerows were bursting into new leaf, and the banks were starred with primroses.” Compared to Ernest: “In the spring mornings I would work early while my wife still slept. The windows were open wide and the cobbles of the street were drying after the rain.” from A Moveable Feast)

Like Austen’s novels, The Quiet Gentleman is categorized as romance; however Heyers’ writing can be differentiated further into the category of Regency romance because it contains elements of mystery and satire, lots of dialogue between members of the opposite sex, and detailed descriptions of balls, hunting, riding, theater, suppers and other social activities pertaining to 19th century England. Here is one of the first bits of mystery in The Quiet Gentleman:

He awoke very suddenly, he knew not how many hours later, as though some unusual sound, penetrating his dreams, had jerked him back to consciousness. The room was in dense darkness, the fire in the hearth having died quite away; and he could hear nothing but the rain beating against the windows, and the howl of the wind, more subdued now, round the corner of the building. Yet even as he wondered whether perhaps he had been awakened by the fall of a tile from the roof, or the slamming of a door left carelessly open, he received so decided an impression that he was not alone in the room, that he raised himself quickly on to one elbow, straining his eyes to see through the smothering darkness. He could hear nothing but the wind and the rain, but the impression that someone was in the room rather grew on him than abated, and he said sharply, ‘Who is there?’

Such suspense! Reminiscent even of Jane Eyre, this passage had me caught up in the intrigue wondering what, in fact, was going on. All I knew was that Gervase Frant, the seventh Earl of St Erth, had returned to his home after the death of his father. At this home, Stanyon, live his stepmother, the Dowager, as well as Martin, his brother, and Theo, his cousin. A heated rivalry has occurred between Martin and Gervase because Martin felt threatened about losing the affections of Marianne Bilderwood to his elder brother.
Suspicious events occur: the omission by Martin of informing Gervase that the bridge is not safe to cross when Gervase is out riding his grey horse, Cloud; the aforementioned intrusion into Gervase’s bedroom in the middle of the night; and then a cord, stretched across the path, causes Cloud to stumble and Gervase to lie stunned in the middle of the road where house guest Miss Morville comes upon him and rescues him. Is anyone attempting to take Gervase’s life? Is it, in fact, Martin? Who will win the lovely Marianne Bilderwood’s affection? These are a few of the plots within this novel, one which I was surprisingly delighted to read.
There is enough romance, enough ridiculous repartee, enough family drama to enrapture any one’s heart. Even mine which, rather jaded, tends to scorn books in the romance department.
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18 thoughts on “The Quiet Gentleman”

  1. I read her for the first time last summer, when there was a reading challenge going on. I was kind of smitten, myself! I also read a book about her, and she was very interesting…wrote a book a year (sometimes a romance and a mystery), and did extensive research on Regency slang and other aspects. Very interesting!

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  2. Audrey, perhaps yours was one of the blogs I first saw Heyer's name mentioned. Normally, the Romance thing doesn't thrill me, but it was great to read for myself and see why people have loved her work. I certainly learned a lot about what Regency romance means; who knew? I considered myself lucky to have made the connection to Austen! 🙂

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  3. Bellezza,I've seen Georgette Heyer's books in bookstores, but have never read one. From your excerpt, that sure sounds like a Gothic style read. Yes, you've mentioned Jane Eyre and Austen. I think her style reminds me of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. They are contemporaries too.

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  4. Arti, oh, how I love Rebecca. Did you see the title The Lantern in my sidebar? It's a book I'm reading for August which is supposed to echo pieces of Rebecca. Love that atmospheric mystery…more than Austen, actually. Somehow I never think of DuMaurier being her contemporary.

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  5. I have heard about Heyer for so many years and never read anything of hers before. You encourage me with your review as I have always shied away a bit from reading her since I am not a big fan of romance historical fiction.

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  6. I'm not going to say it's my favorite genre, Kathleen, but I definitely think you should give her a try; especially as she's so well known! One has to read a bit of everything to be culturally literate, right? Even a taste of every genre helps keep us well rounded, I think.

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  7. I've a feeling that this may be one of those books that divide along gender lines. Like yourself I've seen this writer about, my wife has even read some & like any book that enters my small world, curiosity suggests I take a peek , which having been done, this was ruled out & filed as a "definitely not for me" now with your comparisons to that grand dame of Chick-Lit (Austen) makes this even more of an unlikely scenario. On different note, seen the Yoshida book in your sidebar, I hope you enjoy.

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  8. I have never read anything from Georgette Heyer. Thanks for the review, I might have to keep my eye out for this author after I finish the other classics I have planned.

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  9. I always enjoy her books and have read many of them several times over. More than romance it brings you a feeling of the era of Regency England – on the surface prim and proper and underneath it all normal relationships and feelings!

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  10. I've read a handful of her books, including a couple of romances and one mystery. She's definitely on my "to read more of" list, since she does have an interesting and unique style… Jane Austen and Daphne du Maurier are definitely good comparisons.

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  11. Rachel, she'd fit right in with classics; there's something quite charming about the phrases she uses, and there were even vocabulary words I'd never come across before which is very rare for me! Reading this novel was so very much like watching one of the PBS specials such as Gaskell or Austen wrote. I'm glad I've read something byu Heyer now.

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  12. Mystica, what a perfect comment! Absolutely! There's the proper outside over all the emotional tension inside, and usually everyone's so polite! Unless they're calling for a duel, or something. 😉

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  13. Brooke, I tend to think of Daphne DuMaurier in more of the horror genre (although certainly not anything like Stephen King!). She writes novels and stories which are just chilling to me, yet Austen and Heyer seem to keep more of the 'formal tea' atmosphere going. I'll have to look up the exact dates of DuMaurier's works so that I can place them properly within the timeline.

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  14. Glad to know that you liked your first Georgette Heyer book, Bellezza 🙂 Many of my friends kept recommending Heyer's books to me, and though I haven't read one yet, I read one of her short stories called 'The Duel' sometime back. I loved it! After reading it, I realized why she was so popular and highly recommended by readers. I will try one of her books soon.

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