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.