Tuesday, 15 December 2015

'Sylvester' by Georgette Heyer (1957)

Synopsis: Sylvester Raine, the Duke of Salford, is a wealthy, handsome and elegant bachelor. Having now reached his 28th year, Sylvester has decided that the time has finally come for him to find a wife. Not being at all romantic, he then makes a short-list of five highly eligible young women and asks his mother for her advice on which of them he should marry. However, Sylvester's mother is aghast at the passionless way her son is going about his search for a bride and recalls that during his childhood she had hoped that he would marry a girl called Phoebe Marlow, the daughter of her deceased best friend. Intrigued, Sylvester travels to London to consult his godmother Lady Ingham on the matter (as she is also Phoebe's grandmother) and then makes his way to Phoebe's home so that they can be better acquainted. Meanwhile, when Phoebe's spiteful stepmother tells her that the Duke of Salford is intending to make her an offer of marriage she couldn't be more horrified. Because although Sylvester doesn't remember her, he and Phoebe were previously introduced in London the year before. And Phoebe took such a dislike to Sylvester that she's even based the villain of her gothic romance novel on him! Phoebe and Sylvester's second meeting isn't any better than their first: Sylvester finds Phoebe insipid and sulky and Phoebe thinks no better of Sylvester than she did in London. Not knowing that Sylvester has now decided against proposing, Phoebe panics and runs away to her grandmother's house in London with help from her childhood friend Tom Orde. The very next day Phoebe's home is in an uproar and Sylvester thankfully makes his way back to London. Due to the snowy weather Sylvester is then forced to stop at a remote country inn where he finds Phoebe and Tom. Sylvester and Phoebe are then forced to spend time with each other when the snow leaves them stranded at the inn for a week. During that time Sylvester discovers that Phoebe is a much more interesting woman than he had previously believed and Phoebe is shocked to find the Duke so amiable. The pair then renew their acquaintance in London. The pair are falling in love and all seems to be going well until Phoebe's novel The Lost Heir is published. The book is an immediate best-seller and it isn't long before London society begins to work out that its villainous Count Ugolino must be based on Sylvester...

I've read just over a dozen of Georgette Heyer's novels now but even though I now consider her as being one of my favourite writers I tend to find her books a bit hit-and-miss. There have been certain books by Heyer that I've found utterly charming and delightful (Venetia, Cotillion, The Talisman Ring) but then there have been other books by her that I've found downright tedious (An Infamous Army, Friday's Child).

For me Sylvester falls somewhere in the middle. I had mixed feelings about this one because even though it was still a fairly enjoyable read I found its pacing rather slow and draggy at times and there were even some occasions when the book made me feel a little uneasy. Phoebe and Sylvester have some really intense and bitter arguments in this book which actually made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. But there were still things that I enjoyed about Sylvester. It is well-written and I did really like the snowy winter setting and some of its characters. I especially liked Phoebe's friend Tom Orde (who reminded me a little of Freddy from Cotillion) and Sylvester's amusing and adorable little nephew Edmund :)

Rating: a 3/5 for the story itself but I'd give an extra star to the abridged audiobook version read by Richard Armitage. I listened to that audiobook earlier in the year and I actually preferred it to the unabridged paperback. The abridgement improves the story's pacing and Armitage is a wonderful narrator.

1 comment:

Erudessa Aranduriel said...

I ADORE this book!!! It is SOOOOOO funny!!! Especially the way Tom and Sylvester go back and forth!