This is not a Gothic romance novel. This is a handbook concerning A) a sociopathic* personality, how its psychosis manifests in actions, words, and th...moreThis is not a Gothic romance novel. This is a handbook concerning A) a sociopathic* personality, how its psychosis manifests in actions, words, and thoughts, and how with the smallest trigger, it spirals down into further depths of depravity and horror, and B) the warning signs of an abusive relationship, wherein a husband/boyfriend/lover mocks the low intelligence of his partner, disparages any independent thought, isolates his partner from outside influences, including friends and family, before finally resorting to physical violence to exert control over his partner. Is any of this really romantic? I gave the book three stars for the writing, which, considering it was Seton's second novel, is remarkably mature and well-paced; the tension is palpable, the atmosphere evocatively limned on every page, and the chill of horror and suspicion is felt even in the happiest moments of the novel. First-rate writing. The storyline, however, is not my cup of tea. I will never be a victim and to read of someone willingly, and blindly, overlooking the warning signs from their partner, thus remaining a victim to that partner's whims, is absolutely abhorrent to me.
*People tend to mix up psychopaths and sociopaths, for some odd reason, and I've seen it mentioned that, were Nicholas Van Ryn to be categorized today, he'd be diagnosed as a psychopath. That is incorrect. A psychopath has no conscience yet he also has no control; he doesn't care how he appears to the larger world and has no desire to fit in. Rather his psychosis manifests in ever-increasing bouts of violence with no sense of planning or logic, however twisted that logic might be. A sociopath, however, while still lacking a conscience, looks, acts, and seems like any other person. He is a chameleon. Just look at Ted Bundy, the most famous of sociopaths. It's only when his twisted desires, his super-sized ego is thwarted that the mask of humanity comes off and his inner demon is revealed. Nicholas Van Ryn, though a fictional character, is a perfect example of this mental disorder.(less)
Not having read very many of Heyer's Regency novels, I don't know if The Nonesuch is a more typical example of her work. I will say, while it...more3.5 stars
Not having read very many of Heyer's Regency novels, I don't know if The Nonesuch is a more typical example of her work. I will say, while it is amusing and entrancing, with very well-drawn characters, it's a bit of a struggle to get through because of the language. Heyer is known for her attention to historical detail and she shows off that knowledge through an extensive use of Regency slang and haut monde cant. While you might not need a dictionary by your side to complete the book, it sure would come in handy now and then as you struggle to piece together the meaning of a sentences like "Do you take me for a flat, young sauce-box?" and "Don't be so ready to sport your canvas!" from context alone. While I'm not so dull I can't figure out the meanings of such phrases, it would be nice to know exactly what the characters are saying. The only other disappointment I have with the novel is the ending. Now, as you know, most Regency romances end on a high note, usually with a flamboyant marriage ceremony, tying the bow on the romance which dominated the book. (Sometimes secondary characters will also get married, but their ceremonies are far less important to the story.) However, The Nonesuch offers only a couple of happy engagements, ending rather abruptly before everything is completely tied up, in my opinion. I feel cheated somehow; I should at least have witnessed the wedding of Ancilla Trent to Sir Waldo Hawkridge, the Nonesuch himself. And while the brat of the tale, Miss Tiffany Wield--the most spoilt, repugnant, irritating, heartless creature ever created and a perfect example of why no one should ever name their child Tiffany, ever--gets her comeuppance in the end, it's not satisfying enough.
However, as Regency romances go, this is still one of the better ones, written by the mistress of the genre, with enough humor, action, misconceptions and mistaken agendas, as well as romance, to satisfy anyone looking for a pleasant diversion from reality. My question is, why hasn't the BBC gotten around to turning any of her novels into costume dramas? They have enough meat on their bones to satisfy anyone with a hankering for high-waisted Regency elegance (and I wouldn't mind seeing some more tight, well-filled-out breeches, either *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*).(less)
I've been curious about this, Georgette Heyer's first historical romance, since I first discovered her (which, I admit, wasn't that long ago). I have...moreI've been curious about this, Georgette Heyer's first historical romance, since I first discovered her (which, I admit, wasn't that long ago). I have to say, upon finishing it, while I can see the glimmerings of her much-lauded knowledge of the Georgian/Regency eras, along with her talent for witty repartee and her deft hand at romantic entanglements and disentanglements, The Black Moth on the whole has a rather rough and raw feel to it: You can definitely tell this is her first foray into the genre.
The story at times can become rather rambling and over-long; I found myself at several points wishing she would speed things up and get to the more pertinent parts of the tale. I also found the overall tone to be, I won't say amateurish, but somehow...immature. What with all the abductions of fair maidens by dashing villains and cross-country chases, it felt less like a light-hearted romance novel and more like the melodramatic Gothic novel so prominent in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, those devilish novels reviled by proper mommas and secreted away by dimpled girls, fresh from the school room, to be read and raptured over away from prying eyes. Don't get me wrong, that kind of novel has it's place and you have to give Heyer credit for creating such an authentic story. I just wish The Black Moth had been identified as such, rather than lumped into the Georgian romance genre. Between Gothic romance and Georgian/Regency romance, there is a difference. Never mind that, to a modern woman like me, the high-handed treatment of women by said dashing villain, as well as the laissez-faire attitude taken towards his actions by his peers, is repugnant in the extreme and certainly no sane woman's idea of a romantic gesture. Give me the gentle flirtations, the clever banter, the mistaken identities and inevitable reconciliation found in Heyer's later books any day.
As always, any flaws are expiated by Heyer's talent at creating fully-fleshed characters and her attention to detail. Her coquettes are perfectly flighty and frothy, her heroes are properly proud and determined; villains are devilish, yet, even as they get their comeuppance in the end, remain enigmatic and dangerous. And while Heyer's witty dialogue may not reach the rapier-sharp heights of Jane Austen's, it certainly comes a close second and often wins out due to its more plain-speaking style.(less)