“Mr Fox grinned. ‘What have you done with the corpse, my boy?’
‘Done with it?’ said his lordship with a touch of impatience. ‘Nothing. What should I do with a corpse?’”
Title: Devil’s Cub
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Arrow Books (Random House)
Date of publication: 2004
First published in: 1932
Devil’s Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades (you can read my review of the latter here).
I said that These Old Shades was melodramatic, and I might as well use that adjective to describe the sequel, too. Let’s see what we have in Devil’s Cub: death, deception, abduction, flight, pursuit, fighting, love.
I almost blush to admit how much I enjoyed it! However, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Firstly, Heyer’s writing style continues being delightful. Secondly, I know for sure that life can write stories that are even more unbelievable than fiction. Thirdly, I suspect that there is a satisfactory biological-evolutional explanation to the fact that we, women, are often attracted to strong male characters. But I should not get started on biology, lest I get carried away.
The plot of this Georgian romance novel follows the Marquis of Vidal (son of Léonie and Avon), who is quite properly referred to as “Devil’s Cub.” He carries off the sister of his latest flirt, then realising that she is a “woman of quality,” he decides that there’s nothing else to do but marry her. But it takes two to tango, and Miss Mary Challoner is most decidedly against such a match.
Both Vidal and Mary being stubborn in their resolution, the story becomes a battle of wills, and although he has all the advantages of being a man, she is resourceful enough to prove his equal. Her actions might often seem a tad over the top for present-day readers but we have to keep in mind that a woman is less restricted now than was two hundred years ago. And hey, if running away was good enough for Jane Eyre, it must be good enough for Mary, too. (I’ve written my BA thesis on the motif of flight in Jane Eyre, so I should know.)
So what do I love about this novel? I love Vidal. He is an insufferably imperious fellow, but it’s nice for a change to at least read about a man who has a presence that commands obedience. I would personally hate to be ordered around but there’s an allure to someone who is powerful like that. (Survival of the fittest and all that.)
I also love that Heyer cut the lovey-dovey nonsense. I mean, up until the end, this might be the most romantic scene:
“ ‘Why was that fellow holding your hands?’
‘For comfort,’ said Miss Challoner desolately.
He held out his own. ‘Give them to me.’
Miss Challoner shook her head.”
But the real gems in Devil’s Cub are those interactions between Vidal and Mary that aren’t romantic at all: when she is seasick, or when she shots him.
“His lordship sat up, ‘Thunder and turf, how old do you take me for?’
‘Not very old,’ said Miss Challoner, ‘or you would have more sense.’”
The characters of These Old Shades also make an appearance. Léonie might be older but none the wiser, Rupert is still Rupert, and when the Duke of Avon is present, he still dominates the scene. He’s preserved his cynicism, and has no scruples to speak against his own son (which Vidal of course deserves).
“‘You appear to be a woman of so much sense,’ said his grace, ‘that I find it hard to believe you can really desire to marry my son.’”
What do I dislike? The above mentioned re-appearing characters (save for Avon) don’t add much to the story plot-wise, I think. Also, probably the ending. I love Heyer, but she sometimes ends her novels so abruptly, in a kind of deus ex machina manner. There are elements, sententes, passages that I adore in the last pages, but the general idea of ending a book with the promise of marriage and a “happily ever after” bothers me. I believe it was Tolstoy who once said that the real story begins only after the wedding. Well, at least Vidal and Mary shortly returns in An Infamous Army, so we do get a glance at them at a later stage of their life together, still…
So, on the whole, it was an entertaining story, and given that it was my last read of 2017, this post comes shamefully late, but I didn’t want to binge-publish reviews of Georgette Heyer novels, lest you all get terribly bored with me.
Have you read this novel or anything else by the same author?
What kind of an ending do you usually prefer? Do you have bookish pet peeves?
Let me know by leaving a comment below 😉