Justin Alastair is the Duke of Avon and he is the hero in this story. He is jaded and has lived a life of hedonistic pleasures and vices. He is always coolly aloof, never one to indulge into a fit of temper, and has the most dry sense of humour that is very amusing. He is not known as the kindest of gentlemen, being known by his peers as "Satanas" (or Devil), he has quite the black reputation.
While in France, by chance he comes across a young boy in the back streets of Paris as the boy is being chased by his older brother. The Duke takes pity on the boy and buys him from his sibling and takes him to his residence near-by. Needless to say, the boy is no boy but a girl, the heroine named Leonie. The heroine is quite young, in comparison to the hero, but her mischief and innocence is captivating. Her charm is her youthful exuberance and honesty and unaffectedness.
Alastair sets up the "boy" as his page and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the Duke did not take Leonie in out of the kindness of his heart, but that he has other more ulterior motives in mind. Namely, to use her in his game of vendetta against another, a French nobleman he crossed paths 20 years before.
Sir Nicholas Beauvallet is a dashing pirate with a rakish charm. He’s the bane of the Spanish empire and good friends with other famous privateers such as Sir Francis Drake. He’s gallant, courageous to the point of foolhardiness, and full of confidence. His ego is adorable because it’s so over-inflated and lighthearted.
Dona Dominica de Rada y Sylva is a gutsy heroine. When captured she steals Beauvallet’s dagger and waves it at his nose. When forced aboard Beauvallet’s ship she snubs him, flirts outrageously with another officer, and ignores him. Obviously she’s just hiding her true feelings—the instantaneous crush, the deepening attraction, the utter fascination. The more she pushes him the more under his spell she falls.
When he promises to win her hand in marriage, she scoffs. Not likely! When he says he’ll pursue her right to her doorstep in the heart of Spain, she laughs. Impossible! When he says, “Risk not!” she begins to hope. But can it be done?
Prudence Merriot and her brother, Robin, are back in England again because their father (affectionately dubbed by his children as "the old gentleman") has a plan to restore their fortunes. Used to a life on the run (the Merriots, or rather Robin, were involved in the most recent Jacobin uprising) and of adventure, both Prudence and Robin are beginning to find such a life chafing, esp now that they've met the elegant Sir Anthony Fanshawe and the enchanting Miss Letty Grayson. Both Sir Anthony and Letty are members of the ton, and would look for utter respectability from their potential spouses. Would either ever contemplate tying themselves to Prudence or Robin with their shady pasts and their rascally father? And on top of it all there is a further complication: Prudence is masquerading as a man, and Robin as a woman! How on earth can the Merriot siblings hope to woo and be wooed when they're both pretending to be something that they are not!
Simon the Coldheart is one of Georgette Heyer's earliest works, written before she really hit her stride with books set in the Regency period. This story is set much earlier - in the 15th century - and follows hero Simon Beauvallet, a nobody who works his way up from poverty to a knighthood and becomes a friend of the future King Henry V. Because of the date of the story, the language feels more Shakespearean than Heyer's Regencies, and the old-fashioned language might not appeal to all readers (although I personally liked it).
This isn't a medieval romance; it's more a mixture of different elements that make up an enjoyable, if perhaps less accomplished, story. We follow Simon as he works his way up in the world, as he fights battles, and as he eventually finds himself up against a very worthy opponent, Lady Margaret of Belrémy.
Some good scenes break up less effective ones, and aspects of the writing don't entirely ring true. Simon is a quiet, self-possessed man who some think cold of heart (thus his name), yet he clearly knows his mind and has worthwhile things to say when he says them. Simon the Coldheart shows the clash of two cultures after the Battle of Agincourt and gives detail of life in medieval times, but it's so different from Heyer's later Regencies and betrays at times that she was a young author trying to find her voice.
With the Battle of Waterloo raging just miles away, civilians fleeing and the wounded pouring back into the town, Lady Barbara discovers where her heart really lies, and like a true noblewoman, she rises to the occasion, and to the demands of love, life and war...
Still waiting on baby, but my husband and I were able to curb some of our impatience by indulging in yet another fabulous Georgette Heyer novel. Venetia, while not being quite as uproariously funny as some of Heyer's other novels, stands out due to its wonderful characters. Our heroine, Miss Venetia Lanyon has to be one of my favorite Heyer creations. Much in the style of Frederica Merriville ofFrederica (read my review here) in her familial dedication, but with the charming benefit of possessing exquisite beauty and a streak of eccentricity, Venetia is certainly one of Heyer's more capable ladies, and her intelligence and charm captivates from the first page.
John, Duke of Bedford, grew to manhood fighting for his father, King Henry IV of England, on the wild and lawless Northern Marches. He was a prince of the royal blood, loyal, strong, and the greatest ally that his brother – the future Henry V – was to have. Filled with the clash of bitter rivalries and deadly power struggles, this is Georgette Heyer’s last and most ambitious novel, bringing to life a character and a period she found irresistibly attractive.
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