Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laughter Reviews: THE DEVIL'S CUB

The Devil's Cub

by Georgette Heyer

Historical Comedy
Sourcebooks, 2009

Premise: Bored sprig of nobility meets someone who doesn't bore him.

Cover: Gorgeous. Apprentice Writer has a weakness for covers showing detail of classical paintings. This one is perfect - she looks somewhat bemused, he's commanding the situation (in velvet coat, lacy jabot, shiny boots, and faultless hair despite having travelled to this tete-a-tete(a-tete, if one includes all participants) by horse. Who looks just as curious as the lady in what the lordling will do next.

What Works: Apprentice Writer believes this is what is called a 'Comedy of Manners'. A huge amount of the story rests on the lengths to which people will go to preserve the appearance of social expectations, while seeing just how close to the edge they can skate in terms of not actually behaving accoridng to those expectations. There is a lot of scheming about arranging the setting and timing of one's actions so as to force the hand someone else, and how to evade someone else's efforts to force one's hand. All very entertaining and somewhat exhausting-sounding for the reader, but AW supposes that people had to come up with some way to amuse themselves in the days before Twitter, Wii, and Youtube.

AW had some fun waiting to see how the author would make her come to like various characters she initially was not so sure about, most notably, the cub himself. Wildly indulged, extravagantly wealthy, insufferably competent and of course good-looking, Vidal spends most of his life proving to everybody (meaning his legendary father) that he Doesn't Give A Damn. This doesn't-give-a-damning reaches such intensity that he gets kicked out of the country. So, we have an egocentric spoiled only son, the mother who helped create the monster by hearing and seeing no wrong where he is concerned, and the father who likewise helped create the monster by being so legendary and, apparently, taunting his son with his pwn youthful exploits.

Good lord - what poor heroine would want to get entangled with such a family? Yet when she comes along, she holds her own magnificently, most notably in a scene that showed AW that one of her favorite authors, Ms. Loretta Chase, must be a Heyer devotee. The scene where Jessica demonstrates to Dain that she is decidedly unhappy about his treatment, impressing the hell out of him (fans know EXACTLY what this means) is one of AW's favorite moments of her entire reading career - and seems to be a homage to a superb scene in this story. For that alone, this story is worth reading. But fear not; there are many other wonderful bits as well, not least, how the cub's parents come around to making the reader like them after all.

What Doesn't: Yes, there is a highway robbery scene, and yes, there is a duel. But these are very brief bits of action in what is essentially a lot of talking and sitting around. Inside houses, at gaming tables, in carriages, on boats, with bottles - but all, unarguably, sitting around. Readers who like action and variation of setting may feel numb after awhile. Though the story supposedly winds its way through such places as the English Channel and Paris, it could just as well have been across some loch and into the next village. The reader gains no real sense of the various settings, neither landscape nor people nor food nor weather. It's all about the dialogue. Which is entertaining, and keeps changing up depending on who is in the scene, but it takes a certain type of reader to appreciate that, and readers who like more scene-setting and variation may find it wearing.

Overall: A wonderful read for those who love historical fiction, comedies of manners, and stories where it's all about the banter that brings a pair of opposites together. With the beautiful cover, this would make a lovely gift for the holiday season.

This is Heyer at full force, with two generations of her memorable characters playing off each other. AW shall enjoy reading the prequel, 'These Old Shades', the story of the cub's parents' more youthful days.



Mimi Lenox said...

Thank you for participating in BlogBlast For Peace in November. I loved your peace globe.

You are #1605 in the Official Peace Globe Gallery.


Julia Smith said...

Wow - Mimi is still getting around to everybody...that is a lot of everybodies...

M, this cover and your previous excerpt and your review have me swooning.


To which Loretta Chase book do you refer? I might as well begin with that one, as her scene 'is one of AW's favorite moments of her entire reading career.'

Happy New Year, by the way!