13/05/2008

Sylvester (by Georgette Heyer)

I thoroughly enjoy Georgette Heyer's historical romance books. Her characterisation is always excellent, her plotting clever, her writing believable and very well researched. Over the years I've collected most of her novels, and re-read them regularly.

So, on going through my collection a few months ago, I was very surprised that I did not have 'Sylvester', nor had I read it within the eight or nine years in which I have been keeping reviews. Perhaps it got lost in our move from England to Cyprus - or perhaps I only ever borrowed it. For I have certainly read it before, but maybe only a couple of times.

I was pleased to see that 'Sylvester' has been republished in the UK, yet again, so it went straight on my Amazon wishlist, and I was delighted to receive a copy for my birthday.

'Sylvester' features the Duke of Salford, a likeable young man who has been bred to great things. He has a casual kind of arrogance that's very cleverly indicated without him ever appearing unpleasant.

Sylvester has decided that it's time for him to get married, so he draws up a list of five possible girls, with specific qualities he is looking for in a bride. Then asks his mother which one he should choose! She tells him not to marry anyone until he falls in love, and also recommends that he might like to meet Phoebe, only daughter of her late friend Verena.

Phoebe is a rather plain girl, very much in submission to her stepmother who has always treated her fairly, according to her 'duty', but never shown her affection. Despite this, Phoebe is outspoken, and has also written a clever novel, caricaturing many of the people in top society.. including Sylvester himself.

The book is exciting, humorous in places, with some memorable characters, including Sylvester's delightful nephew Edmund, and his sister-in-law's new husband Nugent, who is enormously fat, enormously wealthy, and loves to puff off his arrogance - although he is also generous and mostly good-hearted, unaware that he is a figure of fun to many.

It's also rather moving in places. I admit to a few tears in my eyes towards the end, when - as expected - everything is tidily sorted out. Having not read 'Sylvester' for at least ten years (perhaps more) I had only the vaguest memory of the plot, although some parts came back to me as I read.

Very enjoyable, definitely recommended.

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