The Black Moth (by Georgette Heyer)

I do like Georgette Heyer's novels. I pull one out to re-read whenever I'm in the need of a bit of comfort reading, and even keep a list of the order I read them in, so that I can always find one that I haven't read for a few years.

I last read 'The Black Moth' at the end of 2004. It's a very special book, in one sense as it was the first one Heyer wrote, at the age of only 17. It was intended for her brother, and as such contains perhaps rather more excitements and sword fights than I'm entirely comfortable with. 

Nonetheless, it's an exciting and fast-paced novel with more than a hint of romance. This isn't just between the two main characters, but demonstrated between some of the married couples who appear in the book.

The hero is Jack Carstairs, who is also the Earl of Wyncham. We quickly learn that he has become a highwayman, after having being forced to flee the country some years previously. His brother Dick is married to the beautiful Lavinia, but carries a huge emotional burden, and is being bled of his money by his rather unpleasant in-laws.

Carstairs manages to retain his charm and chivalry, which means that he's not a terribly successful highwayman. However, he finds himself drawn more and more to a beautiful girl with a sense of humour and - eventually - romance blossoms.

The book is set in the 18th century, with slightly more dated language than is usual in Heyer's novels; no doubt authentic, which is particularly impressive in such a young writer, but not always easy to read quickly.

I felt this was a small price to pay for an excellent, sometimes oddly moving book. There is quite a large cast, but each character is so well-drawn that I had no problem remembering who was who, even though I'd forgotten many details of the plot.

The climax features a particularly exciting sword fight followed by a classic Heyer conclusion that sorts out all the threads tidily and satisfactorily.

Definitely recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 7th March 2011

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