This is a re-listen of the audiobook, read by Cornelius Garrett. His very British voice is well-suited to portraying the haut ton of Heyer’s milieu, though I was surprised by the rather languid tones of the Earl of St. Erth, Gervaise Frant, our hero, who is supposed to have been an officer in the armies against Napoleon. Aside from that, the reading goes well, with each character delineated in such a way that you can always tell who is speaking, including all the female characters.
I have loved Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances since I was, oh, nine years old, when I found a copy of False Colors in the local library. I was lucky in that her books were being reprinted in inexpensive paperback copies at that time, so I managed to read nearly all of them whilst still in my teens.
This particular one is not one of my favorites, as it doesn’t feature the sparkling wit and brilliant locations that are one of Heyer’s strengths — the cast of characters is small, and the location is one small country neighborhood surrounding the estate of Stanyon. The plot is one of mystery — the new Earl is under attack by a mysterious killer. It is thought by his cousin Theo and his friend Lucius that the culprit is his half-brother, brought up to think that HE would inherit the estates and title, since St. Erth was (a) hated by their father and (b) in the army. Martin, the brother, is a spoiled and impulsive young man who has a hot temper. He is nearly the only suspect for the whole book — and I feel that Ms. Heyer does not play fair with the reader, for there are few or no clues that lead to the culprit, even if one re-reads the relevant scenes again. While Heyer’s romances are not always quite believable, this book is one of the lesser lights in her ouevre. The declarations of love are nearly as unexpected as the identity of the would-be murderer.
If you happen to be a Heyer fan, this is a perfectly cromulent book. The reading is excellent, and it redeems the lackluster plotting. If you aren’t already a fan, this should be put off until you have tried some of Ms. Heyer’s better books (suggestions include Venetia, Sprig Muslin, Cotillion, and False Colours).