Another day, another Heyer, but this one was a bit of a disappointment, despite the high Goodreads rating.
So The Duke of Avon is walking on a Paris street one night, when he bumps into an ill-treated youth who looks suspiciously like the Duke’s deadliest enemy (our Sherlock deduces this based on youth’s red hair, violet eyes and black eyebrows; a few more colours and fellow would have looked like a rainbow), so the Duke, doing exactly what any sane person would do in such a situation, decides to adopt the youth as his page. Turns out the page is actually a girl (the page himself didn’t know this until now.. WTF), and the Duke then has a lot of fun converting the page into a society debutante. Obviously he marries her later, because why not.
I couldn’t take to this book at all; it is nowhere near The Grand Sophy in terms of humour, there is too much seriousness, too much idol-worship, and a whole lot of suspension of disbelief. The plot would have made for a very good 1980s Hindi movie; beautiful orphan getting adopted, then turning into girl, then turning out to be adopter’s enemy’s child. In case you were wondering, this is not a spoiler, because less than halfway into the book, I could predict exactly who was whose daughter/son and also how the blasted plot would end. There was just one suspense point that Heyer had to keep secret till the end. Just one. That also she could not manage.
I just couldn’t buy the relationship between the protagonists, which seems to consist of an unbelievable amount of hero worship. The page, whose name is Leon/Leonie, worships the ground the Duke walks on, and after a point it gets very irritating. Yes, yes, we get it, he saved you, yes, we get that he is rich and handsome and older by 20 years; but that is absolutely no excuse to behave like a faithful dog.
The Duke sat down by the bed, and snapped his fingers to Leonie, who came at once to sit at his feet.
If some guy tries to snap any of his fingers at me, I’ll personally break all of his fingers into little bits and pieces and become Angulimala.
And there is a lot of peeping. A lot. Always this Leonie is peeping up at the Duke, or peeping through the hedge, or peeping at nothing in particular. Possibly spectacles for this kind of peeping disorder had not been invented yet. We shall never know.
Leon peeped at him through his lashes.
She peeped up, and the roguish dimple appeared.
The roguish dimple peeped out for the first time. (this line is obviously technically incorrect)
Leonie ventured, peeping up at him.
Peeped round the corner of the screen.
And how on earth are you supposed to peep up at someone? I suppose it’s meant to sound cute, but really, all this peeping is very annoying.
There is a bit of Heyer’s trademark humour scattered here and there in a few lines, but they are few and far between. I frequently found myself wishing someone would break the extremely narcissistic hero’s nose, who, by the way, like Lord Vishnu, seems to have an abundance of names (Avon, The Duke, Justin, His Grace, Monseigneur). Each time he conversed with someone it took me five minutes to work out how many people were there in the room.
I liked the Paris setting though; it reminded me a lot of The Scarlet Pimpernel and its French-revolution-based sequels (on an aside, I absolutely love those, they are so very melodramatic, and always the Scarlet Pimpernel manages to outdo the crafty M. Chauvelin).
So, really, this book was not much to my taste, but if you don’t mind a bit of finger snapping, hero-worship, and older man-younger girl romance, dear reader, go for it.
Quotes to remember:
Leonie stopped, and peeped up at the Duke uncertainly.
P.S. This is Book 11 in the Brunch Book Challenge, my Twitter handle is @sindbadrose, and the challenge is at #BrunchBookChallenge..