Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

I salute the lady's research. To have found out that people ate mutton with cucumbers in the late eighteenth century, and that a certain part of a country house's grounds, between the gravel walk and a wicket gate, could be called a "ha ha," indicates a writer with a respect for her task and her readers.

I salute her plotting, really incredibly extravagant, what with all the different servants, villains, women,  Excisemen, and passersby who had to be put on station in order for Ludovic to finally break into the Dower House and search for the ring and yet endure just the right amount of danger before rescue by the dark and brooding Sir Tristram. And this is just one thread of the story.

Rescue -- which reminds me. I salute her integrity, too. The Talisman Ring was published in 1937. This was before the days when romance novels became a mere setting for a requisite number of porn scenes stuck like big fake pearls on big fake jewelry, offered up and turned this way and that for the admiration of otherwise respectable middle-class, middle aged women. The closer a romance novel's publication date comes to our own time, the more Hustler-like and ridiculous these scenes become. But seventy years ago, no: not only is there no gasping and striving and probing, but Sir Tristram rescues his cousin Ludovic, and not the tempestuous heroine (a few such rescues are also de rigueur in today's romances), because it made sense according to the workings of the plot for the men to be involved in this particular dangerous nighttime adventure, and not the women.

So I salute Miss Heyer for all these virtues. We mustn't forget to throw in enjoyable conversation and pleasant characters, too. I'm only a little disappointed that the plot she had led her readers to believe would be It, turns out not to be It. What could have been a delicately handled and yes, perhaps even tempestuous arranged marriage between Sir Tristram and Eustacie is instead put aside for matters that are, well, let's say -- extravagantly plotted.

I feel sure Georgette Heyer has done better things than The Talisman Ring. I'm not sure I will run out and search for them immediately.

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