Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer (4 stars, traditional)

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Thoughts After Reading:
As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I judge novels simply based on their entertainment - rather than literary - merit. It is for this reason that I'm not nearly as enamored with Georgette Heyer as (at least) ninety nine percent of Regency readers. With that being said, I found Heyer's Sylvester to be an above average traditional in its own right. The storyline started out at a decidedly slow pace, but by the end of the book I would have been hard put to set it down. It has excellent elements of historical adventure, and - although this subplot overshadows the romance at times - the hero and hero's relationship was mostly impressive as well.

The hero annoyed me from the opening pages of Sylvester, although - of course - that allows for some character development later on. He is a duke, and has a natural arrogance that comes from being prepared for such a position. It seems that he can adopt a personality of civility and magnanimity with ease, but only when he feels like it. He is annoyed far too often within his thoughts for me to call him truly amiable. The heroine, in contrast, make mistakes at times but is essentially a sensible and kind hearted person. She understands people fairly easily, and is not afraid to put the hero in his place even as she becomes surprised at his ability to be most helpful at times. The hero starts out without a romantic bone in his body, and halfheartedly looks for a wife only in a misplaced sense of duty to his position and to his mother. He is somewhat railroaded into paying a visit with the heroine's family, and quickly deems the heroine unsuitable. The heroine, meanwhile, is told that the hero is planing on offering for her. She does not even remotely want to marry him, having judged him at first glace as being aloof and arrogant, but her parents are not sympathetic to her feelings on the match. When his quick visit does nothing to alter her first impression, she runs off to her grandmother in London. She gets stuck at a hotel along the way, and - when the hero ends arriving at the same hotel - the real fun begins. The hero's and heroine's verbal sparring was my favorite part of the novel, especially since the reader can see a gradual change in their feelings. It was also rather humorous, at times. The couple's tentative friendship continues in London, until a sideplot pops up as a major conflict. The heroine undergoes another adventure, and then the couple are brought together again for an extended resolution.

My feelings on the romance element of Sylvester are conflicted. On one hand, I thought Heyer did a particularly excellent job of demonstrating a variety of emotions for both protagonists. Dislike, shyness, semi-affectionate bickering, deep regret, anger - she shows it all. I liked that the conflict happened early on in the storyline, allowing for an extended falling action and resolution. I was also well satisfied with the happy ending. At the same time, however, I felt that overall there wasn't a huge amount of time dedicated to romance development. We see extended glimpses of the hero's and heroine's interactions, but - to an extent - the reader has to take the author at her word for some of the developments. That the heroine starts to enjoy the hero's company, for example. Or that the hero has truly fallen in love by the final chapter.

At the end of the day, I liked Georgette Heyer's Sylvester. It will never be one of my favorite traditional regencies, but I enjoyed the rapidly engaging storyline, deeply felt emotions, and interesting - if not completely likeable - protagonists.

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