For a person unlearned in the ways and dialogue of Regency England, it is amazing to me that I might attempt the task of reading The Black Moth, by Georgette Heyer. However, the novel came highly recommended by Joyce DiPastena, so I decided to give it a read. (Of course she has more knowledge and experience in this era.)
Reading this novel reminded me of past trips to Europe, where you ask a question, the local gives the answer (or directions as unfortunately was sometimes the case), and though both parties spoke quite simply there has been an absolute miscommunication.
While reading The Black Moth, I had several ‘scratching my head’ moments where I wondered what in the world they were going on about. Of course finding yourself lost or experiencing a language barrier is much less frightening in a novel, because all you’ve got to do is read over the confusing passage a couple of times, and then read on. You eventually clue in.
I learned a few things about the era, such as many of the wealthy were carted from place to place by “chair.” My mind conjures up the image of Cleopatra riding on a shaded platform mounted on two large poles and carried by strong men—and I speculate that this was probably the first taxi.
At the risk of sounding thick-headed, I must confess that I got to page 100 before deciding absolutely what the plot was about and what the Black Moth had to do with anything. Since I had only just read The Scarlet Pimpernel, I thought the Black Moth was going to be some type of spy. I was wrong.
The book was engaging though a trifle too full of French phrases, but only once was I tempted to use the Internet language translator.
So, here’s the skinny on The Black Moth:
At a time when a man’s honor was paramount, Jack Carstares—heir to his family’s fortune and the title of earl, is accused of cheating. Disgraced, he leaves the country for six years rather than deny it and accuse his younger brother, Richard. Richard would have confessed a hundred times over the past years if it weren’t for his lovely bride, Lavinia. To admit his dastardly deed will also disgrace her—and she will have no part of it. Lavinia threatens to leave him should he confess.
Jack knows he can never go back home and take up his title and honor without betraying his beloved brother. However, yearning for home, Jack finally comes back to England under mask and poses part time as a country gentleman, and employs himself as a thieving highwayman. When he comes upon a different type of highway robbery—one where a beautiful young lady’s virtue is at stake, Jack makes no hesitation in coming to her rescue, and nearly losing his life in the process.
The lovely Diana and her aunt nurse Jack back to health and Diana and Jack fall in love. Unfortunately, Jack believes that marrying her would selfishly bring dishonor to her and her household because of his “spotty” past.
While the first of the book is paced rather slow, taking its time introducing characters and giving us a feel of the era, the last half of the book is paced a little faster as we begin to wonder—will Richard ever confess he was the cheater—will his wife Lavinia stay or will she leave him and marry another—will Jack and Diana get their happy ending—or will the Black Moth succeed in yet another kidnapping, and gain her hand in marriage.
Although the novel as a whole is quite engaging, it was wrapped up rather quickly. One thing I’ve noticed is that authors during Ms. Heyer’s era liked to wrap things up quickly at the end, whereas nowadays authors spend more time on the “Ahh” moment in the end. Nevertheless, it was a good read and I would read another of Georgette Heyer’s books.