Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

By: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks
ISBN: 978-1-4022-1352-6

About the book:

An insult not to be borne...

When Max Ravenscar offers her a fortune to refuse the marriage proposal from his young nephew, the beautiful Deborah Grantham is outraged.

A passionate reprisal...

She may be the mistress of her aunt's elegant gambling house, but Miss Grantham will show the insufferable Mr. Ravenscar that she can't be bribed, even if she has to marry his puppyish nephew to prove it.


When Max Ravenscar’s aunt informs him that her son Adrian is in danger of being ensnared by a wench from a gaming house into a most unsuitable marriage, he resolves to do whatever it takes to save his hapless relative from a disastrous alliance. Deborah Grantham, the “wench” in question and the chief attraction of her aunt’s gaming establishment, has beauty and brains to spare, but little in the way of money or societal approbation. Despite her family’s money troubles – which seem to accumulate with alarming frequency – Deb is no conniving shrew, out to entrap an impressionable young heir into a mercenary marriage. When Ravenscar high-handedly assumes that Deborah can be bribed, she’s outraged. Determined to give the insufferably proud Max his comeuppance, Deb exerts herself to play the role of tacky fortune huntress to the hilt. As the stakes rise and their battle of wills escalates, Deb and Max stand to lose their only chance at happiness if they can’t overcome their stubbornness and pride. Rife with comic misunderstandings and outrageous escapades, Faro’s Daughter is the unlikely love story between a couple who could make the perfect match – if only they didn’t hate each other so much.

In Faro’s Daughter, Georgette Heyer delivers one of the most obstinate, headstrong romantic leads I’ve ever encountered in the pages of one of her novels. Max Ravenscar (LOVE that name!) is the Heyer Regency hero taken to the extreme – self-assured and arrogant, he possesses an annoyingly unshakeable confidence in his own judgment. Deborah, on the other hand, is perhaps one of Heyer’s most interesting heroines – far from being a proper Regency miss, Deb is witty, resourceful, intelligent, and best of all, a bit scandalous thanks to her position as mistress of her aunt’s gaming establishment. I found Heyer’s recreation of Regency-era gaming parties to be fascinating – it’s an aspect of upper-class life from that time period that I’ve never really seen explored in fiction. The gambling plotline, combined with Max and Deb’s fiery, and often borderline venomous exchanges, brought a darker, edgier tone this novel that I’m not used to seeing in Heyer’s Regencies. Generally I love a romance featuring couples attracted to each other in spite of themselves – i.e., Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, or Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing – but Heyer takes things a bit too far until the final third of Faro’s Daughter with Max and Deb for me to rank their relationship with those like-minded classics.
Heyer had a gift for populating her Regency romances with laugh-out-loud, entertaining supporting characters and creating the most outlandish situations for her leads to navigate, and Faro’s Daughter is no exception. I absolutely loved Deborah’s aunt, Lady Bellingham, and her delightfully ditzy way of navigating through life. Her complete incomprehension of why she is beset by overwhelming bills, and the way Deborah’s feud with Ravenscar is always about to give her the vapors provide some of the funniest scenes in novel. Lady Bellingham is a classic Heyer creation – over-the-top, lovable ridiculousness, as is the scenario that sees Deb overseeing Ravenscar’s kidnapping and lock-up in her cellar. Ravenscar's reaction that indignity was priceless! Humor-wise I feel like Faro’s Daughter was a departure for Heyer. I crave her humor and razor-sharp wit, but too often the dialogue that fills these pages felt barbed instead of hilarious. However, the last third of the novel returns to vintage Heyer territory, packed with comic misunderstandings, lightning-fast dialogue, and the emotional heart that I’d been missing earlier in the story. I wouldn’t recommend starting with Faro’s Daughter if you’re looking to explore Heyer’s Regencies. While it’s not my favorite, Heyer’s superb research and sense of time and place shine, and the wildly entertaining wrap-up to Ravenscar and Deborah’s feuding made the journey for this long-time Heyer fan worthwhile.
This review is my long-overdue second entry in the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge.


Heather said...

Sounds interesting, although it is such a fine line for authors to walk with the 'we hate eachother so much we love eachother' plot, because some times its hard to see what makes them change their mind. The whole gambling culture of this era is fascinating (and a little infuriating to me honestly) I've read a bit about it while reading about the English duchess Georgiana. It just blows my mind that these people could sit around and squander epic amounts of cash while so many people were destitute and hungry. Id be curious to see what this author's take on it is, and get inside her characters' minds.

Susan said...

I need to pick another book for the Heyer challenge. This one sounds good. I did consider trying one of her mysteries instead of another romance, but maybe I'll do both!

Unknown said...

@Heather - I agree, it can be a very fine line for an author to walk. Speaking of Georgiana, have you seen the Kiera Knightley film The Duchess? That was my first introduction to Georgiana - I found it fascinating. If you check out this book, keep in mind that Heyer didn't write "serious" Regencies or exposes of society's ills - but generally pure, frothy entertainment of the highest order. :)

@Susan - Thanks so much for stopping by! I thought about reading some mysteries for the challenge, but I love the Regencies so much that's probably what I'm going to stick with for now. :)

Mystica said...

I liked this Heyer as it was slightly different to the others. The heroine was from the other side as it were and still the heroine!!!

Unknown said...

@Mystica - Thanks for stopping by! Great to meet another Heyer fan. :) And I agree, Deb was a wonderfully fiesty heroine!

rohit said...

An enjoyable read Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

Unknown said...

@rohit - Thanks so much for visiting my blog - hope you enjoy this Heyer!