Jack Carstares, the disgraced Earl of Wyndam, left England seven long years ago, sacrificing his honor for that of his brother when he was accused of cheating at cards. Now Jack is back, roaming his beloved South Country in the disguise of a highwayman.
And the beauty who would steal his heart
Not long after Jack’s return, he encounters his old adversary, the libertine Duke of Andover, attempting the abduction of the beautiful Diana Beauleigh. At the point of Jack’s sword, the duke is vanquished, but foiled once, the “Black Moth” has no intention of failing again…
Rating: B for content, A- for narration
Although I’m a long-term reader and fan of Georgette Heyer’s romances, there are a couple that, for reasons I can’t fathom, passed me by, and The Black Moth is one of them. So I’ve come to the audio completely fresh, as it were, not having read the book previously. I don’t know if that’s made a difference to my perception of it: looking at the number of poor-to-middling reviews on Goodreads makes me wonder if it has, because I thought this audiobook was a delight from start to finish.
The storytelling itself isn’t perfect and the action does jump around a bit. That said however, I was so quickly wrapped up in the story of the honourable Earl who lies to protect his brother and do right by the woman they both want to marry, that I was more or less unaware of any abrupt cuts or shifts of POV.
The Black Moth is Heyer’s first published novel, and on the whole, is an incredibly assured piece of work for a nineteen-year-old. Yes, there are things that speak of her youth. For example, some of the characterisation is weak, there are some parts of the book in which there is far more telling than showing, and there is the aforementioned jumping around but overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and rewarding listen.
One of the things I particularly enjoy about reading and listening to books that were written decades ago is the way in which the authors seemed more able to take their time to set up their stories and to build their characters. I remember saying something similar in my review of The Devil on Horseback by Victoria Holt; perhaps to a younger reader or listener, this is “slow”, but for me, it’s a luxurious experience, and something to be savoured.
The story itself is fairly simple. Six years previously the hero, Jack Carstares, Earl of Wyncham, was accused of cheating at cards and, having admitted his guilt to such a terrible breach of the code of honour, fled the country. I suppose such a thing is inconceivable today, but it seems such things were taken very seriously back in the 18th century! Jack has spent the intervening years roaming Europe living on his wits and from his ill-gotten gains as a Gentleman of the Road – or highwayman. The thing is – Jack wasn’t guilty. He was covering up for his younger brother who, in a fit of panic, had been desperate enough to cheat and who, when Jack was accused, said nothing.
Jack’s brother, Richard, married the lovely Lavinia, who leads him a merry dance, being petulant and demanding, and as the years have progressed, he has become more and more weighed down by his guilt. And then, one year ago, the brothers met again when Jack unknowingly held up Richard’s coach, and since then, Richard has been struggling with his conscience even more.
For his part, Jack has not been too sorry with the way his life has panned out until he rescues a damsel in distress from the evil clutches of the villain, falls in love, and realises he has nothing to offer her.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals