The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

The Quiet Gentleman When Gervase Frant, 7th Earl of St Erth, returns to his family estate of Stanyon Castle after fighting in the Peninsular War, he doesn’t receive quite the welcome he’d hoped for. His cousin Theo seems pleased to see him but his stepmother and younger half-brother, Martin, give the impression that they would have been happier if he’d never come home at all. Soon after his arrival, a series of accidents start to befall the Earl – but are they really just accidents or are they attempts on his life?

I still have a lot of Georgette Heyer’s books left to read (I haven’t even read half of them yet) but this is one of my favourites so far. It’s probably not what most people would consider a typical Heyer novel, being more of a mystery than a romance, but I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. I didn’t find the mystery particularly difficult to solve (there were really only two or three people who could have had a motive for wanting St Erth dead) and I guessed the culprit quite early in the book, but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story as there was still a chance that I could have been wrong! I think this would be a good book to re-read as I’m sure there must have been lots of little clues that I missed.

The romantic element may not be as strong in this book as in some of Heyer’s others but it is still there and I actually thought it was all the more convincing for being slow, subtle and understated. In fact, it’s so slow, subtle and understated that even the hero and heroine don’t acknowledge their love for each other until near the end of the book, although it was obvious to me that they were perfectly suited. She is my favourite type of heroine – intelligent, sensible and practical – and the only problem is that we don’t see enough of her as she tends to stay in the background throughout most of the novel. This is in contrast to the other main female character, a lively, pretty girl who has every man from miles around fighting over her (sometimes literally).

While I’m on the subject of female characters, I should also mention St Erth’s stepmother, the Dowager Countess, who could almost have come straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel! As for the men, the Earl himself is another great character: with his calm, softly-spoken manner and slim build, fair hair and love of fashion he may at first appear to be ‘nothing but a curst dandy’ as Martin describes him, but his family soon discover that appearances can be deceptive and that there is much more to Gervase than meets the eye.

I loved the setting too. Most of the action takes place within Stanyon Castle (a mansion complete with ‘Great Halls, Minstrels’ Galleries, Armouries, Towers and Moats’) and in the surrounding Lincolnshire countryside – which proves to be a very dangerous place for the Earl! The setting, together with the air of mystery, is what made this book feel slightly different from most of the other Heyers I’ve read (I thought there were some similarities with Cousin Kate, though that one is more gothic). However, there are still all the other elements you would expect to find in one of her Regency novels: balls, horses and carriages, fencing, men with snuff boxes and quizzing glasses, women dressed in satin and lace – as well as the usual humour and witty dialogue.

Now I’m wondering which of Heyer’s novels I should read next. I still have so many to choose from it can sometimes feel overwhelming!

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13 thoughts on “The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer”

  1. This is one of my favorite Heyer novels, too! I thouht the heroine’s parents were really funny, and the way they would butt heads with some of the other characters. I should re-read this one soon 🙂

  2. I find the trouble with Georgette Heyer’s books is that you can’t just read one! I read this review on Thursday evening and promptly pulled my copy of “The Quiet Gentleman” off the top shelf. Since then I’ve also read “Charity Girl”, “Faro’s Daughter”, and “The Talisman Ring” and have got “Regency Buck” lined up to read next. I’m gorgeing on them like chocolates! I haven’t even finished reading the Sunday papers yet, never mind the Jane Gardam short stories I was halfway through or Paul Kingsnorth’s “The Wake” which I’m rather stalled on (if you really really want a challenge, try that).

    I’m usually satiated after 5 or 6, so should get my feet back on the ground later this week – might even find time to do some housework!

    1. Sorry for disrupting your reading plans for the week, Helen! I have read The Talisman Ring, which I enjoyed, but none of the others you mentioned – I still have those waiting to be read.

      I’ve looked at The Wake once or twice, but haven’t been brave enough to attempt to read it!

      1. I’ve now read Regency Buck and also The Nonesuch – both of which I think you’d like. False Colours next. I think I’ve got all of Heyer’s historical novels, mostly in ancient yellowing Pan paperbacks picked up in charity shops & jumble sales, and have re-read them all many times.

        Re The Wake – I can cope with the Anglo-Saxon-lite, but I find the minimal punctuation and the rather angry, shouty tone of the narrator make it hard to read more than a few paragraphs at a time. Just before that, I read Nicola Griffith’s Hild (prompted by your review last year) which I enjoyed a lot but it did take me a fortnight to get through. The current Heyer binge is probably a reaction to those two!

        1. Thanks for recommending Regency Buck and The Nonesuch. I still have so many Heyer novels to read it can be difficult to know which one to choose next..although I do want to read all of them eventually anyway!

          I’m pleased you enjoyed Hild, by the way. It took me a few weeks to read as well – not an easy read, but worth the time and effort, I thought!

          1. I’m just finishing False Colours, which I had rather forgotten – pretty good with a different plotline to many of hers.

            Hild was one of those rare books where I found the characters stayed with me for days afterwards, and I want to know what happens to them. Obviously the marriage is doomed ….! If I remember correctly you compared it to King Hereafter, and at the time I thought “No chance!” but I do see what you mean. Looking forward to the sequels.

  3. A good review of a really good book! I thought the ending was particularly funny with the ‘Republican’ father having a rivalry with the step-mother about whose family was oldest!

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