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The Black Moth

This was Georegette Heyer’s first novel and published in 1921 when Heyer was just 19. The novel inspires These Old Shades (which is the book I am reading after this one) which will set off Devil’s Cub and An Infamous Army.

As it happened with Devil’s Club, this book was a bit slow to start off, but it had some charming moments. Heyer gives her characters some delightful interactions and dialogue. I’ve noticed that her villains and antagonists go around blaming their genes and blood for their bad habits and addictions
which I guess would be appropriate for the time. The antagonists in this novel are fairly annoying, but they all seemed to be redeemed by the end. Even Tracy’s kidnappings are somewhat swept under a rug.

The best part of the novels were around Jack, Diana, Miss Betty and the O’Haras. Miss Betty steals almost every scene she is in. Diana was described as having “a tragic mouth that belied a usually cheerful disposition, and hinted at a tendency to look on the gloomy side of life”. If only I could have written like that at 17! While Heyer is not super literary or luminary in some ways, there is talent in writing characters, plots and stories with such appeal and seeming ease.

The biggest issue I had with this novel was actually the lack of page time for the above characters. Why was there so much time spent on secondary characters and not the main romance? I liked Diana, but I didn’t think the viewer read enough of her as a heroine. There was a lack of character and relationship development there. Too much on the antagonists and the periphery characters, unless they were suppose to be the protagonists? In any case, the most winsome characters had the least amount of attention in this book.

Still, an engaging first novel for any writer and enjoyable Heyer as usual.

Read May 20th 2012.

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