I picked up Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer last week, being in the mood for some Heyer but at the same time wanting a story I didn’t know inside and out (as I know so many of Heyer’s books). I’d only read Faro’s Daughter once ten years ago and my memory of it was suitably vague so it seemed like a good enough choice.
I quickly realised there was in fact a very good reason I had never reread it: it isn’t very good. In fact, it is probably the worst Heyer I’ve read.
Now, I love Heyer. I love her historical details, I love her slang-filled dialogue, I love both her madcap and more sedate plots. I love her but this book pushed the boundaries of my patience almost to the breaking point.
We begin with a typical enough Heyer hero: Max Ravenscar is a wealthy bachelor, fond of racing, gaming, and, to some extent, his extended family. His young cousin Adrian has fallen in love with a most unsuitable young woman and Max is called upon by his aunt to protect her precious son from this Jezebel. Deborah Grantham, the young woman in question, is several years older than Adrian, an experienced hostess at her aunt’s gaming house, and completely uninterested in the puppy-ish Adrian. But when Ravenscar insults and attempts to bribe her into rejecting Adrian, she becomes determined to…do inexplicable things for inexplicable reasons. Basically, it becomes increasingly ridiculous and pointless from there. Unfortunately, there is the very beginning of the book.
Events include: an attempted elopement and an actual one, several silly young people (male and female), a creepy man who has acquired Deborah’s aunt’s debts in an attempt to coerce Deborah into a romantic (this seems too polite a word, but let’s go with it) entanglement, a few physical fights, and, let us not forget the centrepiece of Deborah’s ridiculous and entirely off-the-wall plan, a kidnapping.
There aren’t a lot of saving graces here. Usually Heyer could rescue a ridiculous plot with a few good characters and some sparkling dialogue. That is all sadly lacking here. There is carriage race between Ravenscar and one of the several odious men who lurk in the background throughout, but it happens off-stage and we only hear about it second-hand. Still, that’s about as thrilling as the story gets. She has some promising secondary characters but they never come up to scratch and as for our hero and heroine, well they are abysmal. I can’t think of a less romantic Heyer pairing or a less interesting one. Aside from their first meeting (in which they play cards for hours – Ravenscar wins, naturally), they do not exchange civil words until the final pages of the novel, when presumably Heyer realised this would be necessary in order for them to become engaged.
Faro’s Daughter was published in 1941, when one must suppose Heyer was exhausted by her efforts of the previous year (both The Spanish Bride and The Corinthian came out in 1940), busy working on a new mystery novel (Envious Casca – also published in 1941), and anxious about the war. I hope Faro’s Daughter put food on the table and clothes on her family’s backs. That’s about all the good I can say of it.
Understandably, this did not quench my need for some Heyer. Back now to one of the old reliables, most likely Frederica or The Grand Sophy. After the useless Deborah, I’m in need of a capable heroine.