Monday, October 24, 2022

Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer for the #1929Club

Title: Beauvallet
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publication: Dutton hardcover, originally published in 1929
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 16th-century
This week, Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings are hosting the 1929 Club, where bloggers read and write about books published in a chosen year.

Description: Sir Nicholas Beauvallet is the most dashing of Queen Elizabeth’s sea captains. Known as the Sea Dogs, a group of English privateers was authorized to carry out raids on England's enemies, whether they were formally at with war with them or not. Don Juan of Spain challenged the English ship, the Venture, hoping to capture Beauvallet but is humiliated: the Santa Maria is destroyed and Don Juan is captured. When Beauvallet learns the ship had aristocratic passengers, lovely Domenica and her father Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, recently governor of Santiago in the Spanish West Indies, he promises to deliver them to Spain, regardless of the danger. As the ship sails east, Beauvallet woos Domenica and she is responsive but must accompany her ailing father back to Spain. Beauvallet promises to come secretly into Spain to claim her, which her father and Domenica believe is impossible. The second half of the book is about Beauvallet’s quest to penetrate into Spain to claim his bride.

My Impression: Georgette Heyer is best known for her 26 historical romances set during the Regency period of England, 1811 -1820, when the future George IV, then Prince of Wales, was named Regent and ruled in his father's stead. Heyer began writing when she was just 17 and her early novels, such as Beauvallet, had an adventurous or flamboyant theme, likely influenced by her reading of Alexandre Dumas and Baroness Orczy, before she found her niche writing romantic comedies of manners. Beauvallet is her only novel set during Elizabeth I’s reign. Heyer also wrote some mysteries set from 1932-53, which are generally unremarkable, and some contemporary fiction which most find disappointing.
Beauvallet features a larger-than-life hero, a younger son, making his fortune on the sea. He may be a pirate but he is also a gentleman and Domenica inspires his gallantry. Although she is in his power and clearly returns his affection, he does not carry her off to England but, at great danger to himself and his ship, delivers her and her father to Spain. My favorite Heyer heroines are bold and able to stand up for themselves, and Domenica talks back to her captor and dreads the chaperonage that awaits her in Spain:
“Do you in England set vile duennas to watch your wives?” she asked.

He shook his head. “We trust them, rather!”

Her dimples quivered. “Oh, almost you persuade me, Sir Nicholas!” She frowned a warning as his hand flew out toward her. “Fie, before your men? I said ‘almost,’ senior. Know that my father plans my marriage.”

“A careful gentleman,” said Beauvallet. “So, faith, do I.”
Some might complain that Domenica is inactive in the second section of the book when she is kept under close watch by her relatives in Spain but she has no choice. She learned she is an heiress and that her cousin wants to marry her. She hopes that Beauvallet will come for her as he promised but knows it would be impossible for him to do so. However, she stays alert waiting for her opportunity and finally Beauvallet reaches Madrid, traveling with French papers under another name, requiring her to be cool and collected, and to deny having ever met him before. The entire adventure – his plan to reach Spain and their escape are extremely well done, including an audience with Philip II, menace from Domenica’s cousin who hates Beauvallet on sight, and a dramatic chase.  The style Heyer adopts for the 16th-century setting is very mannered and the romance is secondary to the adventure, both of which probably contribute to the fact that Beauvallet is not a favorite of most Heyer readers but I love it and feel it should be better known and appreciated. 
Nick Beauvallet is so convincing as a contemporary of Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh that I pretended to look for him in the Tudor and Stuart Seafarers Gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in June. This is my twenty-fourth book in the 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge led by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.

Source: Personal copy


Simon T (Stuckinabook) said...

Good old Heyer, always in the clubs! I actually briefly owned this one, and then gave it away when I read the setting - it didn't appeal to me. But I'm glad it worked for you!

Jerri said...

While not among my favorite Heyer titles (which mostly include her Georgian and Regency set comedies of manners) I do enjoy Beauvallet for an occasional read. And I enjoy Heyer's other 1929 title, the "modern" Pastel, more than any of her other "suppressed" novels. While it doesn't have the lighthearted humor of her best works, I find it an interesting period piece and look at what it takes/took to build a successful marriage rather than a successful romance. I do wish it wasn't so dreadfully difficult to find and expensive, I would like someone to reissue Pastel and Helen, perhaps the most autobiographical of the modern novels Heyer chose to suppress in her lifetime.

kaggsysbookishramblings said...

Great choice! There's often a Heyer for the club!

Helen said...

I loved this one too. I can see why it's not very popular with most Heyer readers as it's quite different from the Regency novels, but I thought it was great fun and I loved Nick Beauvallet!

Carol said...

I'd like to read this one - just read my first ever Heyer novel recently (Frederica) which I enjoyed.

LyzzyBee said...

Lovely to see a Heyer in the Club! I've read this one, but only the once.