RogerBW's Blog

Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer 16 October 2023

1941 Regency-adjacent romance. Deb Grantham, though of good birth, has ended up as a faro-dealer in her aunt's gaming house. She's taking what amusement she can from stringing along several beaux, while refusing any serious entanglements. But one of them is the wealthy young Lord Mablethorpe, and his mother, terrified by the idea of his making an unsuitable marriage, sends her nephew, man-of-the-world Mr Ravenscar, to buy her off…

But he goes in assuming that she's a designing harpy with Mablethorpe in her claws and her sights set on a title, and that gets Deb's back up, as she'd never intended anything more than flirtation with the lad. Soon Ravenscar, unused to being denied anything, is making entirely excessive offers of cash, and Deb's turning them down, determined to make him pay for his assumptions about her.

That's the backbone of the plot, but it wanders in various directions. The gaming house is losing money, and one of Deb's beaux has bought up some of its debts and is planning to use them to make her a dishonourable offer. Lucius Kennet, a soldier of fortune who's one of Deb's few friends, causes general chaos and confusion by acting on Deb's behalf without consulting her – and taking up with Ravenscar's half-sister. And while Deb is making herself offensively vulgar at Vauxhall, she runs across Phoebe Laxton, trying to avoid marriage with a well-known rake, and of course she has to do something about that…

It's a story of incident more than of overarching plot – and of two principals who could finish the tale in a couple of chapters if they weren't so profoundly ready to take offence. We're told that Ravenscar gradually finds Deb more appealing… but I never felt that I was being shown this, except right at the end. At least they each have a sense of humour, when they can keep their tempers long enough to use it, and to me that's the core of their compatibility, that they can see the ridiculous when everyone else is taking things terribly seriously. (And the banter, on the rare occasions they get to talk without someone going off in a huff, is fine.)

On this re-read I particularly enjoyed Deb's aunt, Lady Bellingham, who is trying and failing to keep her head above water (without coming over as an idiot spendthrift like Fanny in False Colours), and would be quite happy for Deb to be bought off at great price rather than throwing Ravenscar's offer back in his face, thank you very much.

Overall, many of the moments are great fun, but at times I find it hard to sympathise with the principals.

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