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Sunday, August 22, 2010

cover of 'Devil's Cub'

This book is somewhat of a sequel to These Old Shades (which I read recently), as it follows Dominic Alastair, Marquis of Vidal. The "cub" of the title, he is the son of the Duke of Avon (who was known as "Satanas" to some, hence the title) and the fiery Leonie, and Heyer presents Vidal as a pretty believable mixture of his parents. He has his father's lack of morals and devil-may-care attitude, but he has his mother's quick temper instead of his father's subtlety and deviousness. He gets in a bit of trouble because he wounds someone in a duel-- and, what apparently makes it worse, he didn't even bother to go through the proper forms, but had the duel right then and there in the house where they were gambling. His father is quite angry with him and decides to send him to France, but this is mostly because Leonie is upset rather than that Vidal may have killed a man. Since Vidal is used to having pretty much whatever he wants, he decides to take along with him the pretty bourgeoisie girl who he has been flirting with-- but, of course, things don't go exactly as planned.

That pretty girl is Sophia Challoner-- she doesn't really like Vidal quite as well as some of her other beaus, but she thinks she would very much like to be a Marquess; and then when Vidal describes to her the wonders of Paris, and how normal and accepted it is to be a mistress there, she is seduced by his talk and agrees to run off with him. However, the note with the details comes instead to the hand of Sophia's older sister, Mary-- who is less beautiful, but much more sensible, well-educated, and wise. She knows that this would ruin her sister (as Vidal cannot wish to marry her), and hatches a plan to disguise herself and go in her sister's place-- but it works a little better than she intended. Once she is finally exposed as not being Sophia, Mary simpers and pretends it was all a trick, with the hope of completely erasing any interest Vidal may have had in Sophia. However, he decides he may as well have one sister as another, and so he threatens her and carries off in his boat across to France. It is only there, when Mary is forced to defend herself with the pistol she managed to grab from Vidal's coat in the carriage, that Vidal discovers she is a "noblewoman" and he begins to treat her differently (although perhaps what really impresses him is that she actually shoots the pistol, as he comments that he knows only one other woman-- his mother-- who could).

Mary and Vidal begin to know each other and become friends; Vidal suggests that he and marry must wed to save her reputation, but she doesn't want to force him into this when he clearly doesn't care for her (yet). His esteem for her grows throughout their experience, and it becomes clear to Mary that she has actually loved him for a while before-- seeing him from afar, watching him court her sister, she somehow saw and loved the lonely boy that he was behind all the flair and bravado.

Mary doesn't want to take advantage of Vidal, or force him to marry beneath him and hurt him in the eyes of his family, so while he is falling more and more in love with her, she decides to run off and marry another man (the disaffected lover of a school-girl friend and Vidal's cousin Juliana, who they met up with in Paris). Of course, this sends Vidal and Juliana chasing after them, and by this time Leonie has heard of the whole affair and is chasing after her son to try to straighten out the mess without troubling the Duke (as if this were possible).

It's all very exciting and dramatic when they meet up, but when Mary overhears Leonie's comments about "such a one" that her son will have to marry, it solidifies her desire to slip away yet again and spare Vidal from this (although it should be quite clear to her by now that he loves her, if she were willing and dared to believe). She has hardly any money, but she takes a coach as far as she can, and when the hotel owner doesn't want to give her a room (since no reputable noblewoman would travel without baggage or a maid), a distinguished older gentleman staying at the hotel comes down and persuades them to give her a room, and then he proceeds to feed her and hear the whole story. The man is, of course, the Duke himself (and I couldn't help suspecting he must have somehow planned or engineered that she should come to that exact hotel, although how he managed it I don't know). He is quite entertained by her descriptions of his son and himself (quite accurate, although she probably wouldn't have dared say them to his face if she'd known who he was), and finally he reveals that he is a good friend of her uncle, the man who payed for her education, and that they have been working together to take care of things and preserve her reputation. And he seems to be quite intrigued by Mary's assertion (and fairly clear demonstration) that she can manage his unmanageable son.

Quite an entertaining, enjoyable romp. Once again, read the entire book over a single weekend.

Title:Devil's Cub
Author:Georgette Heyer
Date published:1932
Number of pages:310
Notes:loan from Catey


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