Review - Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Georgette Heyer
From the queen of Regency romance Georgette Heyer, Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle is an enjoyable and witty story from start to finish.

Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, is a man of consequence and ready to marry. He has his pick of eligible London beauties; if only he couldn’t find flaws in them, which he does. Hearing of a girl from his beloved mother, he goes to see her. He’s disappointed to find Phoebe Marlow has neither beauty nor conversation. She also wants nothing more in life than NOT to marry him. He learns this when she runs off to London in harsh winter weather so as to avoid what she believes is an imminent proposal from him.

 Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer
When inclement weather and other misfortunes conspire to throw the two together, Phoebe unleashes her wrath on an icily polite Sylvester. With refreshing honesty, she sharply criticizes his arrogant behavior and regularly takes him to task. This novel experience at once angers and intrigues Sylvester, who’s not slow in returning fire. Just when it looks like they’ll either kill or kiss each other, a startling new development occurs - one which just might destroy their fledgling romance.

As always, a Heyer romance is a joy to read. This one in particular is all the more enthralling for the battles waged between the leads and the peculiar circumstances surrounding them. Phoebe is as far from a conventional heroine as can be imagined. Ducal to the end, Sylvester nevertheless manages to redeem himself somewhat. The character analysis that’s an integral part of the story rings true without being boring, for despite their varied stations in life, Phoebe and Sylvester come across as actual human beings with flaws, instead of stereotyped characters.

Their romance runs the usual course of ups and downs. But unlike the typical romance where the characters change themselves or give in, in order to achieve a harmonious union, here Phoebe and Sylvester learn to love the other both for and despite their negative qualities. This complicated turn of events happens so naturally that the reader remains mostly unaware of it.

The protagonists are also ably supported by an assortment of supporting characters, whose individual eccentricities and interesting stories add to the general mayhem. Indeed, the rapier wit Heyer employs to describe people and events elicits laughter and admiration time and again.

Here’s what I found to be best thing about this book - the honesty of it. While there is the requisite happy ending, Heyer, using Sylvester’s Mom as her mouthpiece, gently advises readers that total character changes are just not possible, especially in Sylvester’s case. The conclusion being that while their overall future will be happy, the journey to it will include a lot of fighting between Phoebe and Sylvester. Only Heyer could write a truth like this and still leave the readers happy.

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