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For readers unfamiliar with the gaming habits of the Regency, faro was a popular card game along with Vingt-et-un and picquet. Thus, by association, one of Faro's daughters was a woman who made her living by working in and around a gaming salon. Disreputable, admittedly, but in this particular case less than devastating because the gaming salon is one of taste and refinement. Yes, Miss Deborah Grantham is very much a Georgette Heyer heroine. Beautiful, intelligent and desperate, Miss Grantham has undertaken to help her aunt, Lady Bellingham, extricate herself from her financial difficulties by operating a gaming salon. Unfortunately that does place her into a rather ineligible category, however, especially for young Lord Adrian Mablethorpe, who worships the ground his "divine Deb" walks on! Lord Adrian's mother is naturally concerned and asks Adrian's guardian, the redoubtable Max Ravenscar, to intervene in this dreadful relationship before it's too late.
From the first scene between Max and Lady Mablethorpe, we are plunged into the delicious world of the Regency as seen through the eyes of Georgette Heyer. She introduces us to hard-eyed heroes who have no intention of succumbing to the wiles of some flighty woman, no matter how attractive she may seem. We meet a cross section of the Ton at Lady Bellingham's gaming tables, from the dissipated to the drunk, from gentlemen to men who have fallen far from that description. We meet heroines whose eyes flash and whose sense of honor is all that a man's could be and then some, girls who are giddy at the thought of a handsome beau all their own, and more mature ladies whose interfering ways can undermine even the best laid plans.
All these characters inhabit Miss Heyer's novels, including this one. The enchanting romance that grows between two such unlikely protagonists is enormous fun; the sub-plots are just as entertaining and all the twists and turns taken by Miss Grantham and Mr. Ravenscar result in a delightful dénouement. And make no mistake, this is romance! You will find no heavy breathing heroes or unlaced heroines, just the meeting of eyes, a wicked smile, the touch of a hand on a gentleman's sleeve, and finally, perhaps, a kiss. Tame by today's standards, but perfectly appropriate for these delightful tales. Throughout this book the attention to detail, in dialogue and settings, is nothing short of perfection. No contemporary phrases or easy-to-read casual chit chat here - Georgette Heyer demands that her readers immerse themselves in the time period along with her heroes and heroines. You will find yourself rapidly becoming accustomed to the formality of Regency conversations, even though it may take a couple of chapters before it becomes natural. You may even rush for your dictionary to find out what color "coquelicot ribbons" are! (They're poppy red!) Rest assured that there are many Internet sites devoted to the Regency, and several offer a full list of Regency expressions in case you feel overwhelmed!
However, the true Regency fan will have several Georgette Heyer novels on her shelves - this reviewer was fortunate to be able to bring her entire collection with her from England to America. They are books that have been read and reread for many years, and their charm never fades. The characters live in a very special world at a very special time, and thanks to the brilliance of one woman, Georgette Heyer, that time is now accessible to those of us who care to pay it a visit.
(This review refers to the 1966 5th Printing, Pan Books, London)