Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer

Sylvester, Duke of Salford has everything. Rank, wealth, good looks & pleasing manners. When he decides that it’s time he married, he has a shortlist of suitable candidates. He’s obviously not in love with any of these young women & doesn’t see love as a necessary prerequisite to marriage. Salford’s invalid mother worries that he has become arrogant & unfeeling. She had hoped that he might marry the daughter of her greatest friend, Verena Marlow. Verena died when her daughter, Phoebe, was only a few weeks old & she now lives with her father & his second family. Phoebe’s grandmother, Lady Ingham, had given Phoebe a Season in London but it wasn’t a great success. Salford’s heir is his nephew, Edmund, son of his twin brother, Harry, who died young & a flibbertigibbet called Ianthe. Sylvester & Ianthe loathe each other & another motive for his marriage would be to encourage Ianthe to leave Edmund in the care of him & his wife when she marries foppish Sir Nugent Fotherby.

Phoebe Marlow is an intelligent young woman living miserably at home with a cold, uncaring stepmother. Her greatest friend is Tom Orde, son of the local Squire & her greatest love & interest is horses. She has literary aspirations & has written a novel using her experiences during the Season. She modeled her villain, Ugolino, on Salford, after dancing with him once & then being ignored by him at another party. Without knowing any of his personal circumstances, she made Ugolino a wicked uncle who has usurped his brother’s place & kidnaps his nephew. The novel is about to be published anonymously with the help of Phoebe’s governess Miss Battery.

Salford decides to please his mother by meeting Phoebe (he has no memory of their previous meeting) & is invited to stay by Lord Marlow. Phoebe is horrified at the thought of Salford making her an offer & persuades Tom Orde to help her get to London to see her grandmother. Unfortunately, the weather is dreadful & their carriage overturns in the middle of nowhere. Salford, returning home after Phoebe’s flight, discovers the runaways at a country inn & helps them out of their predicament. Tom has broken his leg & Phoebe’s reputation needs saving so, after a week snowed in at the inn, he sends her on to London. Their growing friendship is almost derailed when Phoebe’s novel, The Lost Heir, is published & her authorship is soon revealed. Phoebe is horrified when she learns that she has unwittingly caused gossip as her book becomes the sensation of the season even while she is ostracised by the most respectable people. She had never expected silly Ianthe to take the novel as a true story, seeing herself as the heroine needing to save her son from the evil influence of his uncle. More than one misunderstanding has to be sorted out before we can get to the happy ending.

This is such a delightful book. It’s a breathless read with so much happening that I couldn’t bear to put it down. Phoebe is headstrong, thoughtless but also vulnerable. She’s grown up knowing that she’s of very little account in her family. Her father is ineffectual & her stepmother unfeeling. Only her half-sister Susan & Miss Battery, make her life bearable. Sylvester doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He has always been deferred to yet has a strong sense of duty. He loved his brother & was devastated when he died. He puts up with Ianthe & really loves young Edmund so he’s determined that he be brought up properly. Phoebe’s horror at the thought of marrying him takes him by surprise but their growing friendship & his growing love for Phoebe surprises him. The minor characters, from Tom Orde to lady Ingham & Salford’s servant, Keighley, are beautifully written. It’s been too long since I read a Georgette Heyer & I’m glad I have several more on the tbr shelves.

14 thoughts on “Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer

  1. I LOVE Georgette Heyer, Lyn and this is one of her best books, no question.

    Wonderful review too, enjoyed reading and reminding myself (my memory is not what it should be)of characters I've come to regard as neighbors. Ha.

    You are so right about Heyer's secondary characters – in this book and in so many others. She always took special care with her entire cast of characters.

    I keep rereading ARABELLA and COTILLION too. In fact I found a good used hardcover copy of ARABELLA online and ordered it recently. This way, I don't have to keep returning it to the library. 🙂

    P.S. I have SYLVESTER on audio as well as COTILLION. ARABELLA, unfortunately isn't available on audio.

    When I feel down, when I feel blue – it's Georgette Heyer to the rescue!


  2. This is my favourite Heyer and I reread it every couple of years. Perhaps it's time I reread a few others though, Frederica is a firm favourite too and Arabella, but most are delightful.


  3. Ahhh, this is my favorite Heyer! Reading this makes me want to re-read the book. I'm a huge Heyer fan too, but what I loved the most about this book was that Phoebe and Sylvester shared a friendship first, with romance coming second. And then their chemistry! Gah! Both the romantic and platonic chemistry was just so on point.

    I hope you continue to enjoy more Heyers. “Frederica” is another good one, with friendship blossoming into romance, and also banter. Great banter. Heyer does banter so well. *SIGH*


  4. I first picked up a GH when I was in the early years of secondary school and I was immediately hooked! I'd had no interest in history before then, as we had a really rubbish history teacher and all we learned about were acts of parliament. This (Friday's Child) showed me that history was about how people lived. Later, in another, Pitt's tax on hair powder was mentioned. That was more like it! I've loved history since then, and have read all her book except My Lord John. Sylvester is one of my favourites, but then most of her books are favourites! I read them aloud or listened to talking books with my son and daughter when we were home-educating and they both loved them, too. And I've recently introduced my sister to them!
    Lovely review! 😦 I feel a GH marathon re-read coming on!


  5. I'm still slowly working through them for the first time & enjoying them very much. It's good to know that they're in print too so they're available for me to stockpile – which I have, of course!


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