Vulpes Libres recently spent a week celebrating the work of Georgette Heyer & I was inspired to pick up The Talisman Ring after reading Kate’s post on it. I have quite a few Heyers on the tbr shelves & I do want to read more of them. The novels I’ve read since discovering her a few years ago have been a lot of fun & I must make an effort to read more of them.
The Talisman Ring is one of her early novels & has two contrasting heroines. Eustachie de Vauban is only 17 & has been rescued from the Revolutionary Terror in Paris by her English grandfather. Eustachie is a Romantic & would really have preferred to have stayed in Paris & be condemned to death so that she could look pale but beautiful & unafraid in a tumbril on the way to the guillotine. Eustachie’s grandfather, Lord Lavenham, is dying & his great-nephew, Sir Tristram Shield, has been sent for to marry Eustachie, thus ensuring her future. Tristram is older, calm & very no nonsense but is willing to marry Eustachie for Lord Lavenham’s sake.
Lord Lavenham’s grandson, Ludovic, would have been her intended husband but he is in exile, suspected of murdering a man to whom he owed money. Ludovic had gambled away a talisman ring, a family heirloom that he had given as a pledge. Ludovic admitted to being in the vicinity when Sir Matthew Plunkett was shot & the ring went missing after the murder so he was the obvious suspect. With help from Tristram & another cousin, Basil Lavenham, known as the Beau, Ludovic escaped to the Continent. Now that the old Lord is dying, the succession is in doubt as Basil would be the next heir if Ludovic is dead.
Eustachie decides to run away to London & in the course of this escapade, she meets Ludovic, who has returned to England as part of a gang of smugglers, in search of his talisman ring. If he can find the ring, he will have found the murderer of Plunkett, can establish his innocence & claim his inheritance. Ludovic is shot by the Runners after the smugglers are discovered & is taken to a sympathetic innkeeper. Staying at the inn are Sarah Thane & her brother, Sir Hugh. Sarah is in her late twenties, very calm, sensible but with an ironic sense of humour & a love of the absurd. Sarah soon discovers Ludovic’s plight & becomes involved in the plans for his concealment, bringing a much needed sense of proportion & common sense to Eustachie’s wilder schemes. She also soon clashes with Sir Tristram as she teases him by pretending to agree with all Eustachie’s Gothic fantasies & plays the part of the scatty featherbrained woman to perfection.
Tristram & Ludovic have their suspicions about the real murderer & believe that the talisman ring is concealed in a secret panel in the library of the Dower House, Basil Lavenham’s home. With the help of Eustachie & Sarah, they lay their plans to recover it.
The Talisman Ring is a real romp, a mixture of historical romance & mystery. I love Heyer’s older heroines & Sarah is a wonderful example of this type. She manages to stay in Eustachie’s confidence by convincing her that she is just as madly romantic as the younger girl but allows Sir Tristram & the reader to know that she is much too sensible to be swept away by romance through her constant use of irony & humour.
She could not forbear giving him a look of reproach. ‘You must be forgetting what assistance I rendered you at the Dower House,’ she said.
‘No,’ replied Sir Tristram, at his dryest. ‘I was not forgetting that.’
Miss Thane rested her chin in her hand, pensively surveying him. ‘Will you tell me something, Sir Tristram?’
‘Perhaps. What is it?’
‘What induced you ever to contemplate marriage with your cousin?’
He looked startled and not too well-pleased. ‘I can hardly suppose, ma’am, that my private affairs can be of interest to you,’ he said.
‘Some people,’ remarked Miss Thane wisely, ‘would take that for a set-down.’
Their eyes met; Sir Tristram smiled reluctantly. ‘You do not seem to be of their number, ma’am.’
‘I am very thick-skinned,’ explained Sarah. ‘You see, I have not had the benefit of a correct upbringing.’
Sarah & Tristram always understand each other perfectly & spend much of the novel restraining Eustachie & Ludovic’s wilder flights of fancy. Whether the reader prefers mature irony, youthful romanticism or an exciting adventure of smugglers & murder, The Talisman Ring will satisfy every mood. It’s the perfect read for the holidays.