Gervase Frant, 7th Earl of St Erth, returns to his family seat at Stanyon, having inherited from his father while abroad with the army against Napoleon.
Also residing at Stanyon are his stepmother the Dowager Lady St Erth, Gervase’s younger half-brother Martin, his cousin Theo and his stepmother’s young friend, Drusilla, who is on a long-term visit.
Lady St Erth and Martin rapidly make plain to Gervase, in ways verging on the highly anti-social, that they are rather disappointed to see him home. They had expected him to die, as the officer death rate was high, and had wanted him to die, as Martin would have inherited instead.
Gervase is described as a “quiet” gentleman, and in this is a unique Heyer hero. Although he is shrewd, he is also genial with an easy manner. He is also a Dandy, with his greatest vice being vanity–especially where cravats are concerned.
When Gervase rescues the fair neighbor Marianne, who ever male within a 100 mile radius is mad for, the action kicks up. Although subtle, several attempts on Gervase’s life are made.
A little Gothic, with self-conscious overtones familiar to fans of Cousin Kate, The Quiet Gentleman is more mystery than romance. While the ending is satisfactorily Heyer…complete with coupling of several characters, the real drive of the story is trying to figure out just who is behind the murderous plotting.
Heyer, who was also a mystery writing, exercises her suspense chops with flair. There are few clues as to who is trying to put a period to Gervase’s existence, and even the Quiet Gentleman seems nonplussed. However, it is never over the top or out of the realm of possibility, with more emphasis on the relationships than on the homicidal action.
Gervase has very similar qualities to some of my favorite Heyer heroes…he is astute and buries his inner workings under a carefully crafted air of fashion. He is also described as terribly handsome, with seemingly few scars (either emotional or physical) from his tour in the Hussars.
True to Heyer style, she also gives us two heroines…one young, innocent and beautiful and the other an older, more practical woman. The Dowager, as the other main supporting female character, serves as a fine foil to both heroine types who show neither her predilection for prejudice nor her overweening ego.
The Quiet Gentleman is a soft, serious hero’s journey that is as understated, but as complex, as the main character.
5.5 out of 6, a nice alternative to lighter Heyer’s, the mystery is refreshingly simple set up for unlikely lovers.
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