The Black Moth -- Georgette Heyer
Tracy Belmanoir, Duke of Andover (AKA "Devil"), has a penchant for dressing in black, not powdering his hair, and kidnapping beautiful young women. His sister, Lavinia, is married to Richard Carstares, who (deep breath) is the younger brother of Jack, the Earl of Wyncham, who is in self-imposed exile since being caught cheating at cards seven years ago except he didn't really cheat at cards, it was Richard who was cheating but Jack took the blame because Richard was in love with Lavinia and Jack wanted to protect his little brother even though Richard was in the wrong and so Jack's been traveling The Continent, honing his skill at the sword and also being a gallant highwayman but now he's back in England and due to being in the right place at the right time, he thwarted the Duke's attempt to kidnap the lovely Diana and now Jack and Diana are in love but he can't propose because he's just a common highwayman and if he Tells All and reclaims his place in society, he will ruin his brother's life and also the Duke hasn't exactly given up on his obsession with Diana (phew).
The Black Moth was Georgette Heyer's first novel. It's also connected to These Old Shades. So, you see, I had to read it, even though I was counseled to skip it.
First off, now I totally understand why people suggested that I skip it. While the characters in These Old Shades sparkle and shine and make me laugh, the characters in The Black Moth, for the most part, never pass the point of Character, never become People, and those who do aren't particularly likable. I also never really got caught up in the plot -- it took me a good week to get through this book, whereas a really enjoyable Heyer will usually only last me an afternoon.
But I am glad I read it, both because I'd like to read all of her books and because it was a bit of a trip to read about Justin's early days. (Okay, yeah, different name, but really the same character -- and in These Old Shades, Jack Carstares becomes Lord Merivale* and Lavinia becomes Fanny. I liked her much more as Fanny.) And, as much as this book paled in comparison to These Old Shades, it made it that much easier to understand why Lord Merivale would hold such a grudge against Justin.
So if it had been just a stand-alone, I'd have not liked it much at all, I think, but as it serves as an early history of the Alastairs, it made me happy despite my lack of enthusiasm. But I'm happier thinking about it than I was actually reading it.
*I Googled around to double-check the spelling of Merivale, and look!
The Alastair Trilogy
1. These Old Shades
2. The Devil's Cub
3. An Infamous Army -- The characters in Regency Buck are major players in this one, but Regency Buck comes first. I read them out of order, sadly.
Connected to The Alastair Trilogy: