84 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2006
Jane Aiken Hodge, in The Private World of Georgette Heyer (reissued in paperback May 2006), confirms that The Black Moth is Georgette Heyer's first book, published when she was 19, possibly written to entertain a younger brother who was often ill, and taken by her father's publisher not on account of his reputation as a scholar but for its own merit as a delightful story. In Moth the devoted Georgette Heyer fan finds the narrative elements that will become her hallmarks: deft characterization of the time period, lively dialogue, eccentric and determined characters who come alive on the page, and a superb prose style that proves highly readable (as another reviewer confirms, not for the length of words but for the graceful simplicity of her language).
Fans of the Heyer ouevre will also be amused to see their beloved author's first stabs at characters and situations she will deal so masterfully with later: the roguish hero who sets fashion but is never really within it; the gorgeous heroine with her superior taste and good sense; the villain who ends up earning reader sympathies (though through most of the book he is frankly detestable); the ladies of fashion with stunning attire and empty brains, and the gallants who woo them. There is definitely some swashbuckling, but the narrative resists, as Heyer always did, melodrama, as the last scene shows. I would hesitate to call this juvenalia; it is a character-driven, not a plot-driven work, an ambitious experiment for the romance (which was, at the time she published it, highly unfashionable, literarily speaking), and the reader can witness a writer who has already found her voice now finding her material. Heyer would revisit the devilish anti-hero many times, letting him triumph in These Old Shades (whether these are companion pieces are the reader's opinion; her letters suggest Heyer did not intend them to be) and following his progeny in Devil's Cub, just as she would revisit the same themes of courtship, marriage, the pitfalls of the idle rich, and the relentless judgments of elite society on personal situation.
As reading material, the book is highly engaging and completely satisfying; several love stories unravel at once, and the introductions of Fanny and Lavinia are sheer narrative genius; in the span of a page, Heyer lightly sketches a character who emerges whole and vibrant and entirely dedicated to her own pursuits, whatever they may be. And who cannot adore the courtship scene where Jack, painfully wounded in the rescue of Diana and recovering at her house, is first properly introduced to the lady in question by having her command him to help her sort silks and dumping a basket of colorful threads over his earlish knee? As a romance, the book may show a failure to focus at length on the developing relationship between hero and heroine (for certain the 'secondary' characters often edge them out in wit and color), but as a novel with romantic elements, telling an entertaining story of the attractions and perils of upper-class English society during the Georgian period, it succeeds; and, as a Heyer, it cannot disappoint.
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2004
"The Black Moth" is my first Georgette Heyer. Coincidentally, it seems, from reading other reviews, that this was the first book she wrote. When I first opened it, I was actually surprised - and a little disappointed. From reading reviews on-line, I had expected paragraphs upon paragraphs of elegant prose, complex characterizations, unusual characters - what I actually saw was pages upon pages of dialogue. Disappointed, I put this at the bottom of my TBR pile. Then, by chance, I read these reviews, and discovered that Georgette Heyer had written this book at only 17. (Was it 17?) Well, seventeen! That's a different story! With that in mind, I decided to try again. And quickly amended my original assessment of a flat and boring book. For a 17 year old girl, this was a work of pure genius.
I have not read any other Heyer books, as yet. But I truly loved "The Black Moth". I loved the characters. I loved the dialogue. I even loved the plot - yes, it is so predictable, yet almost magical in the way that this is the real romance plot, no surprises, no hidden twists, and yet the reader is kept entranced by the sheer enjoyment of the reading experience.
(To be fair to the author, the plot was probably a little more original when she initially penned it.)
But, with hindsight being 20/20, I can see that a teen-ager - albeit a very gifted teen-ager - wrote this book. There is just a bit too much of the fantastic - too many coincidences, too much drama just for the sake of drama (what earthly reason does John/Jack have for acting as a highwayman? The storyline gives an explanation, but it is a lame excuse in my opinion. For an intelligent man to flirt with such extreme danger to himself - either from passengers unexpectedly armed, or the hangman's noose - not good enough. But good enough if you are 17.)
Some reviewers have mentioned that the characters are somewhat one - or two - dimensional as compared to her later books. Not having read any other books, I cannot judge, but to compare to other, more contemporary books - they are really not too bad. Maybe not very complex, but realistic they are. How I loved Lady Lavinia! A carricature of the English high-born lady, not of the time this novel was set, as a previous reviewer pointed out, but of the times in which Ms. Heyer herself lived. Besides, isn't there a little of Lady Lavinia in all of us? And the other characters - Jack, Dick, Jim - there is certainly nothing one-dimensional about them. Besides being very entertaining. For a 17 year old girl, in fact, it is sheer brilliance. And last, but not least, the Duke! Here we have someone quite complex, and to be honest, more realistic a portrayal of the true "rake" than some more modern novels have us believe a rake to be. And the friendship of the Duke with "Frank" of the opening letter I find simply astonishing. It's hard to imagine a conversation such as they had taking place in modern times - all the more reason to believe that this story took place a very, very long time ago. "The past is a different country, they do things differently there."
If perhaps her characters were not quite fully complex, and the plot a bit too fantastic, her style of writing is superb. Again, I haven't read any of her later books, but I cannot believe that in style of writing she changed too dramatically. There is something very finished about the writing in "The Black Moth".
I had been hesitant to try Georgette Heyer, pushing it off for a long time. Many previous reviewers wrote that she is a brilliant writer, with an extremely careful eye for period detail. I have nothing against "great" writers, but I have found that they are not generally light reading, so I pushed off Heyer until I would have "time". How surprised I was to find that this book is actually not "heavy" reading at all! Ms Heyer had a rare gift for words - an elegance of prose that is both terse and clear, with a story-line that flows smoothly and entertainingly - it is very easy to "get-into" her work. And the dialogue! It is worth reading a Heyer just for the dialogue alone. This simplicity of style is, in my opinion, the hallmark of a great writer. Some writers get the reputation of being "great" writers - rightly or wrongly deserved - by using many long words and putting them all together in sentence after sentence. Some of these, are indeed, good writers, (such as Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney), but some of them, in my opinion, are simply great wordsmiths - not necessarily great writers - there IS a difference. It is indeed a talent to be able to use many long words and put them together sentence after sentence, but it is, in my opinion, a greater talent to use simple words, simple sentence structure, and be able to express oneself beautifully and clearly. To express oneself in a way that is both easily understood, and compelling, to write your story concisely yet at length, this is how Georgette Heyer wrote. It is easy to see how she became a classic!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
I believe The Black Moth was written by Georgette Heyer to entertain her brother who was ill. It was published in 1929. The Black Moth is a light tale of adventure, honor and love written with humor. Heyer's typically well-developed and charming characters struggle with questions of honor and family loyalty before they can resolve their problems. Georgette Heyer's romances and her mysteries have entertained me for years. I have read and reread this book and am delighted to own it. I hope others enjoy it too!
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2000
The Black Moth, though a wonderful book, is NOT (I repeat NOT) part of a series with any of Georgette Heyer's other books - certainly not with These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, and The Infamous Army. Devil's Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades, and An Infamous Army is a sequel to Regency Buck! The Black Moth is Georgette Heyer's first novel, and though it is not yet as mature as her later regencies, it is still good, lighthearted fun. Her characters are not greatly developed, and the plot is nothing special, but Heyer's charm and dawning style show through.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2000
Let's be rational. Heyer wrote this book when she was only 17. In that case - the book is WONDERFUL, an amazing product for a teenager to have written. But let's consider what the author went on to produce - and how can you compare this debut - awesome though it is - to Heyer's other major swashbuckler - These Old Shades, which is by far the greater novel, widely believed to be a reworking (but NOT a sequel - that is an urban myth) of the themes explored in Black Moth.
Let's take Black Moth. In its favour, we have a good, old fashioned D'Orczy-type swashbuckler, with silk coats and lace ruffles, a scary villain, and a beautiful heroine who doesn't really have very much to do - in marked contrast to Heyer's wonderful female leads in later novels. She is really just there to be rescued. It has moments of Heyer humour too, but Heyer was not at her best when using the stilted "Ecod!" language of the traditional 18th century swashbuckler. The female characters are strangely weak and border upon the two-dimensional, the male characters are not much better. As juvenilia, this is a masterpiece. As a mature novel, it seems faintly mediocre - but it is very readable and amusing. If you love Heyer, you MUST read this book, and see where it all started. You may even fall in love with it! it is not so unknown, after all. But if you, like me, dislike stilted pseudo-18th century language sprinkled with "ecods!", "t'were" and "t'was"; and like more gumption and character in your heroes and heroines, this book may prove slightly disappointing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2008
Perhaps Heyer was displeased with this early effort, and decided to detach her Alastair series from it for that reason. Nevertheless, it is clear that she modeled the disreputable Duke of Avon's greatest past outrage on Tracy's kidnapping of Diana in "The Black Moth." The book therefore makes an appropriate and enjoyable start to the Alastair family books: "These Old Shades," "The Devil's Cub," and "An Infamous Army."
Heyer wrote her Georgian romances early in her career, and in a way they are almost too authentic. It is easy to be put off by the speech quirks, and even in the narrative she seems to be taking her lead from Jane Austen--or even Henry Fielding--which makes the books unexpectedly, well, literary, to put it nicely. The later books are definitely more readable, but the Georgians repay patience, being emotionally richer and ultimately just as lively and funny. And even this early on, Heyer had a gift for humorous touches that subvert the seriousness (or self-seriousness) of romance novel situations--as when Diana pretends to be asleep so as not to have to talk to Tracy, and he sardonically comments on her ability to keep her mouth from dropping open while sleeping in an upright position.
I am delighted that Harlequin is republishing Heyer's romances in trade format. I snapped up "These Old Shades" and "The Black Sheep" the instant I saw them, and I can hardly wait for my other favorites: "The Grand Sophy," "The Unknown Ajax," "The Talisman Ring," and "Arabella." Oh, and "The Reluctant Widow." Two quibbles: First, although it is nice to have current romance writers do introductions for the books, Diana Palmer's badly organized and repetitive me-me-and-oh-yes-me foreword does a disservice to "The Black Moth," which she seems not to have read recently, since she has zero to say about the plot. (For a current writer who genuinely cares about both Georgette Heyer and the book she is introducing, try the foreword Stephanie Laurens has written for "These Old Shades.")
Secondly, with the lovely repackaging of the novels, why not take enough care to give the Georgians proper Georgian covers, instead of the generic Regency covers they've all been given?
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 1999
This is the first in a four part series: The Black Moth, These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, An Infamous Army. Although the names in The Black Moth and These Old Shades differ slightly, the characters are the same. Jack, his lady love, the Duke of Andover, and the friend to whom the Duke writes to in The Black Moth become Lord Merivale, Lady Merivale, the Duke of Avon, and Hugh Davenant in the next three novels. This is a fantastic book, brimming with intrigue, romance, duelling, midnight rides ventre a terre, kidnapping, honour lost and honour regained, exile, deceit, mysterious rescues, a sinister villian with a fine sense of humour, hidden truths, public exoneration, and bliss for those in love. This is one of her best novels, on a par with The Grand Sophy, The Masqueraders, and my favourite, These Old Shades.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2010
The Black Moth, Georgette Heyer's first book, is wonderful, although perhaps not as wonderful as some of her later works. The edition of it which I received (with the cover image of an actual moth, bizarrely) from "Lits" publishing house, was hilariously awful.
The book is bound more like an Honours thesis than a novel: it's about 25cm by about 20cm, essentially foolscap. The typesetting is poor enough to make grown editors weep (or laugh and then weep); it's spaced so strangely that it's nearly impossible to read. There isn't even any text on the spine of the book, so it looks quite a lot like just a thick yellow magazine, when it's on a shelf. The cover photo (which is bizarrely inappropriate for the actual content of the book, and was presumably sourced by some work-experience kid googling "moth" and just using the first pic they found) wraps partly around onto the spine, in an obviously accidental way. Perhaps best is the blurb, which reads "Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) was an English historical romance and detective fiction novelist. This is the story of her younger brother." Uh, no it isn't. If you read the blurb of any decent edition of this book (or wikipedia or anything else) you will discover that this was a book which she wrote to entertain her younger brother during his convalescence after an illness. Her brother was not a dashing adventurer from the previous century. Obviously.
I seriously think that what's happeed here is that someone has found the text of this book online, then just printed it out in Word on ordinary printer paper and gotten Fedex Kinkos to bind it for them.
On the whole, then; I recommend you buy this book, but not this edition of this book, because if you've even once seen an actual novel before, you could probably have done a better job making this yourself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2011
They say this is GH's first book, and that is apparent when reading it. I sensed a certain immaturity in the writing. I could catch glimpses of her later genius, but it is not here in full effect. I tried to read the book overlaid with the knowledge that it was written by a 19 year old. In this case, it is very good, and it's really not fair to fully compare 19 y/o GH with her more experienced self.
With that, I was soon caught up in the plot anyway and enjoyed the book. (See other reviews for plot summary). The only thing that I really didn't like is that this book is not set in the typical Regency time period. I definitely prefer Regency. This book is set in the Georgian period, where the men wore wigs, powders and patches. Some men walked with mincing steps. I find all that a bit effeminate, and it was hard to imagine the heroine exuding masculinity, when he was fussing over his rouge pot!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2011
I'm totally in love with Heyer's books and aim to own every one of them at some point in my life. As usual this story delivers what everyone loves about her books; a romantic leading man who is somewhat of a rogue, in this case a gentelmanman turned robber. The period is vividly depicted and even the language of the characters is believable in that it fits in with the time period in which they live, a feat that many modern books set in the past fail to accomplish. This is definitely the type of book you could read over and over again!