HEYER TODAY EPISODE 4: DEVIL’S CUB WITH KHALID HAM

Listen to this episode here

Also available on any good podplayer, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music. 

SARA-MAE: Previously on Heyer Today…

EMMA DARWIN: Basically, I love her because I just love being in that world. But I do think that technically she is extraordinarily good. And she’s really worth studying from that point of view as well. And we can all learn a lot from what she does those of us who write historical fiction, if there’s a fluffy cloud somewhere with the world’s great writers on it, it unquestionably has Austen on it. I don’t think it has hair on it. Though there is always at the heart of a hair. You know, the question is, can a man and a woman work it out so that they can make a partnership?

SARA-MAE: Hello, and welcome to our fourth episode of Heyer Today, the podcast in which we try to solve the mystery of why writer Georgette Heyer’s books haven’t been adapted for the screen. We also try to convert new readers to her work along the way. This week’s victim, I mean, recipient of our benevolence, is Khalid Ham.  He’s the bassist in my band, Scarlet Starlings and he has never read a Heyer novel. Khalid will be reading ‘Devil’s Cub’ and I can’t wait to discuss it with him. As ever, there will be spoilers, so bear that in mind. Oh, and this week… we have the most special of special guests. I told myself I wouldn’t embarrass Beth by being unprofessional so, without any gushing whatsoever, and the minimum of fanfare…Mr Stephen Fry will return briefly. Yes, that happens. Because we love him so much, we’ll be sprinkling a bit of Fry throughout the series, so do download our other episodes to get your dose. 

But first, here’s Beth to tell us a little bit about what Heyer was up to at the time she was writing this week’s book: Devil’s Cub. 

[HISTORICAL SEGMENT] 

(published 1932 – so, covering 1926/27 to 1932) 

BETH KEANE: In 1926, Georgette Heyer is only 24 years old, newlywed and still reeling from the death of her beloved father. Between the publication of These Old Shades, Georgette’s first real blockbuster, and its sequel, Devil’s Cub in 1932, we are looking at a period of just 6 years. 

It’s a time of great change. While British women older than 30 had the vote since 1918, it was not until 1928 that women aged 21 also gained that right. Georgette was 26 at the time and, whether she liked it or not, she was leading her own charge for equality – she had taken on financial responsibility for her Mother and two brothers. And it was going to continue to be a difficult time financially – for everyone. While the 10 years of the Great Depression were looming [1929 to 1939] Georgette’s family, for the moment, seemed unaffected.  

Georgette’s work ethic set a solid foundation for her future longevity as a best-selling author. This included her ever-expanding audience in the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada – and just as well. However, she was still grappling with her role as the main breadwinner in the family. Adding to the financial uncertainty, Ronald is about to embark on an assortment of contrasting careers – trying everything from mining to sports retailing.   

While they knew each other for 5 years before their marriage, Ronald actually spent most of that time abroad, working in Russia and Africa long before their engagement. In 1926, just over a year after their marriage, he was about to leave England to go back to Africa, this time as an independent prospector, seeking his fortune in the tin mines in Tanganyika.  

These Old Shades was published in October 1926, six months after the General Strike, which had caused disruption to transport and industry – including paper supplies, publishing and newspaper advertising. Yet Georgette’s book sales are unaffected, and Georgette was rewarded with her first best-seller. It is thought that this is one reason she was absolutely adamant throughout her career that personal publicity was an unnecessary evil.  

Also, during this period, a handful of talented women were ‘making detective fiction respectable’ (that’s according to Heyer biographer, Jane Aiken Hodge). These writers included Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margaret Allingham (another young author – also published in 1923 at only 19 years of age). It was Allingham who said that ‘Mystery writers in the late 1920s/early 1930s were refugees from a world in emotional chaos’. As if to make manifest this theme, in December 1926, their superstar Agatha Christie disappears for 11 days – instigating a search involving more than a thousand policemen and hundreds of civilians. I wonder what Georgette made of this peculiar event? In any case, it’s doubtful if she even heard the news. She spent that Christmas and New Year on board a passenger ship bound for East Africa to reunite with Ronald, travelling alone – with just her Sealyham terrier, Roddy, for company. 

For the next year, Georgette and Ronald live in a mining compound in Tanganyika – a colony under British control since the end of the First World War. This is their opportunity for adventure! But you do wonder how Georgette is going to keep her composure, her clothes pressed and her marcel waves intact, living in a hut made out of bamboo with a roof of elephant grass, and with lions, leopards and rhinos roaming freely outside. There was only one other European, and Georgette is the only white woman. She had her tiny dog, Roddy, for company while Ronald is away at work. Despite the isolation and basic living conditions, it’s probably Georgette’s most relaxed time. This is pure freedom, away from the cares that dogged her in England. In this totally alien landscape, she writes 4 novels, pen in hand, paper balanced precariously on her knee. Dressed in khaki shorts and shirt, she revels in the African heat. And there were safaris to attend, walks…as well as the occasional rather hair-raising encounter with local wildlife.  

[AUDIO DRAMA SEGMENT] 

INTERIOR KITCHEN – 6am. 

(A kettle whistles, cups and saucers clack.) 

GEORGETTE 

What time did you say you’ll be returning to our darling ‘Manor House’? 

RONALD 

In time for tea, dear. Right. Time I was off.  

(Ronald sips tea – clatter of crockery as he puts the teacup on the table.)  

(TO GEORGETTE) Tell the driver to start the car for me, will you? 

GEORGETTE: Anzisha gari tafadhali! 

(SFX: Walking, bamboo door opens, rustling of leaves. Old, noisy car starts up.) 

RONALD: Goodbye, darling.  

GEORGETTE: Goodbye.  

(They kiss. Ronald leaves the hut. And then … barking … horn tooting, yelling and screaming…ronald races back to the house

GEORGETTE 

Ronald, darling, did you forget something? 

RONALD 

Fetch me my rifle, Georgette! There’s a blasted RHINO in the camp! 

GEORGETTE:  

How terribly… exciting!  

NARRATOR: 

Tossing on her coat over her pajamas, she rushes after her husband. There, not 20 yards from a house to the left, is a large black rhino, moving slowly through the camp. Mr JV Oates follows it warily, his gun raised above his head. 

[Gun shot. Dog barks.] 

GEORGETTE:  

Roddy! Look at him sniffing the rhino, as if to say: ‘Dead I see, nothing for me to do here.’ 

[They laugh nervously, the tension of the moment relieved.] 

RONALD:  

It could have been worse, I’ve seen those creatures moving like a tank, crashing through the undergrowth like paper. No more marching through the rhino tracks by yourself, alright, Dordette? 

We now have very different ideas about rhino hunting today. Coming from South Africa myself, I feel very strongly about the poaching and hunting of endangered wildlife. However, to Georgette and Ronald at this time, and fearing for their lives, it would have seemed like a thrilling adventure, which she wrote about in her article ‘The Horned Beast of Africa’ for The Sphere. 

BETH: Despite these unusual animal-based distractions, this is a period of abundant output.  

For Ronald, it was a time of great promise – a new career ahead and a fortune to be made. For Georgette, it was a welcome escape from the overwhelming grief of her father’s death. She writes ‘Helen’ – a modern novel – its outpouring of grief suggesting a close autobiographical element.  

But Ronald was not to strike it lucky in Tanganyika. After just a year in Africa, the couple travel back to London and arrive one week after the publication of Helen. It’s not long before Ronald secures a new position, this time in the lead mines of Macedonia. Georgette joins him there and once again they are living in spartan conditions, albeit with a larger ex-pat British community than in Africa. Much less beautiful, at least here there are cocktail parties and dinners to divert her.  

And, with her London Library membership reinstated, she has a ready supply of books posted out for her to pour over as research. In 1930, they will be back, briefly, in London before moving to the countryside of Sussex. 

The period that started with the death of Georgette’s father sadly also ends with another death – Ronald’s father falls under a tube train in London. It is ruled a suicide by the coroner, but that verdict is fiercely rejected by Georgette and Ronald. 

In the 6 years between 1926 and 1932, Georgette and Ronald have lived in properties in Africa, Macedonia, London and Sussex. Ronald has had 4 jobs. Georgette has published 8 novels – mainly histories, and romances – as well as her first murder mystery, Footsteps in the Dark. Three of her four contemporary novels were written in this time – Helen (1928), Pastel (1929), and Barren Corn (1930). Georgette will eventually have all of them suppressed from future publication. 

[GEORGETTE QUOTE [to Louisa Callender of Heinemann]: 

 ‘Forget all about INSTEAD OF THE THORN, PASTEL, HELEN, BARREN CORN. They aren’t thrillers, and they stink, and I want them to be buried in decent oblivion.’] 

Georgette and Ronald return to London in 1930. It’s time to start the next phase of their adventure together. In 1932, their son, Richard George Rougier is born, on exactly the same day as Footsteps in the Dark is released – yet another novel that Georgette tried to suppress later in her life. Ever her harshest critic, she couldn’t suffer the idea of a sub-standard book being out there. 

There were, as always with Georgette, financial pressures. She and Ronald were paying the rent on properties for themselves and also for Georgette’s mother. Added to this, neither of them liked to stint on clothes, food from Fortnum’s and other creature comforts. Soon, Georgette was forced to sell the film rights for Simon the Coldheart to the Fox-Film Co. but, alas, it was a deal that would never transpire. 

The personal turmoil Georgette and her family have survived is about to be put to the test by world events. The Great Depression is upon them and the Second World War is looming – what will the future hold for Georgette and her family? 

SARA-MAE: Devil’s Cub – sequel to These Old Shades – was published in 1932 and has never been out of print since. It is one of Georgette Heyer’s most popular books, a Georgian romance set in 1780. 

[EXCERPT FROM PREVIOUS INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN FRY] 

Most people’s favourite kind of great ones are ‘These Old Shades” and then ‘Devil’s Cub’.

[INTERVIEW]

And now here’s Khalid Ham discussing Devil’s Cub with me. Remember, I’m trying to convert people who’ve never read Heyer’s work, or even, in Khalid’s case, any romance at all. This could backfire horribly.

SARA-MAE: Hi, Khalid. How are you doing?

KHALID HAM: I’m good, thanks. Here in cold, cold London. It’s great.

SARA-MAE: Can you tell me who you are and what you do?

KHALID: I’m Khalid. I’m a kind of a tutor at school at the moment, and currently getting ready to do a teacher training course.

SARA-MAE: Were you aware of Georgette Heyer’s work before I approached you for this podcast?

KHALID: No, not at all. We had a nice conversation about why she hadn’t been selected for TV. I was a bit like, “Who the hell is she talking about?” So then you told me to read a book, and I did.

SARA-MAE: You obeyed my decree. [laughs]

KHALID [laughs].

SARA-MAE: Good. And have you read any Jane Austen who she’s often compared to?

KHALID: No, I haven’t actually. I need to. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I think but yeah.

SARA-MAE: And you’re in charge of moulding young minds?

KHALID: I mean, towards science, not towards expressing their feelings, that kind of rubbish.

SARA-MAE: Well, I personally think that this is science, that your life will be 25% improved If you read Jane Austen and all of her works immediately.

KHALID: Okay, I feel there we’re just kind of making up statistics off the top of our heads and not really basing them on any fact. So yeah, it probably will be better if everyone reads Jane Austen [laughs].

SARA-MAE: [laughs] I must say the science is a bit shaky. I will admit that.

KHALID: Yes, based on one person, that’s yourself. And that’s it.

SARA-MAE: Science to follow. I’m kind of conducting my own experiment in terms of Georgette Heyer’s work and trying to get people to come around to the idea that she’s almost as good as Jane Austen. What were your preconceptions about the book?

KHALID: I was expecting a kind of sweeping romance kind of book where the man is very much a gentleman the entire way through. And the woman is kind of a bit fawning, kind of standard for what was written in literature at that time about kind of how women behave. And I guess I was kind of treated to that to some extent with some of the characters, but then the main characters were very different.

SARA-MAE: I mean, have you seen Jane Austen film adaptations?

KHALID: No. We had Pride and Prejudice or video, I think when I was younger, but I always kind of avoid it because I would rather watch people with guns and that kind of thing. So no, I haven’t really seen the adaptations.

SARA-MAE [laughs]: So we can fairly say that this is very much the opposite of what you’d normally pick up to read.

SARA-MAE: This isn’t looking good for my conversion scorecard.

KHALID: Yeah, definitely. Okay.

SARA-MAE: So I just want to interject here to describe Khalid a bit. He’s about the same age as the hero in our book, the Marquis of Vidal. This is going to embarrass him, but he’s quite swoony too, a bit of a modern version of a classic Heyer hero. The Marquis, however, is one of Heyer’s wildest characters. So I thought it would be amusing to see if there were any other parallels between Khalid and his literary equivalent.

KHALID: I mean, I wouldn’t say many, but the one thing we did have in common was, he likes to duel and kill people on the regs I guess.

SARA-MAE: He’s very fond of killing people.

KHALID: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been known to get a gun out and shoot someone in a bar.

SARA-MAE: Right, at the least provocation. I’ve noticed that about you.

KHALID: Yeah, very, very hot-tempered. My father was exactly the same as well, you know, they shot a lot of people too.

SARA-MAE: Right, so that’s why they call you Khalid Hot Fists Ham? Is that where that name comes from? [laughs].

KHALID: Yeah. Hot-fisted, and I also drive really fast. I’m Hot Wheels too.

SARA-MAE: First difference between Videl the hero and Khalid: Khalid rides a bike, not a carriage or a horse.

SARA-MAE: Do you ever have any races on your bike amongst your friends? Do you place bets on who can get to, say, Stoke Newington quicker?

KHALID: Not really amongst my friends. I’ll see strangers on my bike and I’ll give them a knowing look. And then they’ll know it’s time to get ready to race. It’s illegal street racing scene of London with the push bikes. They’re pretty dangerous guys, living on the edge.

SARA-MAE: Something tells me Khalid is using a tiny bit of creative license.

SARA-MAE: What about any kind of gambling? Are you an aficionado of poker or anything like that?

KHALID: I used to gamble on some sports but then I was so bad at it that I just gave up immediately. You kind of feel like you have some insight, you’re like, “Oh, I know what’s gonna happen here.” And then that person loses or gets knocked out really badly or something like that and you’re like, “Ooh, why did I waste money on this?” So no, I don’t gamble at all.

SARA-MAE: Second difference: Khalid does not gamble.

SARA-MAE: Well that’s a big difference, I think, ‘cos that seems like it’s quite a big part of their lives, the young men of that time.

SARA-MAE: So John Sinclair said in his 1818 book, ‘The Code of Health and longevity”, that games of chance were “attended with much mischief both to the gamesters themselves and to society”. Passing laws to discourage gambling didn’t seem to help much. Sinclair thought games of chance caused “idleness, theft, and debauchery” amongst what he calls the lower orders, and “among the higher have occasioned the sudden desolation and ruin of ancient and respectable families, and an abandoned prostitution of every principle of honour and virtue.” Something tells me this guy wasn’t very popular at parties. Both sexes could take pride in games like baccarat, whist and hazzard. Heyer’s heroes will often be found indulging in these vices at gentlemen’s clubs such as Boodles, Brooks and Whites [?].

SARA-MAE And it seems to be very tied up with honour, doesn’t it? Do you have a sense of honour amongst your mates?

KHALID: No, not at all. There is no honour amongst us at all. Well, it seems like a very weird kind of concept that is already kind of old now.

SARA-MAE: I mention a moment in the first chapter in which Vidal shoots a highwayman and leaves him on the side of the road. As introductions go, it’s pretty spectacular. But how does the concept of honour fit into this?

KHALID: I feel like that would never happen amongst my friends. If someone accused someone of cheating or something like that, it’d be like, “Okay, that’s your opinion. That’s your opinion.” And then we would just kind of leave it at that. We wouldn’t ever throw down or anything stupid like that. So I guess it has happened in many other circles. I think my circle of friends are less aggressive than that.

SARA-MAE: Have you ever had a fight with anybody? Any kind of fights?

KHALID: Oh, have I had fights. There was a guy called Alex when I was in year seven, I had a throw down with him, a bit of a scrap.

SARA-MAE: What was it about?

KHALID: I think he called my mom a bitch,

SARA-MAE: A similarity. Vidal is also very close to his mother, Leonie, feisty orphan from ‘These Old Shades’.

KHALID: That’s grounds for a beating. So we had a little fight nest to the sandpits at our school.

SARA-MAE [laughs]: How old were you?

KHALID: I was about 11, 12.

SARA-MAE: Right. Would you say you were evenly matched or …?

KHALID: I was much bigger than him. So no, we weren’t evenly matched at all. It wasn’t my proudest moment to be honest. And I have not fought since then, really.

SARA-MAE: But I bet you he never insulted anyone else’s mother after that.

KHALID: I think he insulted my mother after that as well. I was like, come on. We’ve done this already. Why are you doing this?

SARA-MAE [laughs]: In that earlier time, there wasn’t really like a really coherent police force. I guess the honour code was the only sort of way that they could get justice. So I suppose when someone is accusing you of something like cheating it would be quite a big deal. If you were to have a duel, who would you ask to be your second to come along with you in the early morning hours and check that the weapons that you’ve chosen … And also, what weapon would use?

KHALID: I mean, am I limited to what kind of weapon I can choose, by era? Do I have to choose one from …

SARA-MAE: No, anything. It can even be a fantasy. You can have a lightsaber if you want.

KHALID: But how many paces do you have to take?

SARA-MAE: I thought 10 was probably the standard but I don’t know. I suppose it depends.

KHALID: I don’t know, probably just like a shotgun. I think that’d be pretty good at that range [makes shooting sound]. Yeah, they’d be dead. I’d be the winner.

SARA-MAE: Do you know how to use a shotgun?

KHALID: No.

SARA-MAE: And in what ways, personality wise, do you think that you are similar to Vidal, the main character?

KHALID: Very little… Yeah, he’s just so perfect in every way apart from his personality, so I don’t really see how anyone… I guess I’m kind of tall like him. Other than that, I mean, he’s pretty terrible towards women, he’s a bit of an asshole to his family. He kind of like loves his mother as well to like a really creepy extent. So I don’t think we relate to each other very much.

SARA-MAE: this podcast is all about me trying to win people around to the pleasures of Heyer. So we won’t be delving too deeply into the murkier aspects of Vidal’s psychology. No right now anyway. Instead we crack on with the book. Once again, there will be spoilers, so look away now if you don’t want to hear all about the plot of Devil’s Cub. First, we discuss the opening scene in which Vidal is on his way to a ball, rushing along at his usual breakneck speed. A couple of high women stop the carriage, one of whom Vidal sort of shoots in the head at point blank range. But what was Khalid’s reaction to this unsettling event?

KHALID: It was good. It was a good opening. I was like, “Whoa, this guy means business.” And he did mean business over the whole course of the book. So that was good. I was like, Whoa, this is completely blowing my expectations out of the water.

SARA-MAE: Unlike a typical romance, where you feel that the narrator is going along with everybody and … she’s always got this sly sort of humour going on or this sly sort of commentary. And in this case, she has these the two coachmen … one of them’s new… first he’s complaining about how fast they’re going, he’s like “We’re gonna die. He’s going so fast.” And the other coachman’s like “This is nuts.” And then when he shoots the highwayman, and they’re kind of going, “His brains are in the road, my Lord, do we leave him like that?” And he’s like, “Of course, do you think I’m going to take him to the ball with me?” But there was a part of me, I must admit, where I was – I mean, I love her stuff. And I kind of enjoy a lot of things about the book, but I must admit, this was something where I was like, “His brains are on the road. She’s mentioned brains on the road in this romance.” What did you think about that?

KHALID: Yeah, that’s kind of like one of like two or three instances in the book where I was a bit like, “What did you just write that? Yeah, I wasn’t expecting brains, the road that kind of thing. But then I guess like, once he’s already blown his head off, then it follows that there would be brains somewhere. So I’m just glad she told us where they are exactly.

SARA-MAE So what happens then?

KHALID: He gets to the ball, I’m assuming. And then they find out he’s left some brains on the road and the old matronly people are like, “But the young ladies going to our ball, they will see brains in the road and they won’t be able to deal with it.”

SARA-MAE: That’s where you get a bit of exposition, don’t you? Once he gets to the ball, he stops being mysterious because we get his name. He’s the Marquis of Vidal. And he’s the son of a guy who’s also been very notorious, the Duke of Avon, who we later find out has this quite significant role and kind of the only person that seems to exert any fear over Vidal in terms of what his opinion is on his actions. Otherwise, he doesn’t seem to care what anybody thinks. So that’s where you get all the back story. You meet his aunt Fanny and you meet his cousin Juliana. What do you think about Juliana, because she sometimes does this where she’ll put two contrasting feminine types in the same book. And Juliana sort of represents what you would think of as the typical romantic heroine and Heyer actually is subtly commenting on that throughout the book. It’s a big theme on what is real romance and what is what people like to think of as romance? A lot of times she comes to the conclusion that real romance is this kind of understanding and humour that people have between each other. What do you think about the two feminine examples, Juliana and Mary Challoner?

KHALID: What she wants is to be whisked off her feet and for a man to be really mean to her and to mistreat her essentially which I thought was a bit of a questionable kind of thing. And then I guess Miss Challoner, she’s really good, but she kind of just does apologise for a lot of what Vidal does to her towards the end, so I thought she was a really strong character for most of it, and she is pretty good. But then she does kind of like, “Oh, it was, it was my fault he kidnapped me and slapped me in the face. Because I was being bad…” is like, “What the fuck you talking about? I’m sorry…”

SARA-MAE: But it’s interesting because I think she does have a very realistic idea of who he is, but she still loves him. Basically, she’s in love with him before this happens. So she kind of makes a lot of excuses for him. However, she loves him in spite of what she knows are his flaws. She doesn’t romanticise him in a weird way.

SARA-MAE: Believe it or not, we’re still at the ball in the beginning of the book.

SARA-MAE: One funny thing as well was when aunt Fanny is complaining to a friend of his father’s, Hugh Davenor –

SARA-MAE: Do you remember him from These Old Shades? Devil’s Cub is seen as a sort of sequel to that book.

She talks about the orgies that he’s always having you know, because he’s got every form of vice, this Vidal guy, according to her. He’s always getting into duels – whatever mischief a young man in those days could get up to, he could. And she says, “Orgies” and Hugh Davenor is like, “Orgies, Fanny?” And she goes, “Orgies! Pray, do not ask more.” Did they mean real orgies? Because sometimes in these books, they talk about people making love, like they went off into a corner and made love. I think making love is like full on sex, but it obviously it’s not that … I think it’s like kissing and canoodling.

KHALID: This is what I wanted to ask you about because this is like Juliana and someone else – I’m gonna pronounce this pretty badly – so the Vicount de ___  was her partner for the first two dances and when they came to an end, he took her off to a convenient alcove and made intoxicating love to her.

SARA-MAE: That’s what I was referring to.

KHALID: Does that mean sex? Or …

SARA-MAE: This is the thing. I don’t think it is. I think it’s like maybe making out. I don’t know, maybe this makes me a real innocent or something because they’re talking about orgies so early on, so maybe…

SARA-MAE: Okay, so next we meet his mother, Leonie. And they’re concerned because there’s a rumour going around that he’s become mixed up with – they seem to be totally okay with him messing around with, you know, loose women sort of prostitute type people, but the fact that he’s started going around with someone who they refer to as bourgeoisie, that really upsets them because that will be scandalous. So anyway, then you get introduced to Mary, the heroine.

[EXCERPT FROM INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN FRY, EP 1]: and then there’s the straight-laced tight type like, which is Mary Challoner, do you remember her? She wins that ghastly – not ghastly, but he’s one of the sort of toughest heroes, Vidal I think he’s called, isn’t he?

KHALID: So she’s very straight laced and intelligent and she enjoys intellectual pursuits as opposed to her sister who is very much into just, guys and that kind of thing.

SARA-MAE: Sophia. So, Sophia is this gorgeous but quite dim girl.

KHALID: Yeah, I would agree with that.

SARA-MAE: She had a posh father, didn’t she? So the mother was from the sort of lower class and he was a disgrace to his family by marrying her mum. Her uncle is Sir Giles Challoner. Yeah, he’s a big general and he paid for her to go to –

KHALID: He’s a big deal, isn’t he?

SARA-MAE:- And her mOm despairs of her because all she is concerned with is getting them married off. And it seems to her that this she wasted her opportunity because she could have met important families and things like that. And she’s chosen to come and live with her mom and her sister, which I think kind of speaks to her character. She didn’t just decide to go and live in a posh world that she could have.

KHALID: Yeah, I know. Could she have that, though? Because she doesn’t really have the money herself.

SARA-MAE: Well, I think that the implication is if she’d made an effort, she could have ingratiated herself with her uncle and gone and lived with him, maybe. There’s definitely a sense in which she feels like it’s duty to look after their household. The mother is quite frivolous and is always overspending. She’s always having to borrow money from her brother. And they’re always spending money on Sofia, Sofia’s gowns so that she can try and attract this person. She mentions Marie and Elizabeth Gunning who are this famous pair of Irish twins from the Georgian era, who rose from being quite poor to marrying very, very well. She’s not as beautiful as her sisters, but if she made a bit of effort she could she could really do make something out of the opportunities that she’s had.

KHALID: Sure.

SARA-MAE: They kind of make a lot of fun of the mother and Sophia, but it was a very real concern. Women just had to marry well. It was this predominant concern in those days.

KHALID: Yeah, I guess that’s like a thing I didn’t really consider that much because I just hated them the entire time. I was like, well, these guys are horrible. I despise them.

SARA-MAE [laughs].

KHALID: But I guess if that is like a real concern, getting everyone married off, then maybe Mary is the selfish one by pursuing her intellect then.

SARA-MAE: Well, she says she wants to marry for love. You know, the love thing seems to be important for her. But that does seem to be something that the mother considers to be an extravagance. Mary had common sense too, and what man wanted the plainly matter of fact when he could enjoy Sofia’s delicious folly?

SARA-MAE: So to recap, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Avon, the Marquis of Vidal is known as Devil’s Cub not only for the excesses of his father, but for his own wild habits. As he is paying court to a middle-class girl, Sophia Challoner, he also participates in a rather impromptu duel, the outcome of which forces him to leave the country. He intends to bring Sophia with him as his mistress, but her straitlaced Sister Mary has no intention of allowing her sister to be ruined.

SARA-MAE: Okay, so let’s move on to the scene where Vidal is drinking and gambling and he’s the bank. So what did you think of that scene?

KHALID: He’s drinking, gambling, then he shoots the guy?

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

KHALID: I thought it was really good actually. I liked Mr. Comyn quite a lot. He’s in that scene isn’t he?

SARA-MAE: Mr Comyn is Juliana Marling’s squeeze. She’s Vidal’s cousin and a right little will minx. One of the fun things about this novel is the contrast between her and Mary, our sensible heroine, and Vidal and Frederick Common. Vidal is impetuous and passionate, and Mr. Comyn is stolid and conservative. Though Frederick is well born and genteel, he’s not of the ___, and so Juliana is having trouble convincing her mother, Vidal’s Aunt Fanny, to let them become engaged. Naturally, she’s hatched a plan to get Frederick invited to Paris, and she wants Vidal to help.

KHALID: Is it Mr. Co-man? Is that how you pronounce it?

SARA-MAE: I don’t know… Com-yn? 

KHALID: I’ve been calling him Mr. Common, because I thought that was a really good name because he’s kind of common born, so it’s like, “Oh, Mr. Common, excellently named again”, but if it’s Mr Comyn, that probably makes more sense.

SARA-MAE: I don’t think he is common. I think he does come from a good family. They’re just not that well off, I think, or influential. Yeah, he comes out as a kind of an interesting character, because initially, I just thought he was a bit of a cipher. You’d read it when you first meet him and just think he’s a bit of a cipher. And he’s very serious as well.

KHHALID: As well, he serves as a counterpoint to it Vidal’s character that Juliana does to Mary’s, I think, because he’s very, very, very moral to the point of boringness. In a sense. I don’t know. I think he’s a good character.

SARA-MAE: Yeah. You actually touched on a very, very important theme that she brings up by the end, which is that on paper, Mr. Comyn and Mary should be perfect for each other who, just like Juliana and Vidal, because they’re both these kind of romantic characters, but in actual fact, Vidal detests the female that’s always coquetting and being flirty and manipulative. He’s drawn to marry straightforward honesty and common sense.

KHALID: It’s kind of a classic opposites attract thing almost … Woah, just saw that one!

SARA-MAE: [laughs]. Yeah. I like it when he goes, you know, he’s getting really drunk, but he’s really in command of himself. They make almost a virtue of the fact that he gets plastered, but he’s still totally in control.

KHALID: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: They find out that he’s supposed to be doing this race that he’s been talking about and they are just like “What! You’ve been drinking all night.” “Be calm, my loved one,” remarked Vidal, “I drive best when I’m drunk.” And I was thinking, can’t believe people were using that excuse even back then.

KHALID: But he does drive pretty well when he’s pissed, I think. He probably has the evidence of that. I mean, if I drive drunk on my bike, I’m normally not that good.

SARA-MAE: So, what’s the outcome of this shooting? ____ this guy pisses him off, accuses him of cheating …

KHALID: Yeah, he’s like, “You cheat! You definitely cheated.” And then he’s like, “On my honour, I’ll shoot you with my gun if you accuse me again. He goes on to cheat again, and they have a duel. Is it Mr. Comyn who selects the pistols? I’m not sure.

SARA-MAE: No one wants to be the second of this [?] guy because they both tried to talk them out of it. I think that they both think that he’s a fool to do it because the Marquis obviously has recently slain someone and he’s got a reputation of being really good with this pistol and also he proves that he’s good, even in his drunken state. He shoots and it looks like he’s just shot the mirror. But then they notice that one of the three candles that’s lit has been unlit so he’s basically shot the flame of the candle [laughs].

[sound effect of the shot and glass breaking]

KHALID: This guy’s good.

SARA-MAE: And that’s kind of their way of measuring whether he’s up to the task. So they have the duel, he gets shot, and…

Khalid: So he goes home…

Sara-Mae: He goes to do his race

KHALID: Oh, he does his race. Yes, the father finds out in the meantime and when he gets back, he’s really really pissed off. He’s like, “Come on, dude. You’re supposed to be keeping it straight-laced!”

SARA-MAE: The interesting thing is that he has an even worse reputation… He used to, before he met Vidal’s mother, be known as this Satanus guy, because he had this terrible reputation. But it’s more that he’s annoyed with the manner that he’s doing things. He just thinks like messing around with the bourgeois girl – it’s like one too many things that’s kind of causing him annoyance and so he tells him to exile himself, to France for a while. But what’s the worst parental rebuke you’ve had?

KHALID: I think I asked my friend’s mom to buy me a yo-yo. This is like when there was a big craze of yo-yos back in the 90s. And that was pretty poor form I think, by my own parents’ standards, so they were like, That’s ridiculous. And I was grounded for a long time for that.

SARA-MAE: Oh, that doesn’t seem so bad.

KHALID: I think I was a bit of a spoiled brat about it at the time, being like, “I want the yo-yo” and my friend’s mom was like, to my parents, “What was your child doing? He’s a monster.”

SARA-MAE: They didn’t exile you to another country though for that.

KHALID: No, I mean, my mom’s from Egypt, obviously. So like parental rebukes when I was very young were like, you got the slipper on the back of the thigh kind of thing, which I guess is worse than exile. Other than that, yeah, nothing too bad. I was quite a good child, I think.

SARA-MAE: So it is interesting how much power he sort of exerts over people by not doing very much. It’s just his reputation that makes – I mean, his son just seems to be like, he obeys him, he’s the only person that he’s sort of, “Okay, fine, I’ve got to go,” but he plans on doing one last thing before he goes, right?

KHALID: Yeah, he wants to take Sophia with him, so they can elope, and basically disgrace her.

SARA-MAE: Well, not elope, isn’t it? Because he doesn’t intend to marry her at all.

KHALID: Okay, yeah, he just wants to take her and –

SARA-MAE: Set her up as mistress basically in in Paris –

KHALID: Bit of an arsehole, this guy.

SARA-MAE: Well, I don’t know if they would have considered it that in those days. It seems to have been a common practice for young men at that time.

KHALID: Yeah. But then he has a genius idea of leaving her a note in her house and hoping it gets to her and just waiting outside her house like 11 and then obviously, “Oh, it’s gone to someone else. What the hell?”

SARA-MAE: Yes, it falls into Mary’s hands instead of Sophia’s hands because it just says ‘Miss Challoner’.

KHALID: She decides to take  Sophie’s place and mimic her for a bit and then say that they had planned the whole thing, her and her sister, in order to make Vidal to stop loving Sophie, and to kind of feel a bit hurt. I think that was the main thing, wasn’t it?

SARA-MAE: Yeah. She wanted to appear so vulgar that he’s completely put off and he never has anything to do with her sister again, ‘cos she wants to try and protect her in that way. She feels very bad about it in terms of like hurting her sister. She sort of asks her, “Are you in love with him?” And she says, “I like him very well. I do not mean to love anyone very much. Well, I’m sure it is more comfortable if one doesn’t.” So that sort of sets her mind at risk, but she’s not because she herself has realised she’s attracted to him. And so she’s kind of questioning her own motives for doing this and it sort of sets her mind at rest when her sister’s clearly – she doesn’t care who he is. She just wants to kind of bag a Marquis.

SARA-MAE: Mary dons a disguise and goes with Vidal, intending to reveal herself once they’re at the harbour. It’s a brave thing to do, considering she anticipates being left stranded when Vidal realises he’s been duped. However, when they end up in a New Haven inn and she attempts to bamboozle Vidal into thinking she and her sister cooked up a plan to punish him for intending to make Sophia his mistress instead of making an honest woman of her, it doesn’t go to plan. Vidal, in fact, abducts Mary in a fit of pique, telling her she can just as well take Sophia’s place.

SARA-MAE: And so what do you think about the scene in Newhaven in the pub where she kind of reveals herself to him?

KHALID: Oh, that’s pretty horrible, I thought, actually. I kind of liked Vidal before that. He was a bit of an asshole. But at the same time, he killed the guy in the caravan because he was trying to rob him. He killed the guy at the pub, because he’s like calling him a cheat, but then this time, he was like, “I want to get you drunk and then put you on a boat. And then I’m going to smuggle you to France because I don’t like you.” And I was a bit like, “Well, come on Vidal, you’re better than that.”

SARA-MAE: It’s this whole thing about how ungoverned his temper is. And he gets so angry that she’s done this that he decides he’s going to punish her by dragging her and sort of almost forcing her – not almost, forcing her to be his kind of mistress.

KHALID: Yeah, and destroying her reputation in England and everything like that, making sure she can’t marry anyone.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, I think the most disturbing bit was where he sort of puts his hand around his throat and he kind of squeezes just to let her know how strong he is.

KHALID: Yeah, “I’m a man and do what I want.”

SARA-MAE: Yeah, I think there is a lot of undercurrent in a lot of these romances where it’s very popular to have this kind of dominant male thing.

KHALID: I had to accept that in the book to enjoy the rest of it. I was like, “Well, you know, it’s that kind of book. So…

SARA—MAE: That is the thing. I think you have to kind of appreciate these somewhat dated elements in order to enjoy. But I still like the fact that she was very much in command of herself. Once she dropped the vulgar thing, very soon, she can’t help herself. She just falls back into her normal character. There’s a moment where everything changes, though. She’s nicked a gun while they’ve been driving along. This is when they reach France. And that’s where everything changes, because up until that point, he still believes she’s vulgar and doesn’t believe that she was really trying to save her sister, because he thinks that she’s sort of playing at being coy when in actual fact, she knows the score and she wanted this to happen all along. I think that’s kind of the thing that’s supposed to mitigate the fact that he essentially abducted her because in his mind, this is what she wanted. She wanted to oust her sister and sort of get in bed with the Marqus. I mean, it doesn’t make it any better way. But that’s his kind of thinking.

[AUDIO EXCERPT]

He was advancing towards her. She brought her right hand from behind her and levelled the pistol. “Stand where you are,” she said. “If you come one step nearer, I shall shoot you down.” He stopped short. “Where did you get that thing?” he demanded.

“Out of your coach,” she answered.

“Is it loaded?”

“I don’t know,” said Miss Challoner, incurably truthful.

He began to laugh again and walked forward. “Shoot, then,” he invited, “and we will shall know, for I’m coming several steps nearer, my lady.”

Miss Challoner saw that he meant it, shut her eyes and resolutely pulled the trigger. There was a deafening report and the Marquis went staggering back. He recovered in a moment. “It was loaded,” he said coolly.

Miss Challoner’s eyes flew open. She saw that Vidal was feeling his left arm above the elbow and to her dismay she watched a red stain grow up on his sleeve. She dropped the pistol, and her hand went up to her cheek. “What have I done?” she cried. “Have I hurt you very badly?”

He was laughing again, but quite differently now, as though he were really amused. “You’ve hurt old Glancon’s wall more than you’ve hurt me,” he answered.

Miss Challoner said guiltily, “Oh dear, I am sorry. I did not know it would make such a stir.”

Vidal’s eyes began to twinkle. “You’ve spoiled his beautiful style. And you’ve spoiled my no less beautiful coat.”

“I know, said Miss Challoner, hanging her head. “But after all, it was your fault,” she said with spirit. “You told me to do it.”

“I may have told you to do it. But I can’t say I thought that you would,” replied his Lordship.

“You shouldn’t have come any nearer,” she said severely.

“Obviously,” he agreed. He began to strip off his coat. “I make you my compliments. I know of only one other woman who would have had the courage to pull that trigger.”

“Who is she?” inquired Miss Challoner.

“My mother. Come and bind up your handiwork. I’m spoiling old Glancon’s carpet.”

Miss Challoner came promptly and took the handkerchief he held out. “Are you sure it’s not serious?” she asked anxiously. “It bleeds dreadfully.”

“Quite sure. I observe that the sight of blood don’t turn you queasy.”

“I am not such a fool, sir.” Miss Challoner began to roll up his sleeve. “I fear the lace is ruined, my Lord. Am I hurting you?”

“Not at all,” said Vidal politely.

Miss Challoner made a pad of her own handkerchief and bound the wound up tightly with my Lord’s.

“Thank you,” he said when this operation was over. “Now if you will help me to put my coat on again, we will talk.”

“Do you think you had better put it on?” asked Miss Challoner doubtfully. “Perhaps it may start to bleed again.”

“My good girl. It’s the very-est scratch,” said Vidal.

“I was afraid I had killed you,” confided Miss Challoner.

He grinned. “You’re not a good enough shot, my dear.” He struggled into his coat and then pulled a chair to the fire. “Sit down,” he said. She hesitated, and he drew one of his own pistols from his pocket and gave it to her. “Shoot me with that next time,” he recommended, “you’ll find it easier.

She sat down, but though she smiled, her voice was serious when she answered. “If I shoot again, it had better be myself,” she said.

He leaned forward and took the pistol away from her. “In that case, I’ll keep it.”

SARA-MAE: And that’s what makes him like her, he sees this bravery that she has, and also it proves to him that that’s how far she doesn’t want to have his attentions forced on her. And from that moment on, he’s like, “Oh, bugger,” and he even says:

“Then I shall take leave to inform you, Ma’am, that the manners of your parent and sister are neither those of persons of quality nor those of virtuous females. You, upon the other hand, are apparently both virtuous and gently bred and,” continued his Lordship with a flash of anger, “it is not my custom to abduct respectable young females.”

“I did not want you to abduct me,” Miss Challoner pointed out. “I am very sorry for your mistake, and I fear that my own conduct may have been partially to blame.”

“Your conduct,” said the Marquis crushingly, “was damnable. The manners you assumed at Newhaven were those of the veriest trollop. Your whole escapade was rash, wanton and ill- judged. If I had used my riding whip to school you as I promised, you would have had no more than your just desserts.”

Miss Challoner sat very straight in her chair and looked steadfastly down into her lap. “I could not think of any other way to keep Sophia safe from you,” she said in a small voice. “Of course, I see now that it was madness.” She swallowed something in her throat. “But I never thought that you will take me instead.”

“You are a little fool,” replied the Marquis irritably.

“I may be a little fool,” retorted Miss Challoner, plucking up spirit, “but at least I meant it for the best. While as for you, my Lord, you meant nothing but wicked mischief right from the start. You tried to ruin Sophia, and when I would not let you, you ruined me instead.”

“Acquit me,” said his Lordship coldly, “I don’t ruin persons of your quality.”

“If you call me a respectable young female again, my Lord, you will induce a fit of the vapours in me,” interrupted Miss Challoner with asperity. “If you were to have discovered my respectability earlier, it would have been the better for both of us.”

“It would indeed,” he agreed.

Miss Challoner hunted for her handkerchief and blew her little nose defiantly. It was a prosaic action. In her place, Sophia would have made play with wet eyelashes. Further, Sophia would never have permitted herself to sniff. Miss Challoner undoubtedly sniffed. Lord Vidal, whom feminine tears would have left unmoved, was touched.

KHALID: And why do people deserve to be adopted if they’re less respectable? That’s really stupid, too. He’s got some very strange models this man, I think.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, and I don’t know how much of this is – she really, really used to research her stuff. So she was very, very, keyed into the time and the customs and the way people thought about these types of things. So it’s interesting because we’re looking at it through a double lens. We’re looking at through the lens of someone who’s writing in the sort of 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and then she’s looking at it through Regency eyes.

Writer Mari Ness in an article for Tor.com talks about the difficulties of reconciling Vidal’s terrible behaviour with his romantic hero status:

“Murderer. Alcoholic. Drunken curricle driver. Abductor and rapist of women.

And yet… I find myself liking him, even as I know I really, really, really shouldn’t.

Mari continues: “Vidal is undoubtedly the worst of her bad boys that turn out to be heroes, and is even worse than some of her bad boys who would turn out to be, well, bad boys…But his real redemption begins when he recognizes the qualities of Mary Challoner.”

Sarah Wendell, author of Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, expands on this point, addressing the issue of class in her review of Devil’s Cub for the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website:

“The questions of what is nobility, and who has it (and why) create the underpinnings of this novel. Nobility, to Heyer, is a quality not determined by birth status, but by character. In the beginning, Mary has more nobility than the Marquis, and while he is of much higher social status, he has to become worthy of her. Moreover, Mary’s nobility is a product of her own generosity and bravery as well as her intellect, and transcends her own status, as well as the negative influences of her very shallow sister and her ambitious, selfish mother.”

So Vidal now faces a quandary, with Mary refusing to marry him, because she knows he’s only offering to save their reputations, and a gunshot wound to contend with. What now?

KHALID: He falls into fever, I think, through not properly treating the wound, because he’s like, “Oh, ‘tis but a scratch,” and then it festers, obviously, and then she has to treat him, so at the start, when they’re on the boat, she’s seasick and he’s kind of looking after her. But now it’s kind of turned around and she’s looking after him. And then he’s like, “Send the doctor away.” And then she’s just saying, “No, let the doctor come in”, and everyone seems very kind of amazed that she’s actually commanding Vidal in that way. It’s kind of like a you’re seeing him –

SARA-MAE: In a softer light.

KHALID: Yeah, exactly.

SARA-MAE: What is quite lovely that she does, and it’s all part of her thing about what is real romance – I mean, to Mary, one of the most romantic things that he does for her is to give her a bucket for puking in when she’s really sick on the way over. Yeah, she’s so grateful for that bucket. And for him sort of looking after her and forcing her to drink some brandy when she’s really out of it. And that sort of kindness or consideration is the thing that really deepens her affection for him. And also, and he for her when it comes to how she takes charge of him, there’s a slightly maternal edge to it, because she’s looking after him, and she’s almost sort of tricking him into doing stuff, because she’ll make him some gruel and send it up with a servant. He’ll tell them to get away with that gruel, but then she comes in and she’ll be like, “Oh, well, I did make it by hand for you. But I guess if you don’t even want to try it. That’s fine.” And she’d walk towards the door and then he’d be like …

KHALID: Cease with your incessant rattling and give me the spoon. Okay, I’ll eat it

SARA-MAE: Yeah, yeah.

KHALID: The whole maternal thing is quite a strong theme that runs through, like the only people he seems to respect are his parents. And it can only be through being like his parents can you really get into and have a relationship with this person, so …

SARA-MAE: Did you like the humour of the book?

KHALID: Yeah, I did.

SARA-MAE: There’s some really funny moments between him and her. And also when the doctor’s there, “My Lord said, amongst other things, that he did not propose to burden the doctor with the details of his genealogy. He consigned the doctor and all his work severally and and comprehensively described to hell and finished up his epic speech by a pungent and Rabbleisian criticism of the whole race of leeches.” She’s really good with that kind of humour, portraying these characters and how they interact, and some of the joys of the book are between him and Mary. Were there any in particular that you liked?

KHALID: Not between so much him and Mary so much but I think the funniest part of the book is when I think his butler is talking to him about all the previous masters he’s had. And he’s saying, “This person is perfect but he has abominably large hands” –

SARA-MAE: Red hands!

KHALID: And this is great so I was actually laughing out loud to that part –

SARA-MAE: That part was hilarious because it’s not got anything to do with the plot. It’s just there for enjoyment purposes.

KHALID: [laughs] Yeah, it’s just a random bit.

SARA-MAE: And his valet Tim literally runs through all his previous masters and their physical imperfections. He had to put sawdust in the stockings of one guy to make his calf muscles look good. I mean imagine having to put sawdust in your pants to give yourself some calf muscles!

KHALID: And the idea is he gets Vidal, who’s perfect in every way and has no need for any of this – which just makes his job a lot easier, which I think is really nice and sweet.

SARA-MAE: I do like the exchanges between him and Mary though as well. And I think that they start showing – it’s in those exchanges that you start seeing that she brings out a totally different side in him. He goes, “You are not in the least afraid of what I may do to you, are you?” “Not at the moment, Sir,” she admitted, “but when you have broached your second bottle I own to some qualms.” And he says, “Let me inform you, Ma’am, that I am not considered dangerous until the third bottle.”

KHALID: Their problem is that now that she’s run off, it will seem like she’s his mistress, and they kind of have some things going on. So if she returns to England now, she’ll be disgraced, I guess she won’t be able to marry anyone, that kind of thing. His solution is to marry her I think –

SARA-MAE: ‘Cos he feels he’s honour-bound to marry her.

KHALID: Yeah. Because he likes her now as well.

SARA-MAE: So why does she object to that, seeing as how she’s acknowledged herself that she’s actually in love with him?

KHALID: She feels a) that her father will disapprove, b) that his mother would disapprove, I think and then c) that she doesn’t want to do that to him and he feels he doesn’t love her.

SARA-MAE: But also because she feels like she’s not worthy of him. Their social status is not equal.

KHALID: They journey on to Paris.

SARA-MAE: He realises that she is actually a school friend of his cousin Juliana, isn’t it?

KHALID: Yeah, that’s right.

SARA-MAE: And so he decides that he’s going to take her to Juliana and then they’re going to pretend that she’s been with Juliana this whole time.

KHALID: Yeah, and Juliana’s, she’s also kind of gone to Paris to meet Mr. Comyn and kind of get married with him, I think.

SARA-MAE: She’s been told she’s not to see him. She’s been exiled to France by her mother. And unbeknownst to Aunt Fanny, Mr. Comyn’s followed her to France and they are pursuing their relationship there. So Vidal goes off to the ball. He meets Juliana and brings her back to see Mary and Juliana agrees to do this. You’d think that that would be like plain sailing from there – Vidal’s going to find a Protestant pastor somewhere because in that time, it was very difficult.

SARA-MAE: But there’s a spoke in the wheel. Mary doesn’t want to marry Vidal because she thinks he’s proposing out of guilt. And because she’s fallen in love with him, this idea is intolerable.

KHALID: Also, Comyn and Juliana are having a bit of a problem too when they get there. So Comyn and Juliana, she’s kind of worried that he’s not being forceful enough and not just like going and getting it and treating her like a damsel – he should be a strong-headed man, he should be able to slap her around the face every now and then. And he’s a bit like, “You know, I don’t really would want to do any of that. So, don’t make me,” and she’s not not happy with that at all.

SARA-MAE: Let’s face it. Juliana is a bit of an idiot.

KHALID: This kind of made me think they’re not really a good match for each other. But –

SARA-MAE: I know, I have to admit I was a bit worried about it, until you realise that actually what he secretly wants is someone who’s going to be the sort of typical what are considered feminine stereotypes of being weak and kind of cling into him, which Mary isn’t, you know, she doesn’t do that. She’s strong and kind of quite commonsensical.

SARA-MAE: Later, Mary learns the truth about Mr. Comyn which is that, as Heyer puts it, for all his prosaic bearing, he cherished a love for the romantic, which Lord Vidal, a very figure of romance, quite lacked.

SARA-MAE: Juliana, this is why she’s quite a problematical character. I mean they portray her as very charming and quite bubbly and frivolous. She’s very strong-willed in the sense that she wants what she wants. She doesn’t realise that by flirting with other people – she wants him to come and be dominant, to kind of start a fight with the other guy. She thinks she wants someone like Vidal, but actually she wants someone more like Mr. Comyn. There’s something in her that recognises that he’s a good honourable guy. And I suppose that speaks to something much better at her character than perhaps she exhibits. But it’s very difficult because she is such a flirt. And she’s such a brat, I think.

KHALID: And she maybe – she could or could not have made love with someone at a party she goes to, when they’re having a – we’ll never know. I guess we’ll never know. She wants him to accompany her to a party.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, he doesn’t want her to go. He’s very jealous of her cousin the Duke De___ And he says, “I don’t want you to go there because he’s going to be there and I’m tired of you flirting with him. So just to please me, do me this solid and don’t go.” That is like a red rag to a bull. And she’s just like, “He can’t tell me what to do!” Even though she wants him to, which I find really confusing. It must be really exhausting.

KHALID: Yeah, kind of sends this comic ridiculousness right now, doesn’t it?

SARA-MAE: He goes to the house [Mr. Comyn, that is, not Vidal], and Mary’s there reading a book by the fire. And he’s kind of like, “Where’s Juliana?”

KHALID: Yeah, and she’s like, “Ooh, she went to the party with you, didn’t she?” And then he’s like, “Well, clearly not.” And then they have a big thing. Yeah. Then they talk more about her situation. And then he’s sorry for her because he knows that Vidal can be very dickish, shall we say.

SARA-MAE: I think that’s an accurate term.

KHALID: Then, so Vidal’s gone to the party with Juliana and they’re talking and then he tells Juliana that if she doesn’t cease what she’s doing, she’s going to lose Comyn, which I think is pretty fair.

SARA-MAE: He catches her in the alcove being made love to, as you mentioned, intoxicating love to, by the other guy. I like the fact that he says to her, “Have you ever being to a ball where you don’t know of a small room where you can be quite alone?” And she’s like, “No, never.” So she’s obviously a girl who, you know, gets up to lots of high jinks. So then Comyn rocks up, and he sees her – not, luckily, making love to the Duke de ___ but canoodling and flirting with him. And he’s kind of pissed off, understandably, but they have this massive bust up where it really goes, it escalated very quickly, doesn’t it?

KHALID: Yeah, it does seem strange that they’ve gone all the way to France. And then in about like, two seconds, they decide they don’t really want to be together anymore. And they break up.

SARA-MAE: Not only that, they insult each other so much. He’s like, “You know, I never realised you’re such a shallow person.” And she’s kind of like, “Well, my family thinks you’re a nobody so, you know …

KHALID: Rather be a nobody with a brain than a body with a … I don’t  know, something like that.

SARA-MAE: They really scorch the earth, don’t they?

KHALID: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: For someone who’s supposed to be so logical, he makes this really drastic decision immediately after that.

KHALID: He decides to ask Mary to marry him and for them both to run away. So he’s like, “Oh, this is the only way you can get out your predicament. I’m a nice man, I’ll be a nice husband.” He doesn’t really want to do it. But he knows – maybe he just feels it’s his only option.

SARA-MAE: He’s being chivalrous as well. Like he sees that she’s in this predicament with – in his mind, she’s terrified of Vidal, and she wants to escape his clutches and doesn’t really want to marry him. And so he feels like he’ll be doing the noble thing by saving this young woman from a lifetime of abuse. Which is understandable and under the circumstances, at the same time, he’s so angry and hurt. I think it’s an act of desperation. And it’s really cheeky as well, because Vidal has told him that he has located a pastor in Dijon [?]. Yes. And so he’s kind of like, well, Vidal already told me he knows of a pastor, then we might as well use that. She says, “Give me a night to think about it,” and then they meet up the next day, don’t they?

KHALID: Yeah, and I think like while parallels are happening in London, this is when Leonie and his uncle – this is Vidal’s Uncle?

SARA-MAE: Yes, Rupert.

KHALID: They’re kind of going off to [?] kind of gets Ruper in a bit, “But what’s in Dijon”? I thought it was really good.

SARA-MAE: He was really funny. I kind of wish that he’d been in more of it because he’s such a good character. I love that whole riff, it’s just a genius comedy thing because basically his mother and Rupert set off to France to try and avoid the scandal and help Vidal cover it up before his father finds out. They’re all terrified of this father of his, so they go off to France. All they can find out from the lady – Juliana and Vidal have gone in pursuit of the two renegades. They’ve gone into Dijon and Rupert’s like, “Why Dijon?” And Leonie’s like, “What? Stop harping! It doesn’t matter why they’ve gone to Dijon, that’s where we’re going. It’s a town, people go there.” [laughs].

KHALID: Yeah, that was a really good bit that he just gets hung up on. Yeah, he’s quite a ridiculous character.

SARA-MAE: And he’s obsessed with the wine and stuff. He’s not really, it’s just quite funny how he doesn’t really care about any of the other stuff that’s going on.

SARA-MAE: But how does the climax go down? We’ve got two carriages pursuing the reluctant betrotheds, and they’re all heading to Dijon.

KHALID: So Juliana and _ discover that those two have kind of run away together, I think, and then they set off to chase for them. But they’ve already got a head start. But then Vidal is like, “I’m the fastest man alive”. So he heads off after them as well. But then, this is another big thing about how you realise that Vidal and Mary are supposed to be together and Comyn and Juliana and are supposed to be together so Comyn is riding one carriage and he’s going really slowly and Mary’s like “Speed up, speed up,” because she’s gotten used to the pace that Vidal rides at, whereas Vidal is going really, really fast. And then Juliana is trying to get him to slow down because she can’t deal with it. And yeah, that was quite a nice one as well.

SARA-MAE: Yeah. And also Mary kind of takes control a lot of the times because she can speak better French than Comyn can. And he actually finds the fact that she’s not falling into a fit of vapours, he finds that a bit annoying. He wants to be able to be the sort of the big man who can comfort her. He wants to be able to enjoy the chivalric action of saving her, but she doesn’t give him this enjoyment. She’s a very commonsensical person, it would seem silly to her to waste his time by and exhausting to be in a fit of vapours, whereas, Fanny’s being jolted around in the coach of Vidal’s and is just like, “God, You’re awful, you know? I mean, can’t we just stop for five minutes? So I’m rattling around,” you know, she has a huge tantrum on the side of the road. And I thought that was quite amusing as well.

KHALID: Yeah, you can almost kind of say that Mr. Comyn’s less progressive than Vidal in a way, I thought Vidal falls in love with a very strong woman who isn’t afraid to tell him what to do. Whereas Comyn is very, as you said, he just wants to be with someone who will –

SARA-MAE: Look to him to be –

KHALID: The man, this mythical man creature. [laughs].

SARA-MAE: So they get to this pub where they’re going to wait for the pastor to come and visit them.

KHALID: To catch up to them, don’t they, and they all kind of converge. So Leonie and Rupert 

SARA-MAE: But before Leonie and Rupert arrive

KHALID: They have a dual, don’t they? Swords –

SARA-MAE: because they’ve decided to pretend that they’ve already been married. So that then obviously he won’t have any reason to carry on pursuing her. But of course that backfires because of his legendary temper.

KHALID: [laughs] Yeah, it’s like he said, “We’re gonna fight to the death now.” He’s, “Oh, okay.” And Mr. Comyn doesn’t back down because he’s supposed to be the kind of equal of Vidal in terms of, I guess, not ability, but in terms of kind of headstrong. He’s like, “I’m not gonna take this.” They’re fighting over nothing, basically, but they’re still fighting anyway.

SARA-MAE: Well, I think it’s the point where you as a reader realise that actually Vidal has moved from being something that he feels honour-bound to do, marrying Mary, to being something that – actually he’s in love with her now, he’s realised. Yeah, now that she’s the one for him. And the fact that she is now married to this guy who basically stole her out from under his nose is just maddening to him. And the two women in the room act very differently.

KHALID: So Juliana is very much kind of like cowering, like, “Oh, the men are fighting again, let’s go over there and cower behind the table.” Mary’s very much trying to break it up.  So she runs in the middle with a –

SARA-MAE: A coat – jumper [laughs]

KHALID:  Gets the woolly jumper and just runs in, like, “Stop!”

SARA-MAE: Well first she pours a jug of water over them – that doesn’t help! I thought that was quite funny.

KHALID: That’s like riling them up even more, that’s what makes it look even sexier, they’re like, “Ooh, yeah. Now we’re wet and moist while we’re fighting.” It spurs them on. And then she runs in with a coat and then she gets stabbed.

SARA-MAE: Very brave of her though. I think she sees that they’re so angry that one of them, most likely Mr Comyn, is gonna die.

KHALID: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: And so she decides to risk her own life by just running in, trying to throw a coat over their swords. But in doing so, she gets stabbed by Vidal in the shoulder – not badly.

KHALID: Yeah, I feel like any other book, she would have died at this point, and that would have been like, a really tragic story.

SARA-MAE: [laughs]. A cautionary tale.

KHALID: Yeah. But that doesn’t happen. It gets better, I think.

SARA-MAE: I must say I thought that was quite cool. Like I thought of her as a character. It did slightly annoy me though, when after they’ve kind of resolved the issue because they admit at that point that they’re not married – and Vidal, he grabs her in his arms, because she’s kind of swooned a bit because of being stabbed.

KHALID: Losing loads of blood.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, well, I don’t think it was a terrible wound but he’s kind of like basically saying, “Oh, my love, my love,” kind of thing. And I would have thought at that point, she’d be like, “Okay, he does love me. It’s okay for me to kind of let go of all these hesitations that I have.” But instead of doing that once, Leonie and Rupert arrive, who she overhears talking about, “Oh, we’ve got to rescue him from this bourgeoisie.” She once again buggers off and runs away and you kind of think to yourself, “Isn’t –“

KHALID: She definitely could have given him the benefit of the doubt at that point. I mean, just at least let him explain some things, if she had overheard something like that. I guess they have to work in the actual devil, don’t they?

SARA-MAE: The Duke? Yeah. I did think it was an amazing coincidence that he happened to be at the pub that she ends up at and she hops on this kind of Stagecoach or something. She’s only got a little bit of money. And she just says, “How far does this go? I’ll go that far.” And then she’s trying to get a room in this inn, and they basically see her bedraggled state and they’re kind of like [?] you hussy!

KHALID: We don’t take kindly to your type around here, that kind of thing [Northern English accent].

SARA-MAE: Except it would be in a French accent because they would be there in France.

KHALID: Yeah, sorry.

SARA-MAE: “What is this? |Get out of here!” [French accent] That was terrible.

KHALID: See, that’s the kind of embarrassment I was trying to avoid if I can [laughs].

SARA-MAE: [laughs]

KHALID: So, the – what’s his name? The Duke of – ?

SARA-MAE: Avon.

KHALID: Yeah, yep.  So she meets the Duke of Avon, she doesn’t know who it is.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, he helps her to get a room he invites her to dinner.

KHALID: Yeah, she’s a bit hesitant. She’s like, “I just want to get this.” And then they get to talking. And then she tells him the whole story in which he’s also very critical of the type of character the Duke of Avon is, and it’s quite a nice scene, I think. I did kind of guess who it was, at the very beginning. So I’m like, “Aah, it’s gonna be him.”

SARA-MAE: I think that’s part of the enjoyment of the scene, though, because I think you as the reader know that he’s actually kind of skillfully eliciting the information from her and she doesn’t realise. She just knows that he’s a friend of her uncle’s. That’s what his excuse is to get her to confide in him.

KHALID: Yeah. And you can kind of see his expectations of what’s happening. He obviously has an opinion on what’s happened, or he’s heard some things about what his son has done. And then when she kind of goes against some of that, he’s very surprised. So I think one bit where he’s saying, Yeah, she shot him, that kind of thing. And he’s like, “Oh, wow, you’re a very strong character.” And I think at that point he kind of, through hearing the story, accepts their love, and kind of almost be happy for it as well.

SARA-MAE: There’s one point where she says, “If you know how to manage him, you can do it and he’s just a sulky boy basically.” Essentially, he kind of perceives that she’s the one who will help a son to grow up a bit, which again, a little bit troubling in terms of those maternal overtones. But anyway.

KHALID: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: I like the moment she says, “Lord Vidal forced me to go onboard his yacht and carried me too deep. The gentleman felt his quivering glass and raised it. Through it, he surveyed Miss Challoner. “May I ask, what were his Lordship’s tactics?” he inquired. “I feel an almost overwhelming interest in the methods of daylight abduction employed by the modern youth.”

KHALID: [laughs] That was good. So then she tells him that like, he wants to drug me, basically.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, no, she tells him the whole story.

KHALID: [?] So he’s like, oh, then “Oh, my God, Dad!”, that kind of thing. Then they have like a whole – he’s like, Oh, my God, what have I done, I’ve told this guy the whole story and it’s his dad.” So it’s all very kind of like hilarious and it all resolves itself pretty well, I think.

SARA-MAE: Basically she’s expecting him to be like, “Get out of my sight, you disgusting bourgeoise thief,” but he actually says, “You know, I think that you’re going to be good for him again.” I like the fact that he says, “I have no doubt I shall be weak enough to command your return when you get back from Italy.” Yeah, he’s talking about the honeymoon, basically allowing him back to England. His eyes rested for an instant on Miss Challoner. “I comfort myself with the reflection that your wife will possibly be able to curb your desire, I admit a natural one for the most part, to exterminate your fellows.” Yeah, that’s quite amusing. Like, that’s how lax they about that kind of thing. But yeah, so did you find that it was a satisfying ending?

KHALID: The ending, I thought was, I guess, quite standard. It is like quite a satisfactory ending, a happy ending.

SARA-MAE: Because Comyn and Juliana resolve their issues.

KHALID: Yes, they do, they’re like, “I’ll be more of a damsel in distress and you can be more of a man, that’s fine.” And I feel like they probably could add a bit more resolution towards Sophia and her mother. She’s just abandoning them now, which is weird because at the start of the book, she kind of looks after them a bit to some extent.

SARA-MAE: I’m not that troubled by that in the sense that I feel like she’s the kind of person – you can take it as read that she will look after them. But you don’t imagine that they’ll spend much time hanging out with them.

KHALID: Yeah, yeah, sure.

SARA-MAE: And because they’ve been such, like you said, sort of quite horrible characters, you don’t really mind that they’re not really a part of the action. But yeah, I know what you mean. You wonder what’s happened to them, maybe. So what was your opinion? Like a general overview? Did you enjoy the experience of being introduced to Georgette Heyer? And would you look out for any of her other books?

KHALID: I did enjoy the experience. It wasn’t a particularly meaningful, slash, “makes me think about much things afterwards” kind of book. But it was an enjoyable read for like, a couple of weeks. I mean, I kind of have a desire to read the one about Leonie and the other one now. I thought it was good. I enjoyed it.

SARA-MAE: Could I call you a convert to Georgia Heyer?

KHALID: I mean, I probably have to read more than one book, but I did like her style, I liked how it was written. I didn’t like kind of like a lot of the message throughout the book, which is like very much kind of anti-woman.

SARA-MAE: I suppose it depends what you think the message is because it’s kind of conflicting in some ways. I think in some ways it is, “be a strong woman and stand up”, you know, but on the other hand, the guy that she falls for has some really deep flaws in his character, which are quite difficult for a modern reader to overcome.

KHALID: Yeah, but then she’s also just making excuses for him. And she does that when she’s explaining it to his dad. She’s like saying, “Well, it wasn’t his fault he like abducted me and tried to make me drink alcohol and get on a boat. I was actually being really bad as well.” I guess that’s her trying to be fair, but then she doesn’t really have an ability to equate actions with kind of legitimate reactions. Yeah. I don’t think kind of pretending to be someone is the same kind of thing as like drugging someone and abducting them.

SARA-MAE: I mean, he was wrong. He does acknowledge that he is wrong to have tried to abduct her. He himself talks about, you know, “The things I did to her were really terrible for a respectable young female.” But then again, you were right in saying, if she wasn’t a required respectable female …

KHALID: Then he would have just destroyed her life and discarded her. But yeah, so that’s the kind of thing I didn’t really like. But then at the same time, it wasn’t that big a thing.

SARA-MAE: I think the humour throughout cutting through kind of helps to mitigate some of those more problematic elements, because she is always commenting and laughing at those traits and people and the social stratification.

KHALID: Yeah, I think so. And I did actually enjoy the book. So I know, I’m trying to be like a sourpuss.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, I’m gonna count you as well.

[CREDITS]

I hope you enjoyed hearing our discussion of Devil’s Cub, I had so much fun chatting to Khalid about his alter ego, Vidal. So far, it’s 2 converts out of 3. What are your thoughts on the book? Get in touch via our Twitter and Facebook accounts and let us know.

Next week, we’ll be speaking to author Jane Holland and literary agent Alison Bonami about their lifelong love of Heyer – it’s a fab chat, so don’t be a goshswoggled jobbernoll, subscribe so you don’t miss it.

You’ve been listening to Heyer Today.

Thanks for tuning in this week, we hope you enjoyed it.

This episode was recorded, produced and edited by me, Sara-Mae Tuson, with production, writing and research help from Beth Keehn and Will Dell from Aurality for production support. Mike Scott gave tons of emotional and editing assistance. Michael Mandalis edited and recorded Beth’s bits and he did a marvellous job.

Thanks also to Geraldine Elliot, Talitha Gamaroff and everyone who supported me in creating this work. Suzy Buttress in particular, but the podcast community at large for so much inspiration and encouragement.

The music used in this episode is from Emma Gatrill’s wondrous album, Chapter I as well as Jerome Alexander’s luscious Message to Bears tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast, by Sara-Mae and Tom Chadd.

Our fantastic voice talent includes Sarah Golding, Helen Davidge and Karim Kronfli – I’ll be putting contact info about them in the show notes.

Thanks to Audible for the extract from their audio version of Devil’s Cub read by Michael Drew – it’s available at audible.com to buy.

Comment and take part in our discussions on social media, we’re @fablegazers on Instagram and @fable_gazers on Twitter.

Remember to rate, review and subscribe…I can’t tell you how much it helps small indie companies like us to thrive.

Heyer Today is a Fable Gazers production.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s