Okay, so I’d never heard of Georgette Heyer before getting lots of phone calls at MWF from people buying tickets to the eventually sold out session about Heyer and regency romances, the genre she apparently coined. If I lean towards any type of genre fiction, it’s fantasy, and the historical histrionic romance had totally passed me by. But I had this sitting in my bookshelf at home, so I gave it a crack.
This charmingly soft-lit cover is pretty indicative of what this book (and I’m guessing the genre) is like–exotic girl with hyaline eye-whites involves herself in terribly exciting and dangerous things, like running away from home and murder mysteries. Young Eustacie de Vauban is to be married off to Sir Tristram Shield, who is as pragmatic and impatient as she is romantic and silly. A mystery to do with inheritance, wrongful conviction and stacks of privilege and wealth plays out between several cliched characters, though the action is light-hearted enough.
I’m not really one for dates and times, but I’m given to understand that The Talisman Ring is set some time between 1749-1830. That’s a good long time, but it’s hard to detect much similarity between this Sussex tale and stories told by Jane Austen about a similar period and milieu. Heyer’s book is in tone like a Shakespearian comedy without the sting, with its nescient heroines, fun complications and neat conclusions. Plenty of historical detail, dramatic acting, kissing and clever schemes make The Talisman Ring rather like one of the plays Austen’s heroines wouldn’t approve of — diverting and more than a little frivolous. There’s certainly none of the considered intimacy of Austen’s books, nor any of the eroticism. But it’s nevertheless a rollicking one-day read which would do to flick the swashbuckling switch in anyone.