by Georgette Heyer
Secret Caves! Hidden Gold! Treasure Chests! Stolen Gold in Treasure Chests hidden in a Secret Cave! No, it’s not The Hardy Boys or Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, it’s The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer. And let’s add in a Bow-street Runner, a Highwayman, a bed-ridden grumpy grandfather to a Damsel in Distress*, and a kind, strong, and brave ex-soldier looking to solve a mystery, capture some bad guys, and save both a scared little boy and that previously mentioned damsel. What we have here is a rousing adventure story that actually would appeal to The Hardy Boys audience. (Do boys and girls still read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew? Or is it just baby boomers trying to re-capture their childhood?)
The romance is of secondary importance to the adventure and the humorous supporting characters. There is no development of the relationship or the typical learning to get past mutual antagonism or misunderstanding. This is not a social comedy. It is love at first sight for them both and they are married within, I think, a week, if that. Not an argument or conflict to be had. It is a very simple and uncomplicated love story.
I listened to this on audio read by Daniel Hill. He did a fine job and added to the excitement of the story. I also appreciated the fact that he didn’t give Nell phony girly girl inflections (much) as many male readers seem compelled to do with women characters. He does well with the thieves cant and obscure idiom of the rougher classes of the times. It’s kind of like a secret language which is as likely to frustrate a reader as enthrall them. I honestly think Heyer decided to write a novel that she could throw in every abstruse piece of vernacular she could find in her authentic language playbook.***3 1/2 stars**
* the Damsel is in Distress but she doesn’t think so and is fully capable of saving herself from a fate worse than death. But Jack, our knight in shining armor, does rescue her from an uncertain future and probable poverty and hardship. Much to the reader’s relief. Because Nell is great.
April 28, 2021