Written by guest reviewer Carrie
Narrated by Cornelius Garrett
Over a decade ago a friend urged me read a book by Georgette Heyer, even though I mostly read mysteries and fantasy at the time. At her insistence, I located a few Heyer books (then out of print) at a used book store and found I enjoyed them as much as she said I would. Not long after, I found a copy of The Quiet Gentleman on audiocassette at my library. I scrounged up a Walkman from the bottom of one of my children’s closets, located fresh batteries, and found myself immersed in the language and humor that is classic Georgette Heyer. Heyer’s books, while fun in print, are pure pleasure on audio.
The Quiet Gentleman opens with the return of the heir, Gervais (Ger), to the family estate to claim his inheritance. Hated by his father the Earl due to the actions of his mother, Ger is resented by his stepmother, the Dowager, and his half-brother, Martin. Both the stepmother and Martin had hopes that Ger, a soldier in the campaign against Napoleon, would die in battle and the estate would pass to Martin. Martin has been raised to think himself the rightful heir and makes no secret of the fact that he wishes Ger dead. It seems Martin may get his wish when unexplained accidents threaten Ger’s life.
Gervais is calm, reserved, and quite intelligent. He is also unfailingly courteous to his stepmother and cousin, enduring their insults and insinuations with grace. Cornelius Garrett’s voicing of Gervais perfectly conveys these qualities to the listener. Garrett manages the right amount of irony in Ger’s voice, conveying both his good sense and his humor.
Several other people figure prominently in the story. Drusilla, a young lady staying with the Dowager while her parents are traveling, is relatively plain but also intelligent and sensible. Theo, Ger’s cousin and estate manager, is also living in the manor house. Rounding out the main cast of characters are Lucius (Lucy), a well-to-do friend of Ger’s, and Marianne, a beautiful young lady of a neighboring estate that all the men fall in love with. Garrett gives each of these characters not only a voice, but a personality that fits that character to a tee. His women sound female without using a falsetto, and his men’s voices sound appropriate for each character’s age, class, and personality.
The author skillfully intertwines the stories, revealing each person’s motives and personality. The main storyline is the mystery surrounding the attempts on Ger’s life. The secondary plot involves the beautiful Marianne and her many admirers, including Ger. Then there is Drusilla, the calm sounding board with steady good sense who keeps many of the more troublesome characters in check. While the plotlines are well done and interesting, The Quiet Gentleman is more a character driven story than a plot driven one.
One reason I enjoy Georgette Heyer so much on audio is the quality of narrators. All the narrators I’ve heard read her books are top-notch, although I do have my favorites. Cornelius Garrett is one of those favorites. His timing is perfect, and his voice is both beautiful to listen to and perfectly suited to the language of Heyer. Garrett’s character voices are always spot on, as well. The wonderful and varied accents of the British Isles can be a challenge to read in print, but come alive in the hands, or should I say voice, of a talented narrator like Garrett. The language in Georgette Heyer’s writing is beautiful, and never more so than when read aloud by someone who can do justice to the quirky characters and dry humor so common in her books. The talent of the author and the narrators explains why I find myself returning again and again to Heyer on audio.
Book Content: A
Steam Factor: You can play it out loud
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: AudioGo Ltd, (Chivers)