Narrated by Alex Wyndham
Dair Devil is book four in Lucinda Brant’s Roxton Family Saga but it can easily be listened to as a stand-alone. I have Midnight Marriage (book 2) and Autumn Duchess (book 3) on my TBL and I’m advised that Noble Satyr (book 1) is imminent and may even be available by the time this review goes live. I can say that listening to Dair Devil has made me excited to listen to the rest of the series. The story was great and the narration par excellence. Really, settle in for a thesaurus worth of superlatives because Alex Wyndham is Just. That. Good.
Alisdair “Dair” Fitzstuart (cousin to the dowager Duchess of Roxton) is heir to the Earl of Strathsay. He is also a spy for the Crown and a Major in the British Army. Six months before the book begins, he returned from the Colonies (ie America!) and fighting in the Revolutionary War.
The story opens when a tipsy Dair is with his close friends Harval Grasby and Cedric Pleasant in an alleyway getting ready to pull a prank in order to show Cedric in a favourable light to the famous opera dancer he covets. Dair and Grasby will dress in breechclouts, paint and ashes and impersonate Native Americans. They will “invade” the studio of Mr. Romney (artist), where the lovely Consulata Baccelli will be. Cedric will come charging to the rescue, sword in hand, and “save” Consulata (who barely knows he is alive and is very happily mistress to the Duke of Norfolk). Supposedly, this act of brave heroism will cause her to immediately throw over her titled, wealthy lover for the plump and not-very-handsome (or rich) Cedric. Dair is known by all as a daredevil who never turns down a wager. In fact, many years earlier, on another drunken night, he even accepted a wager for a shilling to “tup a cripple”.
There are obviously two issues which readers may need to get past early on. First, it could be said that the depiction of Native Americans is appropriative and diminishing when considered by modern sensibilities. I accept that the characters were acting in ways there were likely to be true to the Georgian period in which the novel is set but it did give me some moments of discomfort. It helped that Consulata was in on the joke.
The ableism of the abovementioned wager demonstrates is not actually something Dair struggles with (he feels terribly about making that long ago wager; he was young and foolish and drunk). When he meets Aurora “Rory” Talbot, Grasby’s sister and the granddaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury (England’s spymaster and Dair’s boss), he cares not one whit that she has a club foot and walks with a cane. His behaviour all throughout the book is not ableist at all. Quite a few characters do exhibit ableism to varying degrees but the narrative does not endorse it.
Rory is a 22-year-old spinster with an interest in growing pineapples. She was orphaned as a baby and she and her older brother were raised by her beloved grandfather. Because of her disability, it is anticipated by many people that she will never marry. When she meets Dair at Romney’s studio on the night of the prank, the two are literally thrown together and for the first time, he notices her. She had seen him occasionally at family events (the dowager Duchess of Roxton is her godmother) but he had never paid any attention to her. Rory is pretty but not stunningly beautiful. However, their interactions at Romney’s studio charm Dair. Rory is quick-witted, perceptive, funny and open and Dair is deeply smitten.
The rest of the story is how Dair and Rory reach their HEA and how Dair exposes a double agent working for the British (but spying for the French), with some smatterings of further story for Antonia (the dowager Duchess) and Julian (the current Duke of Roxton).
The story weaves together seamlessly and I was very pleased that Ms. Brant did not take the obvious path given the set-up. I had been dreading just that and was so very relieved there was no Big Misunderstanding (my least favourite trope).
There are some lovely romantic scenes between Dair and Rory but I admit to a titch of disappointment that the time they go “all the way” is faded to black. (This probably says a lot about me.)
I loved the characters and I am extra keen to get my hands on Noble Satyr after hearing the “story of the tapestry” (for that to make sense, listeners will have to pick up this book!)
I found Dair Devil very romantic and I loved the story. I was even surprised to find that I wasn’t put off by Dair having a natural son from a liaison when he was about 18.
I am certain I enjoyed the story more because of the narration. As much as I thought the story was great, Alex Wyndham is one of those narrators who elevate the text by his performance of it. And he does perform it. “Reading” does not do it justice. He is quite, quite brilliant.
Mr. Wyndham has a different voice for every cast member, males and females, all of them distinct from one another. Some of the differentiations are via accent but he seems to have a multitude of character voices in his repertoire and it makes listening even more delightful.
The performance was flawless and sublime. The emotions, humour, pathos and pacing were stellar. I am running out of superlatives. Seriously, I can’t recommend his narration highly enough.
Lucinda Brant made an outstanding choice when she picked Alex Wyndham for her audiobooks. I want them all. *grabby hands*
Book Content: B+
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Fighting
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Sprigleaf Pty Ltd
Dair Devil was provided to AudioGals by Sprigleaf Pty Ltd for a review.