Simon the Coldheart

“If he laughed it was a short, dry sound, somewhat sardonic in sound and quickly gone, but when he smiled there were two ways he had of doing it; one when he was crossed, that one more terrible than his frown, the other when he was in a smiling humour, a singularly sweet smile, this, with a hint of boyishness at the back of it.”

Simon the Coldheart was my first foray into Gerogette Heyer’s historical novels and it was not nearly as intimidating as I had feared–in fact it was downright enjoyable and a surprisingly quick read.

With no father to acknowledge he calls himself Simon of Beauvallet; he will gain many other names before long. Simon starts out as a page to the son of a lord in early fifteenth century England. He rarely if ever entertains any type of passion, and his plans for greatness are confident rather than ambitious. Yet his  strength of character when commading men on and off the battlefield soon earns him the respect and loyalty. His closest friends wonder if he will ever meet his match–and then he is ordered to bring the French castle of Belrèmy under English control. Lady Margaret has no intention of surrendering, especially to a coldhearted soldier like Simon!

Georgette Heyer’s period flavor is impeccable. On the first page I reminded myself that Medieval times aren’t always my favorite era. On the tenth I wondered it the authentic dialogue might become annoying after awile. By the third chapter I had forgotten any qualms, as well as what page I was even on. One review I stumbled across on LibraryThing hit the nail on the head by noting that Heyer does not succomb to the “elaborate descriptions” of much historical fiction. Instead she mentions details much as would be done in a contemporary novel–no more or less than necessary, but with complete accuracy. This feat seems to require the greater skill, for she must know the period completely in all possible scenarios. In addition, her writing is not just peppered with “thou”s but manages to capture the syntax and vocabulary of the time without becoming confusing, prose as well as dialogue.

The book is divided into two parts, the first of which focuses on Simon’s making his way in the world. We spend time getting really getting to know the characters through their actions, but they are spread out over time. Just as I found myself thinking that the narrative lacked suspense, however, I found myself thrown headlong into the siege of the castle and a new level of excitement and tension that didn’t let up until the end. I think this was partly because Lady Margaret was thrown into the mix, but also because the action had a greater sense of immediacy.

I wondered why I recognized some of the names like Henry of Bolingbroke, and Northumberland, until a mention of the former king Richard II reminded me of Shakespeare. We read the play in my honors class freshman year of college. I recall little of the plot other than the speech I had to memorize where he surrenders the crown (“I give this heavy weight from off my head…”). The knowledge is not necessary for Simon the Coldheart (other than to confirm her accuracy), but it might be nice supplementary material to revisit it. Of course, that might mean I’d have to tackle the present king Henry IV as well, which I’m not sure I feel up to.

I have one small criticism which in no way diminishes the read. Many minor characters from the first half reappear later on, but Roger the squire who had a prominent role is absent. It seems to me he should have been one of the men present with Simon at Belrèmy rather than nobodies. The reason this seems glaring to me is because of how strong the sense of continuity is otherwise.

Overall this was a highly enjoyable read and reminded me all over again of why I love Gergette Heyer. It was a treat to rediscover her in this third genre, which she herself viewed as her favorite. All of the elements that characterize her Regency romances–strong characters, accurate period detail, and plenty of witty reparté–are here as well. Luckily I have four more on the shelf waiting for me!

This book is my chosen read for the “Body Part” category in the What’s in a Name 2 Challenge.

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. […] book with a “body part” in its title: Simon the Coldheart, by Georgette […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: