Fiery, strong-willed Deb Grantham, who presides over a gaming house with her aunt, is hardly the perfect wife for the young and naive Lord Mablethorpe. His lordship's family is scandalized that he proposes to marry one of "faro's daughters", and his cousin the proud, wealthy Max Ravenscar - decides to take the matter in hand. Ravenscar always gets his way, but as he and Miss Grantham lock horns, they become increasingly drawn to each other. Amidst all the misunderstandings and entanglements, has Ravenscar finally met his match?
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Deb Grantham is one of Georgette Heyer's tall, sophisticated, unconventional heroines, in an adversarial romance with one of Georgette's coldhearted leading men. The expected array of secondary romances, matrons with the vapors, giddy ingenues, ardent young blades, jaded dandies and knowing servants surround the central pair as they battle their way to love against a backdrop of the London gambling scene, circa 1795. Not technically a Regency, it's set just after the French Revolution and just before the Napoleonic Wars--which is to say, in Heyer-fan terms, just after powdered hair but a little before Beau Brummell.
ABOUT THE GEORGETTE HEYER AUDIOBOOK DILEMMA
Good story, poor reading. Do I recommend it, or not?
Georgette Heyer's prose is demanding, and her novels, though lighthearted, are beloved classics that deserve to be recorded with respect. I don't feel like that happened here. This audiobook sounded to me as if both producer and actor said, "Yeah, whatever, it's just a romance, so let's get through this quickly. Nobody who matters will notice."
To be fair, Laura Paton has a good voice and the requisite command of RP British English. Some of her characterizations are pretty solid, and I can mostly tell one character from another. I think her choice to read an obviously Irish character with a London accent is odd, but probably preferable to a terrible fake Irish accent, so that wasn't a deal-breaker. She reads accurately (which is more than I can say for some other Heyer audiobook narrators).
Here's the thing, though: Paton's reading sounds as if she encountered the text for the first time in the recording booth--as if there was no thought, no rehearsal, no preparation, and only the most cursory understanding of the characters. The reading is often rushed. Emphasis is misplaced in sentence after sentence, so that important plot points have no more weight than connecting narrative, and all the characters sound angry and tired. I was so busy reinterpreting phrases in my head that I would lose the story thread entirely.
The best audiobook narrators understand the cadences of Georgette Heyer's sparkling style, and have made some of her middle-of-the-road stories into favorites that I listen to over and over. I count Phyllida Nash, Eve Matheson, and Sian Phillips in this category.
Less-than-stellar narrators make favorites into sad disappointments--expensive placeholders in my Audible Library where a beloved go-to comfort listen should have been. I'm sorry to say that this is the case with Faro's Daughter.