The book I most recently finished reading is the mystery No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer. I chose this one because one of the main characters, the wonderfully named Ermyntrude, is a former chorus girl. Being a belly dancer, I always love reading about how showgirls of all kinds are portrayed in novels. This one was quite funny because, this novel being written in the 1930s in England, Ermyntrude is portrayed as a slightly laughable, gaudy character, though Heyer also gives her a heart of absolute gold. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Ermyntrude’s pink satin bed clothes, elaborate dressing gowns and over-the-top jewelry, though it is very obvious Heyer is poking a little fun at her loveable protagonist.
The dialog and characters are as genuinely funny and clever as in any of the Georgette Heyer novels I’ve read, to me this is what makes them such a joy. My favorite character in this one is Ermyntrude’s daughter, the lovely Vicky Fanshawe. Vicky is 19 and longs for a career on the stage like her mother, though this is of course considered thoroughly unsuitable for her. Frustrated in her artistic yearnings, she lives each day as if she were on the stage, dressing for whatever role she feels like playing that moment and acting accordingly. As someone who has never outgrown her delight in dressing up, I adored Vicky immensely.
Here she explains her thinking a bit to one of the many characters who are exasperated by her behavior:
‘Is your incredible life a series of “acts”?’ he inquired.
‘Yes. Didn’t you know?’
‘I couldn’t believe it. Don’t you find it a pretty rotten way of living?’
‘How silly. Of course not! she said scornfully. Life seems to me a most frightfully overrated business, and practically always dull, if you stay the same person every day. On the other hand, you can’t be dull if you’re always somebody else.’
Here is another funny scene I loved when the character Mary, another young lady at the house, goes into Vicky’s room:
Vicky was engaged in rolling her fair locks into sophisticated curls upon the top of her head. She smiled happily at Mary, and said with disarming frankness: ‘I say, isn’t this grown-up, and rather repulsive? I feel frightfully femme fatale.’
‘I do wish you wouldn’t pose so much!’ said Mary. ‘Really, you’re making a complete ass of yourself. You can’t look like a femme fatale at nineteen.’
‘With eye-black, I can,’ replied Vicky optimistically.
That’s the spirit.
A little spoiler follows in the paragraph below, though it is nothing to do with the culprit, I promise.
Vicky and her dramatics were my very favorite part of the book. I would have loved to see Vicky get her wish to go on the stage. Heyer instead marries her off, which I guess was a happy ending back in those days, though it’s hard to see how a girl of her spirit and independence would do in a permanent role as a proper country lady.
Anyway, the other characters are fun to read about and the mystery is a good one too. This was one of my favorite Georgette Heyer books so far, and I look forward to visiting her fiction again.
Please let me know if you have a favorite Georgette Heyer or any thoughts about this one! Thank you for reading.