The Devil’s Cub

January 14, 2019

I read The Devil’s Cub, by Georgette Heyer, on Friday and Saturday, mostly with my feet up in front of a fire. That felt right, and picturesque, but also necessary, since the heating system was off and the house took a while to get comfortable again after we got it turned back on.

I’m pretty sure this is the third time I’ve read The Devil’s Cub. It’s not one of my favorite Heyers. I wasn’t crazy about it the first time I read it, I liked it a little better the second time, and this time was a different kind of experience because I was reading it knowing I was going to write about it.

The Devil’s Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades, which is a pseudo-sequel to The Black Moth, which I could have sworn I’d posted about, but I guess not. In The Black Moth, the hero and heroine are menaced by Tracy Belmanoir, Duke of Andover, AKA “Devil.” In These Old Shades, Tracy has been transformed into Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, AKA “Satanas,” but he’s the same person, temporarily transported to Paris. There he meets and employs a boy who turns out to be a girl. Eventually he marries her. You know how it goes.

The Devil’s Cub takes place about 25 years later. Justin and Léonie’s son Dominic, Marquis of Vidal, has something of his father’s bad reputation. He eventually makes London too hot to hold him, and his father orders him to flee to the Continent. He makes a pit stop to pick up Sophia Challoner, the girl he’s been planning on making his mistress, but here things go (more) wrong. His letter to Sophia ends up in the hands of her much more virtuous older sister, Mary, and she takes Sophia’s place to save her virtue, assuming Vidal will send her home when he discovers the switch.

He doesn’t. Instead, they fight a bit, take care of each other, and exchange some trademark Heyer banter, and get involved in some elaborate misunderstandings involving Vidal’s cousin Juliana and her fiancé Frederick Comyn.

I don’t quite know how to describe Heyer to people who haven’t read her before. She sort of standardized the historical romance formula, but non-historical romance fiction owes a lot to her, too. There’s a sameness to her heroes–sardonic but warmhearted–and her heroines–innocent but innately practical–and her high-society hijinks, but that’s fine. Everything is elevated by her sound historical research and her light, witty, warm writing. The Devil’s Cub is classic Heyer: a bad boy clashing with a girl who’s an outsider, a gambling-related subplot, everyone’s relatives all up in each other’s business. When I think of this book, I think of the middle sequence where Vidal and Mary are getting to know each other, but it turns out two quintessential Heyer scenes I really enjoy–an altercation in a gambling den toward the beginning and a bunch of characters chasing each other around France at the end–are in it, too. So what’s my problem with this book?

I think it’s Vidal. Heyer can write dangerous men, and she can write spoiled boys, but Vidal is an unsuccessful mix of the two. Like, sure, everyone is appalled by his scandalous behavior, but I was never sure why he was behaving that way, or what he hoped to achieve. Other Heyer men who behave badly have underlying trauma to explain it. I can accept the whole casually-shooting-people thing as a pose, but I don’t know what it’s all in aid of. And if it’s not a pose, we have bigger problems.

Anyway, as ever, I can’t read just on Heyer, so I’m probably going to reread These Old Shades next. What are your favorites? Mine are Cotillion, Black Sheep, Frederica, and Arabella.



  1. I’ve only ever read two Heyer novels, but one was The Black Moth and I really enjoyed it. I’ll have to give this one a try.

    Speaking of casually shooting someone, you should read Lord of Scandal by Loretta Chase

    • The Black Moth is stylistically pretty different, which is apparently why she renamed all the characters in These Old Shades (which you should definitely read before The Devil’s Cub).

      Just looked up the Chase book, and…so much historical romance is really directly descended from Heyer. And it sounds fun!

  2. The Grand Sophy. The Talisman Ring.A Civil Contract. Black Sheep. Cotillon.

    I used to lover Regency Buck but it grated on me the last time. An Infamous Army has both characters from Devil’s Cub & Regency Buck.which is interesting.

    • I think I’m due for a reread of The Grand Sophy, but that’s the one with the extended antisemitic bit, isn’t it? Somehow I don’t think I’ve ever read An Infamous Army, but I’m pretty sure I have a copy of it.

    • Another vote for the Talisman Ring! Two couples for the price of one.

      • I know I read that one, but it’s been a long time and I don’t remember it well. Time for a reread, if you guys are recommending it.

  3. I’m sad you didn`t enjoy Devil’s Cub, which is my favourite Heyer ever! I love Vidal. I think he misbehaved out of boredom and to live up to his rackety father’s reputation. An Infamous Army made me sad because Vidal and Mary get staid and boring in their old age. But what I really love about Devil’s Cub was the incorrigible Rupert! He’s so funny, getting dragged around all over France by Leonie. Have you read Heyer’s mysteries?

    If you’re getting tired of looking at the same old books and authors, there’s plenty more coming out soon! https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/first-time-20-years-copyrighted-works-enter-public-domain-180971016/ I’ve already devoured a Rafael Sabatini book of short stories I never saw before (Turbulent Tales on fadedpage.com). Are you excited about the promised flood of new reading material?

    • I’ve done a bad job if it sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Devil’s Cub. I wouldn’t have just read it for the third time if I didn’t like it. I just find it a little dissatisfying, and I guess I grade Heyer on a harsher scale than a lot of other authors, because she’s so good in general. I’ve read a couple of her mysteries, but a long time ago. They didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

      The flood is already here! I’ve been slowly making my way though the 1923 publications on HathiTrust, and trying to pick out intriguing stuff. I’m excited to read the next Polly and Eleanor book, which I’ve been waiting for since 2006.

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