Inquiring readers, Simon the Coldheart, an early Georgette Heyer novel, was reviewed by my co-founder of our Jane Austen book group. Lady Anne would be the first person to admit that she is addicted to reading Ms. Heyer’s novels. Her collection of Georgette Heyer’s novels is complete – she owns all her regency romance novels, mysteries, and historical novels. (With 51 titles, that is saying something.) This is Lady Anne’s review of one of Georgette Heyer’s earliest novels, which will be reissued by SourceBooks just in time for this holiday season.
No one gets period better than Georgette Heyer. Whether she is writing about England in the Regency era or the 15th Century, she has the details and the language perfectly.
In Simon the Coldheart Heyer uses period language to excellent effect. The story, characterized as a tale of chivalry and adventure, tells of young Simon, a base-born bastard of one Geoffrey of Malvallet, as he is off to make his way in the world. Our young hero is not one to feel sorry for his accident of birth, nor does he look to his father to support him. Simon instead styles himself Beauvallet – a nice little wordplay — and seeks to become a member of the household of one of his father’s enemies.
Matters would have gone ill with Simon but for the appearance of a boy, a little younger than himself, who came strolling towards them, followed by two liver-coloured hounds. He was dark, and magnificently clad, and he carried himself with an air of languid arrogance.
“Hola there! he called, and the soldiers fell away from Simon, leaving him to stand alone, arms folded and head turned to survey the newcomer.
The boy came up gracefully, looking at Simon with a questioning lift to his brows.
“What is this?” he asked. “Who are you who strike our men?”
Simon stepped forward.
“So please you sir, I seek my Lord the Earl.”
One of the men, he whom Simon had dealt that lusty blow, started to speak, but was hushed by an imperious gesture from the boy. He smiled at Simon with a mixture of friendliness and hauteur.
“I am Alan of Montlice,” he said. “What want you of my father?”
Simon doffed his cap, showing his thick, straight hair clubbed across his brow and at the nape of his brown neck. He bowed awkwardly.
I want employment, sir, he replied.
Simon is strong and sure of himself. His great confidence amuses and charms Fulk of Montlice, in whose household he seeks to live, and he is awarded a place. Fulk’s son is about Simon’s age, and the two very different young men become close friends. No jealousy or tiresome infighting here.
The book is set in the early 15th Century, and before long, we find ourselves with King Henry IV and young Prince Hal fighting Hotspur and Owen Glendower, in that famous uprising. Young Simon proves himself in battle – no surprise – and comes to the rescue of his half-brother, the young Geoffrey of Malvallet. The rescue earns him a knighthood and begins another surprising friendship, this time with his half-brother. During the next few years, Simon is a knight in the household of Fulk, and young Alan of Montlice, always in love, despairs over Simon. But Simon is looking for a home. On the day that he finds a baronetcy in disarray, he also learns of a plot against King Henry. Gathering some of the men of Montlice around him, he goes to London to tell Henry, and so is awarded the home he needs. His father comes to ask him to live in his household, but he refuses. Because he goes his solitary way, he earns the soubriquet of Coldheart.
But here, Heyer is on firm psychological ground. The base-born child of a servant-girl who died in his childhood is likely to keep his own council and wish to establish his own line. At our first meeting of Simon he claims to be going to his goal, and throughout the book, he stays clear on that. He does not have the luxury of excuses, or whining, or wasting time over women or poetry. He is intent on making his way. It could be an interesting portrait of a complex person, but Heyer only alludes to it. Her business is with the history, and the fun of a group of young men.
Soon enough, Prince Hal, now King Henry V, calls on Simon, his half-brother Geoffrey, and his great friend Alan to assist with the war in France. This is Shakespeare’s Henry at Agincourt, and the battles that Simon and his men fight are a continuation of that part of the Hundred Year’ War. Like his King, Simon meets a strong-willed Frenchwoman at Belremy, and in the end, of course, the lady Margaret falls before Simon and Simon is Coldheart no more. Ultimately, King Henry makes Simon his lieutenant and warden of the lands and marches of Normandy. Heyer, ever the careful scholar, notes in a footnote that in fact the Earls of March and Salisbury held that title.
Simon the Coldheart is an early book, originally published in 1925. As always, Heyer’s details describe the period, and in this book, she takes the further step of using language suited to the time: slightly inverted, filled with pomp and chivalry. It adds greatly to total experience. The book is a romp, fun for those of us who loved the transformation of Prince Hal into Henry, and fun for anyone who would want to read of that bygone age of chivalry. Click here to order the book.
Click on More Book Links Here:
- Simon the Coldheart, Georgette Heyer.com
- Georgette Heyer: Fantastic Fiction
Our Other Georgette Heyer Reviews Sit Below
These Georgette Heyer books, available this holiday season, will be reviewed on this blog and Jane Austen Today.