Regency Turns 80 — Beauvallet

Silhouettes of a man and woman in Regency dress against a background of the number 80

Though Georgette Heyer wrote dozens of historical novels, she only wrote one set in the Elizabethan period. Today, Regency romance author, Mary Moore, tells us why she enjoyed this novel, even though it is not set in our favorite period. In addition, she explains why this novel is unlikely to meet most publishers’ criteria for a romance in the twenty-first century. And yet, she found it quite the page-turner. Have you read Beauvallet? If so, do you agree with Mary? If you have not read it, will you now put it on your list of Heyer’s novels which must be read?

Everyone is welcome to share their views on Beauvallet, or any aspect of historical romance, in comments to this article.

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A dark-haired young woman in a cream-colored satin gown looks into a mirror with a vase of white flowers to the right.

As an avid, some might say fanatical Georgette Heyer fan, I never really got into her historicals or mysteries. Except for one, Beauvallet. I read it midway through my Heyer experience and though it was not a Regency, I loved it. I realized when I signed up to tell what this book meant to me that I had only read it twice before. After reading it for this post, I remember why; you cannot forget it!

Unlike some of her other historicals, the setting is the backdrop, but just barely. It is set in Spain circa 1586 in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition but not yet to England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. It is all there, the fear of being found a heretic and being burned at the stake, as well as all of the great Elizabethan seamen/privateers, Sir Frances Drake, Richard Dawkins, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, et al. Beauvallet even meets Don Juan while masquerading at the court of King Phillip II.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sir Nicholas Beauvallet is a privateer to his beloved England and a pirate to France and Spain. His escapades are legendary and he has earned the name of "Mad Nick" from all three. It opens with him and his crew on The Venture attacking a Spanish galleon with grappling hooks flying and sword fights a plenty. I kept hearing the background music from every Errol Flynn movie I’d ever seen with Mad Nick even laughing in the face of danger as my beloved Errol did in the Seahawk and Captain Blood.

When the fighting is over and the smoke clears, Nicholas discovers a Spanish diplomat and his feisty daughter aboard the galleon. He takes them, along with his plunder, back to his own ship where he and the beautiful Doña Dominica de Rada y Silva give and take in as many shouting matches as will fit into the story. The devil in Mad Nick falls madly in love with the fiery Dominica. Too soon for many reviewers I read, but the torrid, long-distance feelings of the lovers is all that is needed to make the rest of the story more adventurous than we could handle!

Nicholas realizes Dominica’s father is dying, and showing his compassionate side, he takes them to a lonely Spanish cove, defying capture, to let him die in his homeland. But he promises Dominica that within one year, he will return for her and take her back to England to be his bride.

The rest of the story is so daring and fun that you get lost in Mad Nick’s outrageous flight across Spain disguised as someone else and with only his manservant, Joshua, by his side. This is hard to say because I’m all about the romance, but Ms. Heyer keeps you riveted and so on the edge of your seat that you really don’t care that Nicholas and Dominica have almost no scenes together.

In fact, he has more scenes with his manservant, who tickled my funny bone so often I laughed out loud.

"we rode like Jupiter, which happens to be a very potent planet in my affairs, except when the salt shaker fell towards me in an unlucky spill at that inn and such a happening could not be counted on as fortunate."

A fictional Beauvallet is dropped into a historical era with ease, humor and romance. That I noticed so many changes of POV to make an editor stab themselves on their quills, I had no trouble determining whose head she was in and no time to get bored with her love for history. And though we really never do get any depth into Nicholas or Dominica, it was enough. We had an adventurous opening, page turning exploits and a satisfying ending with lovers reunited. It was then possible to close the book cover with a heartfelt sigh. At least I did…..

Award winning author, Mary Moore, released her third Regency through Love Inspired Historical in January. She began writing in 1995, inspired by Georgette Heyer and other Regency writers, and was first published in 2011 after battling and beating breast cancer. She and her husband are natives of the Washington, DC area, but now live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Connect with Mary online at:

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  1. I always wondered if this book was originally meant to be the first in a series like These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub. It always seemed
    so different from her others. I loved it and the swashbuckling hero.

    1. Elle,

      In my research, I never found that it was part of series, but it would certainly have been a great one. I can envision Beauvallet in his later years making it very plain to his daughter’s swains that they were all whey-faced twits; while a new adventurer sweeps his daughter off of her feet, finally approving the rogue as man enough to marry his daughter….

  2. A lovely story — lots of action and adventure. I find that I’m just as happy with a romance where the hero and heroine get very few scenes together. It makes the scenes they share all the more poignant.

    1. I’m with you Barbara. And Ms. Heyer writes a few others like Charity Girl, where the heroine is mostly stuck at home taking care of the young girl our hero has to jump through hoops to find a place for Cherry; even to the point of leaving us not really knowing which one was the heroine!

  3. Mary, I had not thought of Errol Flynn movies in connection to this, but you have a good point! That’s exactly what this is. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I do recall that same sort of fun, energetic, swashbuckling adventure/action story.

    And I think you are right to say that we can’t judge a novel’s style by current trends. Trends in prose are like trends in hairstyles: we can look at a photo of ourselves twenty years ago and scream with laughter at how bad we looked then, with those ridiculous hairstyles, thinking we looked so great — comparing that to NOW, when of course our hairstyles are flattering and reasonable. But you know in twenty years our current hairstyles will be judged equally unflattering! And so, I’m convinced, will our prose trends go. Perhaps not in twenty years, but they’ll go eventually, as did the styles which liked omniscient narrators (who can then use all sorts of interesting word and phrasing choices that the characters wouldn’t use) and exclamation points and elevated language. 🙂

    1. Cara,

      You are certainly correct – especially about hair styles! But there were many more instances a modern day editor would cringe. Ms. Heyer was so amazing; I counted one paragraph of 60 words that was all one sentence! But I certainly never noticed it while I read it all those years ago. I’m coming to believe the editors were so happy to get another Heyer book that they would not dare to criticize it!

      1. But surely if it’s the style of the time, and readers are used to reading it, they wouldn’t have the trouble with it that we do. I remember complaining once while reading Henry James (something I was not doing willingly) that one paragraph would run for four pages, and one sentence would run for the length of a “normal” paragraph. My guess is that the journalistic short-sentence styles of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and their ilk, and the pulp styles of so many popular authors in the early 20th century, eventually became the norm…and now readers are annoyed by long sentences the way teens are annoyed by movies in black and white. 😉 Anyway, that’s my theory! (I have no proof, and if I had to read more Henry James to get proof, I would not do it.)

    1. Ann,
      I always come back to the Unknown Ajax; I don’t know that most would call it an adventure, but I was spell bound and amazed at the story (always saying, who could have come up with this???!!!) and the intrigue and the way so many characters were moved around to fit perfectly into Hugo’s plan. It is still one of my favorites.

  4. You’ve convinced me to give this one a try. I used to only read Heyer’s Regencies, but recently I read “Simon the Coldheart” and loved it.

  5. It has been a long time since I read this one, but I feel the need to pick it up again after this wonderful post. Your Errol Flynn imagery is SO spot on!

    1. My dad and I used to watch Errol Flynn movies together and I loved the pirate ones the best! Beauvallet fits the bill AND without even realizing it, we get a history lesson at the same time!!

  6. I have this book and have read it a number of times. I do prefer the regency books but once I get started on this one I do really enjoy it. It does make me glad that I didn’t live in Spain at that time 😊. I also like her mysteries and have pre ordered the new one coming out next month. I just wish there were some new regency ones as well but I will continue to re-read the ones I have. Thanks for this post.

  7. Since so many folks have commented here that they like a good adventure story, and the movies of Errol Flynn were noted in the article, it seems only fair that Rafael Sabatini also get a mention. The movies The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, among others, were based on the novels of Rafael Sabatini. And, since he was already a well-known author by the time Georgette Heyer began writing, it is highly likely his work was an influence on her.

    Sabatini’s novels are filled with high adventure and great love stories. Scaramouche, The Venetian Mask and The Lost King might appeal to those interested in the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic period. But there is also The Black Swan, if you like pirates, in addition to the multiple sequels to Captain Blood. And there are a number set during the Elizabethan and the Cromwellian periods as well. You can find the full list at the web site set up to honor Sabatini:


    1. Thank you Kathryn, you are absolutely right. I haven’t read any of those in a long time, and I cannot really even remember which ones I read. But I do remember that they were right up there with Beauvallet. I’m headed over to Amazon right now!!

  8. Thank you Mary for a great review of a wonderful book! I read this book very early in my Heyer reading experience, probably when I was still in junior high and just loved the swashbuckling adventure and romance. When I re-read it as an adult, I also noticed the way she conveyed the little aspects of people’s lives – through language, action, tone, superstitions, and brought it all to life, even though by today’s standards, this book would be too long, detailed, and adventurous for romance, and too upbeat and funny for a thriller or adventure tale. I took my copy of Spanish Bride with me when I had a chance to go to Spain this summer, but neglected to bring Beauvallet. This review is making me really regret that omission!

  9. I’m so glad you highlighted this book! I love Heyer’s Regencies, but this book is my all-time favorite. I’ve re-read it so many times I’ve lost count, and I enjoy it every single time. In fact, it may be time to indulge in another re-read today. 🙂

    1. Donna, your favorite? Wow that is something! I know as a devout Regency addict, I CAN read other books and enjoy them, but become my favorite? How wonderful that Ms. Heyer pleased so many people in so many ways. Beauvallet is truly an enjoyable read and though not my favorite, it is a Heyer….nuff said!

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