Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read and re-read her books countless times. I buy her books whenever I see them, no matter the price. I tell all my friends they need to read her. Next to C.S. Lewis, she might be my favorite author, and according to Goodreads, I’ve read more by her than any other author (second place isn’t even close!) So please understand when I say The Black Moth was awful, I don’t say it lightly!
In her defense, this was Heyer’s first book, published when she was 19. It was written for an ailing brother a few years earlier. It makes sense that the plot line is dramatic and far-fetched. She was a teenager and this was the beginning of the 1920s…so for that, remarkably well done, I suppose. However, it is more along the lines of Ann Radcliffe than Jane Austen.
The main couple is an insufferable pair who experience insta-love and nobly suffer until other characters sort things out for them. Side characters get much more page-time and 90% more dialogue; unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily make them more interesting. The villain is clearly the main focus and interest of the teenage authoress, but he is so cliche and evil that I couldn’t find a spark of interest for him. He isn’t even a misunderstood bad guy, he is simply evil, desperate for a ‘good woman’ to redeem him. Soppy stuff!
However, this book wasn’t a total loss. It offered an intriguing example of Heyer’s early work, and many of her later, great plots are evident in it. She utilizes similar scenarios and characters later on, most obviously in These Old Shades (1926) and Devil’s Cub (1932), or The Convenient Marriage (1934). In each of these books she improves on the idea and focuses her characters more.
Worth it only if you are already a fan of Heyer and willing to pick through the bad to see the foundation of what would become a wonderful writing career.