Here we are again, readers, looking at another Georgette Heyer novel! The same friend who gave me The Talisman Ring also handed me one of Heyer’s earliest works, Simon the Coldheart. Where many of Heyer’s other novels occur in the 1800s (or thereabout), Simon the Coldheart is set all the way back in the 1400s!
That is correct – the 1400s! It is a time of knights, archers, foot soldiers, lords, ladies, wars, empires, and – of course – love!
Simon the Coldheart begins on the road to the Lord of Montlice’s castle. A youth of fourteen (whose height and shoulder width make one think him to be older than he actually is), walks up to the gate of the Lord of Montlice’s castle. With nothing but a quarterstaff and his own great strength, the youth gets past the guards and into the castle.
When guards in the castle block him from meeting Fulk, the aforementioned Lord of Montlice, the youth knocks one of them down as easily as you please. Happening upon this battle is Fulk’s son, Alan, a full year younger than the youth. Alan halts the guards and asks the other boy his name. The youth answers, “Simon,” and asks to be led to the lord of the castle.
Alan pauses, looking the other boy over for a long minute. Then he agrees and takes Simon in to see his father. After some interesting words pass between the two, Fulk accepts Simon as his page, learning the boy is the illegitimate son of his rival, Sir Geoffrey of Malvallet. This makes Fulk’s day, believe me – he has the illicit son of his rival for his page, and what is more, the boy chose to squire under Fulk because it would be harder to earn a place in his castle than in his own father’s entourage! Ho, ho, ho, wait until Malvallet finds out about this!
So Simon acts as Fulk’s page, moves up in rank to squire, then to captain of the castle guard, and then becomes lord of his own barony just down the road from Fulk’s estate. In between these grand events he meets his half-brother (named Geoffrey, after their father), becomes a knight, and fights under King Henry IV. But the sparks start flying when he follows Henry V to France for the Hundred Years War. Here, Simon is to lay siege to the town of Belremy, which is ruled by the Lady Margaret…
Ah, ah, ah, I am not going to say anything else about the story! Well, maybe one or two other things. Heyer’s historical accuracy appears, as always, impeccable. She renders the time and place perfectly (from what I can tell). Her characterization of all her important characters is beautiful, especially in the case of Simon. Dare I say it, but I think Simon towers over even stoic, fun, Sir Tristram Shield of The Talisman Ring!
There is just one character who does not start out particularly believable, and that is Lady Margaret. Oh, she becomes believable soon enough, but when she first enters the story there seems to be no reasonable explanation for her behavior. Although my friend and I both think that Margaret behaves as she does for the same reason that Maureen O’Hara’s character in The Quiet Man demands John Wayne’s character fight her brother, the rocky entrance of Lady Margaret into the narrative must be acknowledged.
As an interesting side note, Georgette Heyer did not allow Simon the Coldheart to be republished during her lifetime. She published it once, decided it was not good enough, and then ensured it could not be published again in her lifetime. Her son had it republished after her death, claiming that his mother was her own worst critic and that, in this one instance, he thinks her judgment was in error.
I cannot say that I disagree with him, since I loved Simon the Coldheart! If you can find a copy of it, readers, I highly recommend it to thee. Twill make good reading and twill pass the while enjoyably!
The Mithril Guardian