The Quiet Gentleman
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The Quiet Gentleman is a Regency novel by Georgette Heyer. Set in the spring of 1816, after the Battle of Waterloo, it is the story of the return home of the Seventh Earl of St Erth, who is returning home from his service in the British army to claim his inheritance.
This is an unusual Heyer novel in that the main character is a hero rather than a heroine. It is also one of the Regency novels which incorporates elements of the mystery story as well as the classic romance.
Also residing at Stanyon are his stepmother the Dowager Lady St Erth, Gervase's younger half-brother Martin, his cousin Theo and his stepmother's young friend, Drusilla, who is on a long-term visit.
Lady St Erth and Martin rapidly make plain to Gervase, in ways verging on the highly anti-social, that they are rather disappointed to see him home. They had expected him to die, as the officer death rate was high, and had wanted him to die, as Martin would have inherited instead.
Gervase had not spent much time at Stanyon as a child; his maternal grandmother had taken him in instead; Theo, his cousin and the steward, is therefore the only person at Stanyon with whom he has had much contact. The two are good friends.
Out riding one day, Gervase happens upon an extremely beautiful young lady who has fallen off her horse, and discovers her to be Marianne, the daughter of another member of the local gentry, Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas is a Baronet who inherited unexpectedly from his older brother; he had been sent to India to seek his fortune and achieved success. Consequently he is called in the area the Nabob. Gervase being rather taken with Marianne finds that Lady St Erth is less impressed with his new acquaintance; while she is extremely fond of Marianne in her self-centred way, she had hopes of her making a match with Martin.
Having made Marianne's acquaintance, Gervase resolves that there should be a Ball, an idea which Martin throws himself into with enthusiasm, although it is to Theo and Drusilla who must organize it.
Martin's sister arrives with her husband and two children, to attend Gervase's first big function at Stanyon; so too does "Lucy" (short for Lucian), an old Army friend of Gervase's who is the heir to a fairly rich peerage.
The ball is a resounding success; particularly successful is the meeting between Lucian and Marianne. This upsets Martin, although Gervase receives it with more equanimity; his passion for Marianne was short-lived, despite her charm and beauty.
After the Ball and as life settles back into a routine, however, some alarming things begin to happen. Gervase, who sleeps in the panelled and ancient master bedroom at Stanyon wakes thinking someone is in his room. Someone appears to have sabotaged a bridge he is about to cross which has been damaged by flooding, someone sets up a tripwire for his horse. The person who is behind all these incidents appears to be Martin, whose handkerchief is found after Gervase wakes up, and who also attempted to fight Gervase without a button on his fencing foil. Later someone shoots him.
The injury proves not fatal, but dramatic, and Gervase is ill for some time. Meanwhile, Martin disappears, and people assume he fled to avoid the shooting. When he reappears, he does so with a fishy story about being attacked and tied up in a ditch. Everyone is sceptical about this story except for Gervase.
As soon as he is fairly well recovered, Gervase rides out to see Theo, and he is hotly pursued by Martin. Before the police can arrive, Martin is able to tell Gervase that he believes Theo is behind the attempts on both their lives, and Gervase agrees with him. Theo finally admits it, and Gervase gives him control of a plantation in the West Indies rather than firing him and causing a scandal. All ends happily as the unromantic, practical Drusilla and Gervase are engaged.
Characters in "The Quiet Gentleman"
- Gervase Frant – 7th Earl of St Erth, protagonist
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