Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer

“All Spain seems to seek me, señor,” answered the stranger merrily. “But who shall slay Nick Beauvallet? Will you try?”

Having read and loved many of Georgette Heyer’s Regency and Georgian romances, I’ve been interested in trying one of her historical novels set in earlier periods – and at the same time, I’ve been a bit wary because they don’t seem as popular or well-liked as the Regencies. I needn’t have worried, though, because I made a good choice with her 1929 novel Beauvallet, set in sixteenth century Spain and England; I can see why it wouldn’t appeal to all Heyer readers, but it was definitely my sort of book!

Sir Nicholas Beauvallet is a notorious English pirate whose name is spoken of in the same breath as Sir Francis Drake’s and at the beginning of the novel his ship, the Venture, is engaged in conflict with the Spanish galleon Santa Maria. The Spanish vessel is captured and the people aboard taken captive, among them the beautiful Doña Dominica de Rada y Sylva and her father, Don Manuel. After a futile attempt to fight off Beauvallet with his own dagger, Dominica knows the situation is hopeless – and so she is very surprised when Beauvallet offers to take them safely home to Spain, swearing to return at a later date to make her his wife. This seems like a ridiculous plan – no Englishman in his right mind would attempt to enter Spain while the two countries are at war – but our hero is not known as ‘Mad Nicholas’ for nothing…

The plot is over the top and not to be taken too seriously, but the book is great fun to read – the perfect way to escape from the pressures of modern day life for a while and retreat into a good old-fashioned adventure story complete with swordfights, sea battles, abductions, imprisonments and daring escapes! Heyer’s attention to period detail is as evident in this novel as in her others, and being set in an earlier century means she has adjusted the language and the dialogue accordingly. While I thought Dominica was quite thinly drawn and not as memorable as many of Heyer’s other heroines, Nick Beauvallet is a wonderful character. He reminded me very much of some of Rafael Sabatini’s irrepressible swashbuckling heroes, particularly Peter Blood – and of course, Captain Blood, another pirate novel, was published just a few years before Beauvallet. As a Sabatini fan, it was probably inevitable that I would enjoy this book!

As a romance, the book is quite predictable; right from their first encounter, where Dominica shouts “I hate you! I despise you, and I hate you!”, it’s easy to guess that her hatred will not last long, especially as Nick is not the sort of man to accept defeat, in love or in anything else. But sometimes predictability is not a bad thing, and there were plenty of other twists and turns along the way to make this an exciting and entertaining read. I would like to read the earlier Simon the Coldheart, about one of Beauvallet’s ancestors, but first I will be heading back to the Regency period as the next Heyer novel I have lined up to read is Sprig Muslin.

23 thoughts on “Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer

  1. Lory says:

    This is one I haven’t tried yet…it sounds like fun. I couldn’t get through Heyer’s The Spanish Bride, but maybe I was just not in the mood.

    • Helen says:

      I read the first chapter of The Spanish Bride a while ago and couldn’t get into it either, but I will definitely be trying it again. I probably just need to be in the right mood too.

  2. Lisa says:

    I haven’t read all of her historicals, in part because they haven’t been reprinted as often, so they are harder to find. I did enjoy this one, though, and also Royal Escape (about Charles II). Like Lory, I gave up on The Spanish Bride.

    One of the main complaints that I’ve seen about the historical novels is that Heyer didn’t understand the role of the Church, and of faith, in people’s lives, and I think it’s a fair point.

    • Helen says:

      I do like the sound of Royal Escape. I found The Spanish Bride difficult to get into and took it back to the library unread, but I’m going to try again later.

  3. Lark says:

    I’ve only read some of Heyer’s Regency romances, but this one sounds fun, especially Nick Beauvallet. Besides, I never could resist a book with pirates in it. ;D

  4. Small says:

    Yes! I’m so happy you enjoyed this one. I have a copy sitting on my shelves for a few years now (unread, of course) and now you’ve motivated me to pick it up sooner rather than later. Thank you!

    • Helen says:

      I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! My copy had been waiting unread on my shelf for a long time too and I really wish I’d read it earlier!

  5. Elizabeth Bailey says:

    This one is fun, I agree, but Simon the Coldheart I found dry and dull. Plus the character was cold. Interesting to know how it strikes you. Spanish Bride was interesting to me because it’s a true story. I read Harry Smith’s autobiography and much of the dialogue is adapted from the early years. He and Juana had a long and happy marriage but had no children. The couple are mentioned in other Heyers, like Grand Sophy.

    • Helen says:

      That’s a shame about Simon the Coldheart, though I’m still interested in trying it. The Spanish Bride does sound good, even though I struggled to get into it when I tried to read it a while ago. I will give it a second chance when I’m in a different mood.

  6. jessicabookworm says:

    I haven’t thought about reading anything about Georgette Heyer before, but you had me at ‘old-fashioned adventure story complete with swordfights, sea battles, abductions, imprisonments and daring escapes’ 😀

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