Those who have read my previous reviews know that I am pretty
conventional in my taste in Regencies, but that I'm no
stick-in-the-mud. I mean I have read, enjoyed and/or recommended
Regencies with time traveling heroines, ghosts, cupids, and even
vampires. So I must assume that my negative response to Sandra Heath's
recent entry into the fantasy Regency sweepstakes is not rooted in the
Or, perhaps it is. Did this tale of an English duke who fled to Naples
to postpone his inevitable marriage to the woman chosen by his father;
who – in a case of mistaken identity – is lured to a magic grove where a
faun, Sylvanus, plans to punish him for supposed misdeeds by turning him
into a statue; who is transported to England (in statue form with
Sylvanus hanging on for dear life) by the god Bacchus charged with the
task of winning the love of his erstwhile bride without revealing his
identity or face an eternity as a perch for pigeons; and who must spend
his days in statue form just to make the task all the more difficult –
was all this simply too much for my tolerance of departures from the
conventions of the genre?
Actually, I think my negative response the The Faun's Folly is rooted,
at least in part, on the complexities of the plot, which are only hinted
at in the above description. I think that these complexities led to a
certain degree of ponderousness in the writing. And that these,
combined with an incredibly improbable story, made reading this book a
chore not a pleasure.
Our duke is Gervase Mowbray, Duke of Wroxham. His father has made it a
condition of his inheriting the dukedom (when will authors remember that
a father could not leave the title where he pleased, whatever he chose
to do with his unentailed fortune) that he marry Anne Willowby, whose
responsible demeanor impressed the old duke so that he overlooked her
advanced age, lack of birth or fortune, and unimpressive looks. Anne is
forced to agree to the match because otherwise, her parents will lose
their home. Yup, a really likely scenario.
Gervase, postponing the inevitable, accompanies his cousin Hugh on a
trip to Naples. We get to discover Hugh's villainy early on when he
sexually mistreats a maid while pretending to be the duke. This is what
leads the duke and Hugh to that glade with the faun and, oh yes,
Ariadne's diadem, which Hugh just happens to make off with, while
consigning Gervase to what Hugh believes is a watery grave. Then Hugh
rushes off to London to claim the dukedom and the beauteous Kitty, an
actress of overweening ambition and considerable talent in the bedroom
if not on stage.
Hugh promise to make Kitty his duchess, but first, since the old duke's
will doesn't differentiate between one heir or another when it comes to
marrying Miss Willowby, he has to do away with sweet Anne. And so he,
with Kitty in tow, heads off to Monmouthshire to woo and murder the
innocent Anne. Meanwhile, Gervase has arrived on the scene. He needs
to convince Anne to say "I love you," and, while he seeks to gain her
heart, he loses his own.
There are numerous complications before love wins, including Sylvanus'
quest to regain the diadem and his love affair with the nymph (or naiad)
Penelope, who starts out as a wooden statue. (Don't ask me to
One final note. There is a bit more graphic sexual content in The
Faun's Folly than is typical of a Regency. That most of these
scenes involve the villain seems part of a trend that I have noticed
recently. I'm not sure I like the trend.
At any rate, I simply cannot recommend Heath's book nor even adjudge it
an acceptable Regency. It certainly failed my putdown/pickup test. I
put it down after about eighty pages and had to force myself to pick it
up again. Heath has written some good and entertaining Regencies in the
past. I have not found her most recent excursions into paranormal
Regencies rewarding. I hope she goes back to the traditional format and
gives us the kind of enjoyable novel we have come to expect from a
seasoned Regency author.