THE GREAT ROXHYTHE by Georgette Heyer
Set in Medieval England, this book was published in 1923.
Often this is a hard one to find. I remember watching several copies on various websites, with prices going up into the hundreds of dollars; then I finally found a copy that was around $32.00 including shipping. Mine is hardcover, without a dust jacket, in very good shape, and a second edition printing. I do not think that a paperback was ever published of this book; although with the new paperback GH re-issues that are coming out this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they are planning to print one now.
As an early Heyer, again, just like the two before it, I think it shows us Heyer's talent and to what we have to look forward. The time period in which it was set was, I believe, a favorite with Heyer. I have read other readers' comments who've not cared for the book because it is so long, because the language is sometimes stilted, and because the ending isn't all they would like it to be.
Personally, I really enjoyed reading the book, once I was able to obtain a copy. I do not believe it will be one that I can re-read regularly like I do so many others, but I believe I'll crave a re-reading once in a while.
The character of Roxhythe, himself, is conceited about his own accomplishments, powers, strengths, charm and wit. But the reader can't help liking him. You see, he really is all the things he says he is; and he is loyal, sometimes uncomprehendingly so, to his King (Charles II) and country. Heyer modeled Roxhythe after The Duke of Buckingham, according to Hode, although she never says what she basis her reasoning on.
The secondary character, Christopher, is one of my favorite of Heyer's. It is through Chris' eyes that we learn to see into Roxhythe; to see past the facade that he puts up for most of the world; to see the deeply-rooted convictions and loyalty, the love that he really has for his country. And it is through Chris' eyes that we see the gentle side of Roxhythe. There is, of course, a love story as well in the plot, and it is, refreshingly, a veryrealistic telling of a relationship between a man and a woman in love.
One of my favorite lines in the book is when Chrisis speaking in some doubt as to Roxhythe's power to get some gentlemen of the court to do his bidding. Roxhythe reassures him on that point, saying simply, "....I am Roxhythe."
As in all of Heyer's novels, there is plenty of humor and wit in ROXHYTHE. The book spans several years, and it is easy to get bogged down in it. It is not her usual fare; set during the intrigue and politics of Charles II's reign, it is a far cry from the Regency- and Georgian-period romances for which she is so well-known. But, especially remembering that Heyer was only 21 at the time of publication, I have to say that the book is quite a splendid accomplishment, and I could only dream of having had the knowledge and ability to write such a book when I was 21 years old.
I read a review in which the writer said that it is not up to Heyer's "usual standards"; considering that it was only the third of her novels to be published, I have to say that she hadn't really yet had time to set any standards. And it should be remembered that she wasn't at all satisfied with it herself (she often wasn't satisfied with her books). And still, though written by an "immature" writer at the time, it is still a very "mature" book. I believe the problem that some people have with the book is that they are accustomed to the light-hearted romances or the wonderfully well-written who-done-its of Heyer; when they finally have the chance to read ROXHYTHE, it is so entirely out of that realm that they are disappointed. So, I advise that if you get the chance to read it, you should do so with an open mind. Imagine it isn't Heyer writing it, but some other 21-year-old, newly published author.
As for the ending -- I appreciated it. I cried, but I thought it was well-done.
Copies of THE GREAT ROXHYTHE can be found at a reasonable price. Do not be suckered into paying a fortune for one. If you are so fortunate as to have a copy in your local library (which I highly doubt) take advantage of it and give it a try.
Actually this should be listed as Heyer's second published novel, I believe. Please see my entry entitled "Yes, I'm A Heyer Addict" for details.