Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle

Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle

by Georgette Heyer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402238802
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 280,058
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Georgette Heyer's novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades. English Heritage has awarded Georgette Heyer one of their prestigious Blue Plaques, designating her Wimbledon home as the residence of an important figure in British history. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, at the age of seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother; it was published in 1921 and became an instant success.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. A very private woman, she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or personal life. Her work included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.

Read an Excerpt


By Georgette Heyer

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.

Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-373-83608-2

Chapter One

SYLVESTER STOOD in the window of his breakfast parlour, leaning his hands on the ledge, and gazing out upon a fair prospect. No view of the ornamental water could be obtained from this, the east front of Chance, but the undulations of a lawn shaved all summer by scythemen were broken by a cedar, and beyond the lawn the stems of beech trees, outliers of the Home Wood, shimmered in wintry sunlight. They still held their lure for Sylvester, though they beckoned him now to his coverts rather than to a land where every thicket concealed a dragon, and false knights came pricking down the rides. He and Harry, his twin, had slain the dragons, and ridden great wallops at the knights. There were none left now, and Harry had been dead for almost four years; but there were pheasants to tempt Sylvester forth, and they did tempt him, for a succession of black frosts had made the ground iron-hard, robbing him of two hunting days; and a blusterous north wind would not have invited the most ardent of sportsmen to take a gun out. It was still very cold, but the wind had dropped, and the sun shone, and what a bore it was that he should have decided that this day, out of all the inclement ones that had preceded it, should be devoted to business. He could change his mind, of course, telling his butler to inform the various persons now awaiting his pleasure that he would see them on the following day. His agent-in-chief and his man of business had come all the way from London to attend upon him, but it did not occur to Sylvester that they could find any cause for complaint in being kept kicking their heels. They were in his employ, and had no other concern than to serve his interests; they would accept his change of mind as the caprice to be expected from a noble and wealthy master.

But Sylvester was not capricious, and he had no intention of succumbing to temptation. Caprice bred bad servants, and where the management of vast estates was concerned good service was essential. Sylvester had only just entered his twenty-eighth year, but he had succeeded to his huge inheritance when he was nineteen, and whatever follies and extravagances he had committed they had never led him to treat that inheritance as his plaything, or to evade the least one of its responsibilities. He had been born to a great position, reared to fill it in a manner worthy of a long line of distinguished forebears, and as little as he questioned his right to command the obedience of all the persons whose names were inscribed on his staggering payroll did he question the inescapability of the duties which had been laid on his shoulders. Had he been asked if he enjoyed his consequence he would have replied truthfully that he never thought of it; but he would certainly have disliked very much to have had it suddenly removed.

No one was in the least likely to ask him such a question, of course. He was generally considered to be a singularly fortunate young man, endowed with rank, wealth, and elegance. No bad fairy had attended his christening to leaven his luck with the gift of a hunchback or a harelip; though not above medium height he was well-proportioned, with good shoulders, a pair of shapely legs, and a countenance sufficiently pleasing to make the epithet handsome, frequently bestowed on it, not altogether ridiculous. In a lesser man the oddity of eyes set with the suspicion of a slant under flying black brows might have been accounted a blemish; in the Duke of Salford they were naturally held to lend distinction; and those who had admired his mother in her heyday remembered that she too had that thin, soaring line of eyebrow. It was just as though the brows had been added with a paintbrush, drawn in a sleek line upwards towards the temples. In the Duchess this peculiarity was charming; in Sylvester it was less attractive. It gave him, when he was vexed, and the upward trend was exaggerated by a frown, a slight look of a satyr.

He was about to turn away from the window when his attention was caught by a small, scampering figure. Emerging from the shelter of a yew hedge, a little boy with a cluster of golden curls set off across the lawn in the direction of the Home Wood, his nankeen-covered legs twinkling over the grass, and the freshly laundered frill of his shirt rucked up under one ear by a duffle coat, dragged over his little blue jacket by hurried and inexpert hands.

Sylvester laughed, throwing up the window. His impulse was to wish Edmund success in his adventure, but even as he leaned out he checked it. Though Edmund would not stop for his nurse or his tutor he would do so if his uncle called to him, and since he seemed to have made good his escape from these persons it would be unsportsmanlike to check him when his goal was within sight. To keep him dallying under the window would put him in grave danger of being captured, and that, reflected Sylvester, would lead to one of those scenes which bored him to death. Edmund would beg his leave to go off to the woods, and whether he gave it or withheld it he would be obliged to endure the reproaches of his widowed sister-in-law. He would be accused of treating poor little Edmund either with brutal severity, or with a heartless unconcern for his welfare; for Lady Henry Rayne could never bring herself to forgive him for having persuaded his brother (as she obstinately affirmed) to leave Edmund to his sole guardianship. It was of no use for anyone to tell Lady Henry that Harry's will had been drawn up on the occasion of his marriage, merely to ensure, in the event of accident, which no one had thought more unlikely than Harry himself, that any offspring of the match would be safe under the protection of the head of his house. However stupid Sylvester might think her he hoped she was not so green as to imagine that his attorney would have dared to insert so infamous a clause except at his express command. Sylvester, with the wound of Harry's death still raw, had allowed himself to be goaded into bitter retort: 'If you imagine that I wished to have the brat thrust on to me you are even greener than I had supposed!"

He was to regret those hasty words, for although he had immediately retracted them he had never been allowed to forget them; and they formed today, when the custody of Edmund had become a matter of acute importance, the foundation stone of Lady Henry's arguments. "You never wanted him," she reminded him. "You said so yourself!"

It had been partly true, of course: except as Harry's son he had had very little interest in a two-year-old infant, and had paid no more heed to him than might have been expected of a young man. When Edmund began to grow out of babyhood, however, he saw rather more of him, for Edmund's first object, whenever his magnificent uncle was at Chance, was to attach himself as firmly as possible to him. He had qualities wholly lacking in Button, Edmund's nurse (and his father's and uncle's before him), or in Mama. He showed no disposition to fondle his nephew; he was indifferent to torn clothes; such conversation as he addressed to Edmund was brief and to the point; and while he might, in an unpropitious mood, send him somewhat peremptorily about his business, it was always possible that he would hoist him up on to his saddle before him, and canter off with him through the park. These attributes were accompanied by a less agreeable but equally godlike idiosyncrasy: he exacted instant obedience to his commands, and he had a short way of dealing with recalcitrants.


Excerpted from Sylvester by Georgette Heyer Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To call Heyer's work a 'Romance' is misleading - it fails to convey the period accuracy: language, dress and custom found in her work. Even more it misses the wit, humor and intelligence. Sylvester is an arrogant man; Phoebe a mousy 'nothing' disliked by her stepmother. But Phoebe has a secret, one which at first thrills her, and then when she begins to find herself less than indifferent to Sylvester, her secret becomes more appalling. Every word of the book is amusing, every character beautifully drawn - even servants and acquaintances are memorably drawn in their briefest appearance. It may sound stuffy; it is not. Like all of Heyer's Regency novels, I have read this one a dozen times and will do so a dozen more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-developed characters, who undergo transformations that remind the reader of characters in an Austin novel, get involved in several mad-cap adventures. Heyer's masterful use of historical details helps to take the reader back in time. A delightful, fun-filled escape!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harlequin has re-released one of my all-time favorite Georgette Heyer novels -- Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle. This is a wonderful book, totally deserving of a much classier cover than Harlequin has previously provided. The new cover is period-appropriate and even attempts to capture some of the flavor of the characters in the book. The edition is somewhat marred by the introduction by Joan Wolf (after reading her pointless, wandering discussion of Sylvester, one wonders how Wolf has ever managed to write anything publishable. I've read 8th grade book reports that were more insightful). It's too bad about the intro -- if Harlequin would quit trying to plump their mostly mediocre authors, this edition would be nearly perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heroine writes book with the hero as the monstrous evil villain, and then discovers that her book actually mirrors his situation! A tribute to the Gothic novel fad of the Regency period, but lots of humor and a good pace.
4iz More than 1 year ago
I recently reread most of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances. I enjoyed them as a teenager in the '70's, but like them even more now. " Sylvester" is one of my favorites. The relationship between Phoebe and Sylvester begins with his indifference and her dislike of his perceived arrogance. She pens a novel satirizing London society,in which the villain, Count Ugolino, bears an unmistakable resemblance to Sylvester. To her amazement, her novel is published (anonymously) and becomes wildly popular, as society guesses the true identities of the novel's characters and especially the identity its author. Unforturnately, Phoebe's book, "The Lost Heir", not only describes Sylvester's unmistakable eyebrows, but it also portrays Ugolino's cruelty to his fatherless nephew. Unbeknownst to Phoebe, Sylvester actually is the guardian of a nephew. When Phoebe and Sylvester meet again, snowbound in a country inn, they see each other's flaws clearly, yet they are drawn to each other. Phoebe begins to regret using his features as the model for her villain, and tries to hide her identity as the author. Their mutual attraction grows until Phoebe is unmasked as the author of "The Lost Heir". Sylvester is humiliated, Phoebe suffers his public rejection, as well as subsequent social disgrace. On her way to France to escape the scandal, she happens upon the abduction of Sylvester's nephew and tries to rescue him. When Sylvester and Phoebe reunite, each must relinquish pride and accept the other, flaws and all. Phoebe's stepmother, the innkeeper's daughter Alice, Sylvester's nephew, Edmund, Edmund's mother and her new fiance are all hilarious minor characters whose comic subplots are equally as engaging as the love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, is accustomed to being treated with deference but receives none from the dowdy Miss Marlow. And Miss Marlow has a secret she wants to keep from Society in general and the Duke in particular thus begins a series of misadventures for this mismatched pair. The supporting cast of characters add to the fun.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Phoebe runs away to avoid a proposal from a man she found arrogant, and mocked in her soon to be published novel.
atimco on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Sylvester is one of those books that teeter on the edge of being guilty pleasures. Heyer is not what I would call high-brow literature or deep philosophy. Instead, she's just plain fun. Novels like this tend to be somewhat predictable, though the way this one was set up allowed for several different endings and it didn't become clear right away what would happen. There are spoilers below, so proceed with caution.Heyer is often said to be "the next best thing to reading Jane Austen," and while I certainly agree with that, there are some important differences between their work. One in particular struck me in Sylvester; unlike Austen, Heyer explores the inner world of her male characters, analyzing their feelings and motivations. It makes sense that this tale would begin with a comprehensive character sketch of Sylvester, as the book is titled with his name. But our heroine Phoebe Marlow doesn't suffer in characterization either, though I found her a bit contradictory at first. She is a fearless rider and manages her father's stables with authority, but she morphs into a fearful, dull, insipid girl under the stern eye of her stepmother? It didn't quite add up. But as the story progressed, I began to understand her better, and actually found the combination of contradictory traits truer to life than the "sassy lady" or "timid child" stock characters that so often people historical novels. Phoebe can certainly be forthright in a most unladylike way, but that isn't the sum of her. She's a little more complex than that, with real fears and struggles.I was expecting a scene in which Phoebe finally faces down her stepmother without the crippling fear of her childhood to hamper her, but it didn't happen, alas! And looking back, it probably would have done violence to Phoebe as a believable character to have her suddenly pluck up such courage. It's possible it could happen some years later after Phoebe grows more accustomed to her position and consequence, but Heyer was wise not to insert a scene like that. The rest of the characters are delightful in their own ways. Ianthe is the very picture of an emptyheaded, self-absorbed beauty, Nugent Fotherby the epitome of a foolish dandy, and Ianthe's son Edmund such a believable, michievous little boy. I enjoyed the understated but quite present rivalry between Keighley and Swales, Sylvester's groom and valet, respectively. Alice from the inn was also quite fun with her rough, outspoken speech. It was a pity she seemed to drop out the story when they arrived in London.Through Phoebe's scandalously popular novel, written after her first season in London, Heyer pokes a little gentle fun at the literature of the day. Like Austen, Phoebe publishes her novel anonymously, and her sketches of the leading members of the ton are so witty that everyone is simply wild to find out the identity of the authoress. Many of the people Phoebe mimics in her book come off looking foolish, but only one positively wicked. Yes, Sylvester! In Phoebe's book he figures as the diabolical Count Ugolino who wants to murder his nephew, the heir of the estate. It's all the fault of his eyebrows, of course.As in Friday's Child, the hero and heroine find themselves in need of older and wiser heads to unravel their romantic problems and finally bring them together. In this story it was Sylvester's mother, a most unusually sympathetic and pleasant invalid. I appreciated Elizabeth's clear perception of her son's faults and her ready forgiveness for Phoebe's literary indiscretion. It's refreshing to meet an invalid in a Regency novel who is not a fussing hypochondriac.Heyer just has such a gift for creating characters the reader cares about, and humorous scenes which are made so by every character simply behaving according to his personality. Fotherby's distress over the dog eating the gold tassels off his boots, and the scene that ensues, is just hilarious. The dialogue is witty and sprinkled with the
riverwillow on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Sylvester has decided it is time for him to marry and, not having fallen in love, draws up a list of requirements for his bride. On his way to check out his short list of potential brides he decides to visit the girl his mother picked out for him at birth, Phoebe Marlow. It is an unprepossessing first meeting but when Phoebe attempts to flee to London in order to escape his attentions, despite his best intentions, Sylvester is intrigued. I loved this book, its one of Heyer's best and is absolutely hilarious from Sylvester and his eyebrows to Sir Nugent and his tasselled boots.
unclesylvester on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Wonderful and fun main characters with several humorous and ridiculous friends and family.
Darla on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I hesitated over giving this one 5 stars. It's good. Very good. There were no problems with it at all. But I guess I'm just not seeing what makes everyone drool over Heyer so much. Perhaps they just don't read much good Regency romance. That's the problem when something's over-praised. I was expecting to have an "OMG, this is so GOOD" reaction, but instead I just liked it very much. Maybe it's the historical context--because nobody was writing Regency romances when this was written. Anyway, we have a young independent woman, a matchmaking mama, a duke, a young nephew, a self-centered widowed sister-in-law. It's a very nice story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, one of Heyer's best, but the ebook was assembled with too much haste and not enough care. Over a dozen proofreading errors in the first 10 pages make a very jarring reading experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i read this book outloud on a four hour car trip with my brother, my mother and 12 year old daughter laughed so loudly that my brother who was driving shouted for her to be quiet so that he could hear the brother never read anything other than the newspaper or car magazines.from that day i have always loved that book 30 years later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In regard to regency romances, this one is my favorite ever.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like all of Georgette Heyers Regency romances. They are light and funny. I enjoy seeing how the people of that period lived and i think the cant speech is well done.. She paints quite a picture of that period with all her Regency books...
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hyddyr More than 1 year ago
If you like Georgette Heyer's take on Regency England and enjoy a smile over a bit of romance etc., then read this book:)
tsbourne More than 1 year ago
Possibly my favorite Georgette Heyer book yet! I really love her writing. Being a Jane Austen fan I was so excited to find this treasure trove of great reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago