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The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer

The Toll-Gate (1954)

by Georgette Heyer

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John Staple, a captain in the Dragoon Guards, is recently discharged after the Battle of Waterloo. He faces a boring civilian life and restlessly travels until he discovers a mystery at a remote toll gate. The story is amusing and rollicking with enough chicanery to be entertaining. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Sep 24, 2017 |
This Regency romance by Georgette Heyer employs a great deal of “flash-patter” slang, which apparently actually originated in Derbyshire, a county in the East Midlands of England and the setting for this novel. [There is an interesting history of how flash patter arose in An Analytic Dictionary of the English Etymology: An Introduction by Anatoly Liberman.] Heyer provides no glossary for this slang, but it’s easy enough to get the gist of the dialogue. I also remembered some from the books by Lyndsay Faye set in 19th Century New York, where flash patter was the street argot of the era, especially because Faye did include a glossary with her books.

This story is also unusual in that the focus is on the hero rather than the heroine. Twenty-nine-year-old Captain John (called Jack) Staple is tall, handsome, genial, and honorable. He was a Captain in the Dragoon Guards, but now is mustered out and is at loose ends, and loathe to be bored by the strictures of formal society. He is also bored by women who have no spirit and no interests broader than advancing in society, and so he has remained unmarried. But that is all about to change.

Jack, riding off to visit his best friend, gets a bit lost, and ends up staying at a toll-gate house manned only by ten-year-old Ben Brean, acting for his father, who has gone missing. Ben is scared, and Jack agrees to stay and help out, as much for a lark as anything. But before long he is called to take a toll from 26-year-old local Nell Stornaway, clearly as independent as possible for a woman to be at that time, and with no care for propriety. They are both tall, but Jack is taller. It’s love at first sight.

So Jack decides to stay longer, and soon gets embroiled in “an excellent adventure” related to the disappearance of Ben’s father, that is not, however, without mortal peril for Jack. There are some fun side plots involving the humorous character of Jeremy Chirk, who is a highway robber but a good man, and who is in love with Nell’s former nursemaid Rose. There is also the delightful character of Nell’s grandfather, and the rather less savory characters of Nell's cousin Henry and his friend Coates. But they are all entertaining, each in his own way.

Jack devises a way to fix everything aright - that is, unless he is killed.

Evaluation: This book, like others I have read by Heyer, is very fun, and reminiscent of the “screwball comedy/romances” of old movies. My only quibble with this book is that Jack’s declaration of love for Nell was so swift I thought he was having another of his larks. Besides being heralded as the true source of "Regency Romances", Heyer should definitely receive notice for making "InstaLove" a plot feature as well. ( )
  nbmars | May 22, 2017 |
Found this to be quite serious for a Heyer novel. I missed the type of humour that one normally expects to find. The plot itself was fine but needed more sparkle. ( )
  PhilSyphe | May 31, 2016 |
John "Crazy Jack" Staple is rich, well-bred and, since the end of the Napoleonic wars, bored. A chance meeting at a toll-gate with the beautiful granddaughter of the local squire leads Jack to stay in a small village. While he woos Nell, he notices a number of unlikely coincidences...and eventually figures out a deadly local plot. Although I liked both Nell and Jack, and thought them well-matched, Nell basically disappears after the first third of the novel. The rest of it is Jack's adventures with the local criminals, which are particularly annoying due to the heavy dose of "theives' cant" they provide. Heyer's novels would have been greatly improved if at least half the Regency slang was removed. This is a better Heyer romance than many, but not the best. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
One of Heyer's earlier historical novels - rather too much action for my tastes, and a huge number of dull and irrelevant people in the first chapter.

Nonetheless, the main character, Captain Jack Staple, is an excellent creation: large, adventurous, loyal and impulsive. He befriends a scared child looking after a toll-gate and lands himself in considerable danger in a very exciting climax.
( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hill, DanielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The sixth Earl of Saltash glanced round the immense dining-table, and was conscious of a glow of satisfaction.
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Book description
”How can I know that you are to be trusted? I never set eyes on you until yesterday!”

Captain John Staple had enjoyed active service too much ever to settle for a life of humdrum respectability. The post of gate-keeper to a toll-house in the Pennines appeared to offer certain unexpected and agreeable diversions.

This exciting witty novel tells how the handsome dragoon becomes involved with an engaging highwayman, a taciturn Bow Street runner and a stolen hoard of gold coins whilst protecting the squire’s attractive niece from black villainy.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099476363, Paperback)

Captain John Staple’s exploits in the Peninsula had earned him the sobriquet Crazy Jack among his fellow Dragoons. Now home from Waterloo, life is rather dull. But when he finds himself lost and benighted at an unmanned toll-house in the Pennines, his soldiering exploits pale away besides an adventure — and romance — of a lifetime.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:42 -0400)

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Captain Staple's exploits in the Peninsula had earned him the sobriquet Crazy Jack amongst his fellows in the Dragoon Guards. Now home from Waterloo, life in peacetime is rather dull for the adventure-loving Captain.

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