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Simon the Coldheart by Georgette Heyer
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Simon the Coldheart (1925)

by Georgette Heyer

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Having read all but this and one other of Ms Heyer’s historical works set before the late 1700s, my hopes were not high for “Simon the Coldheart”. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find it a compelling read from start to finish.

I’ve few negative remarks to make, therefore I’ll get them out of the way first. As with most Heyer novels, certain scenes are repeated. In short, the reader witnesses events as they happen, only for these same events to be reworked later on via a dialogue exchange where one or more characters explains to another character(s) what’s happened.

I realise this is the author’s way of showing how the other main players in the story respond, yet this type of repetition would serve better with a short sentence, like, “He explained all that occurred when …” and follow this by showing the reaction from whomever is being informed.

The other negative point is one of my pet hates in fiction: the overuse of the word “then”. This lame tool of moving on to what happens next appears more times than I care to remember in this otherwise great work.

Apart from the above criticisms, I found this a great piece of entertainment. The opening drew me in immediately, the ending proved satisfactory and definitive, while everything in between was engaging for one reason or another.

Simon is no effeminate dandy, nor is he the lethargic snuff-taking know-it-all, but rather a fearless warrior with brains to match his brawn. He’s hard but fair, ruthless not reckless, cold but not cruel. Some may argue he’s too good to be true, and although at times he borders on the supernatural, I think the author has created one of her best male characters here.

She’s also created a great female character in the Lady Margaret, who in certain respects is similar in nature to Simon. She possesses brains and beauty, bravery, and consideration for others. She doesn’t appear till halfway through the book, at which point she becomes as vital to the story as Simon. Some of my favourite chapters feature Margaret in the limelight.

Fulk of Montlice is another great character. His scenes with Margaret are highly amusing.

As the book is divided into two halves, the first part being set in England during the 1390s and early 1400s, with the second part set in France in 1417, the reader meets the first two Lancastrian kings of England, Henry IV and his son Henry V. Neither monarch features as a principal character, but when they do appear the author does a great job of bringing them to life.

On the whole, the cast, including the incidental characters, are all brilliantly portrayed.

As for the plot, this essentially is based on what Simon wants from life, which to begin with is to serve Fulk of Montlice. Simon expects to go on to have his own lands but is determined to *earn* them and anything else of value. He’s not one for accepting charity or favours.

The second part of the book features Simon serving in a prominently role in Henry V’s army. But the plot branches out more from here, as there’s storylines for the secondary characters, including love matches, but mainly we see Margret’s determination to thwart Simon who, in serving his king, must conquer the lady’s land.

As mentioned, some chapters featuring Margret’s adventures are my favourite in the novel. Some had potential to be even better and it’s unfortunate that the author didn’t expand these instead of retelling certain scenes on several occasions. But what we have is still superb with never a dull moment.

A regal read. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Mar 13, 2016 |
Simon is the bastard son of a local lord. When he is 14, he walks miles to get to his father's rival, Fulk of Montlice, and offers him his service. Within a few short years, he is knighted by the king and then, after foiling a plot, given lands of his own. Through grim determination, he becomes one of the foremost men in fifteenth century England. But then he goes to war in France, and he meets his match--the beautiful and fearless Lady Margaret of Belremy. When two stubborn minds meet, who will gain supremacy? (Simon, of course--Margaret's just a lady! It's only a matter of time before she's weeping and fainting and stuttering with her overpowering lurrrrve.)

Simon is the manliest man who ever manned. Every single character thinks he is the awesomest dude who ever drew breath, and says so every time they're present. At first the ridiculousness of it annoyed me, but by the end I was able to put aside my expectations of how actual humans behave and just got into the story. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Published in 1925, Simon the Coldheart is one of a handful of early novels that Georgette Heyer sought to suppress during her lifetime, and one of her few medieval romances. It concerns the founding of the house of Beauvallet, also featured in the author's subsequent Elizabethan adventure of the same name, published in 1929.

It is the story of the indomitable Simon, bastard son of my Lord of Malvallet, who sets out to win his own place in the world, eventually gaining lands, title, and acclaim as a soldier. But it is only when he crosses swords with the warlike French countess, Lady Margaret of Belremy, that his cold heart is finally melted...

I vacillated between enjoyment and exasperation while reading this novel, which I would most likely never have picked up at all, were I not attempting to read Heyer's entire oeuvre. To be fair, I am no great fan of the genre, for although fascinated by medieval European history (the novel opens in the year 1400), I generally find works of historical fiction set during the period to be hopelessly anachronistic. That said, I did enjoy the first portion of Heyer's book, which concerns Simon's youth and coming of age, and the adventures which eventually made him my Lord of Beauvallet.

But when the narrative turned to romance, I soon perceived that tired old theme of "the strong woman who needs to be tamed," which irritates me no end. The middle section, in which Simon lays siege to Belremy, was full of lots of this "masterless wench needs to learn her place" kind of talk, and I was very close to surrendering the novel, unfinished. But I pushed through, and found the ending somewhat improved.

All in all, I am glad this was reprinted, and that I read it. If nothing else, it was a timely reminder that there is something in a strong woman and leader that makes men (and sometimes women) want to tear her down...

And of course, the completist in me would have been displeased if I had given up! :) ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 25, 2013 |
This is unusual territory for Georgette Heyer, set in the times of Henry IV, first published in 1925, and it seems she herself wasn't entriely satisfied with it. The dialogue reads artificially ancient, but the character of Simon is well-drawn and his wooing of Marguérite Belrémy delightful. ( )
  MissWatson | Feb 17, 2013 |
This was just lovely. Set at the turn of the 15th century, it tells the story of Simon of Beauvallet and how he goes from a simple squire to a fearsome lord and general, all the time maintaining his cold-hearted demeanour. That is until he lays seige to the town of Belremy in Normandy and the indomitable Lady Margaret. The story rattles along at a fair pace and all the characters are well-rounded and thought out. I enjoyed all Heyer's novels as a teenager and it looks like I'm set to get through them all again! ( )
  cathymoore | Nov 8, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099490943, Paperback)

Simon Beauvallet has always known his own mind, and friend and foe alike know never to cross the flaxen-haired mountain of a man whose exploits in battle have earned him knighthood, lands and gilded armour. After Agincourt, he has no equal save the king in generalship – until his legendary prowess is balked by a woman. In Normandy, the icy rage of Simon the Coldheart must melt – or quench Lady Margaret, spitfire of Belrémy.


From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:41 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Even as a boy, Simon Beauvallet knew his own mind. Later, friend and foe alike would know better than to cross the flaxen-haired mountain of a man whose exploits in battle earned him a knighthood, lands and gilded armour.

» see all 5 descriptions

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