Richard Armitage reads Georgette Heyer's novel Sylvester in an abridged audiobook released by Naxos Audiobooks in July 2009.
One of Heyer's popular Regency romances, it tells the story of the wealthy Sylvester, Duke of Salford, who is looking for a wife and has very particular requirements. Phoebe Marlow is suggested as a possible bride, but when he goes to see her he finds her dull and insipid, and she finds him arrogant and insufferable. In fact, having met him briefly the year before, she modelled the villain of her gothic novel on him.
When she fears she may be made to marry him, she runs away. But fate throws them together again, and they begin to understand each other better. Then, however, Phoebe's novel is published and soon all of fashionable London will recognise Sylvester as the villainous 'Count Ugolino'...
A tightly-plotted and witty comedy of manners, Sylvester offers an engaging hero and heroine, and a cast of well-realised supporting characters. It was first published in 1957, and has remained popular ever since.
The audiobook sold so well that some suppliers ran out of stock for a while. In an article on the Naxos Audiobooks website, the producer of the recording, Roy McMillan, said "Armitage is very nice... and was patient and dedicated. I felt he underplayed it rather nicely... treated it with respect... and had some good voices for the elderly ladies and the fop."
Sylvester's author, Georgette Heyer (1902-1974), was a hugely successful British writer of historical novels, in particular Regency romances, a genre that she more or less invented. But she also published many thrillers, as well as several collections of short stories. An intensely private person, she gave no interviews and did no publicity for her novels, but they nonetheless became best-sellers for several decades.
She published her first novel, The Black Moth, in 1921 when she was only 19 years old. It was an immediate success. Several other historical novels followed, but it was Regency Buck, published in 1935 and set in Regency England, that started the series of novels for which she became most famous.
The Regency (of the later George IV) lasted from 1811 to 1820, although several of Heyer’s novels are set in earlier years. The Regency was the time in which Jane Austen was writing, but unlike Austen’s stories of upper-middle class families, Heyer’s novels mostly concerned the upper classes. Her vast knowledge of the details of Regency life and speech was legendary. Some critics complained that the novels were sometimes overloaded with such details, but Heyer felt they were necessary in order to explain the world in which her characters moved, a world unfamiliar to her 20th century readers.
Although attracting little critical attention at the time, her novels were extremely popular, usually selling hundreds of thousands of copies each. By the time of her death, around fifty of her books were still in print. Translated into several languages and sold in countries across the world, her novels are still much-loved today and their fans include Margaret Drabble, AS Byatt and Stephen Fry.
The audiobook of Sylvester can be ordered at Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Canada, Amazon USA and The Book Depository. It's also available, both on CD and as an MP3 download, from the Naxos website.
Wikipedia entry for Georgette Heyer
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