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Review: Noble Satyr

Noble Satyr audiobook cover. A woman in a sea foam-green gown of early Georgian design and honey-coloured hair clutches a fan and leans against a chair in which sits a dark haired gentleman in a black and white frock coat and breeches.Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 10 hrs 46 mins.
Publisher: Sprigleaf Pty Ltd.
Bennet Sisters Scale: 🌹🌹 - Lydia. Though not a Regency romance, it is Georgian and I feel warrants inclusion. Filled with drama, intrigue, grandeur, and scandal, Noble Satyr is more intelligent and refined than many of its ilk, but only the youngest Bennet shares its fervour.

Noble Satyr: A Georgian Historical Romance, Roxton Family Book 0 by Lucinda Brant is the first book in a plush and engaging family saga.

Audible Summary: "1740s France and England - the age of hedonism and enlightenment. Renard, Duke of Roxton, is wealthy beyond measure. Arrogant and self assured, his heart remains his own. 

Optimistic and headstrong, Antonia Moran is determined to flee the Court of Versailles with the Duke's unwitting assistance. Roxton is an unlikely savior - arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia's unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.

A classic "Beauty and the Beast" tale, this award-winning historical romance is a homage to Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades.

©2011, 2013 Lucinda Brant (P)2015 Lucinda Brant."

This decadent prequel to the main Roxton family series was set in mid-18th Century France but it threw me for a moment when first referencing Richelieu. The name automatically called to mind the infamous - and far earlier - Cardinal, not his 2x-great-nephew, Louis Francois Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788). My grasp of French history is rather shoddy, so it did take me a little while to properly orient myself within the timeline. Once there, however, Brant kept me suitably bewitched by the extravagance and intrigue.

I am less familiar with everyday life upon the continent in the Georgian period than I am with the mundanities of London living in the era, but Brant brought the foreign landscape to life vividly. Early Georgian fashion is so much more lavish than the later Regency styles, and the multitude of layers and fabrics and buckles are used to enhance the sense of opulence throughout. My ignorance of French etiquette and grammar meant that many of the forms of address were less known to me, so I was able to relax my usual vigilance and trust in Brant's respect for historical accuracy, which made this book a joy to immerse oneself in.

The Duke of Roxton was the epitome of the aristocratic hero; arrogant, brooding, and aloof, and un-catchable by any Lady desirous of a husband. Watching his reserve thaw in the presence of Antonia's joie de vivre made for the perfect age-gap romance, with a splash of the 'beauty and the beast' trope thrown in for good measure. Though not instantly likeable, it is easy to see why Roxton is admired, for he has the confidence and command of one who is accustomed to getting what he wants, especially if what he wants is you.

Roxton's humour is quite dry and often a little acerbic, with his friend Lucian Vallentine frequently the butt of the Duke and Antonia's jokes. Good-natured Lucian takes it in his stride, however, even when Roxton curtly sighs: "Go to bed, Vallentine, your brain has passed the limits of its comprehension." (Don't we all have days like that?)

Loyal and rambunctious, Vallentine provides the perfect contrast to the calculating Duke in tone and manner. Estee's tempestuous Frenchness is equally juxtaposed against her brother's cool reserve, though in markedly different ways to those of the two gentlemen, with religion and culture taking the place of intellect and temperament to provide the points of contention. As unalike as they all are, they each share similarities with Antonia, and are united by their deep affection for the "young chit". She has the unabashed bluntness of the Madame, the Duke's quickness of mind, and Vallentine's openness, and a determination that exceeds them all.

Despite her tenacity, on occasion Antonia is drawn as being quite decidedly naive or immature, "skipping up" toward Vallentine, speaking without any awareness of her impropriety, and behaving rashly. This was sometimes at odds with her history, for having travelled with her father, benefited from a "boy's education", lived with her grandfather's mistress, and fended for herself at Versailles she would surely have had to mature quickly, and leave much of her childishness behind her. That is not to say that she wouldn't still be youthful and somewhat naive, but her short life could hardly be called sheltered or uneventful. Antonia would no longer have been a child in the eyes of the glittering Court, so I would have preferred for her to feel a little less achingly young. It is, however, a minor gripe - in every regard.

There was an action taken against an animal in the book that I wished had not been included, but thankfully it was not exploited in graphic detail and happened 'off-screen', so to speak. (If you're someone who won't watch a film without looking it up on Does The Dog Die? then forewarned is forearmed.)

This novel is not quite a 'sweet/clean' romance, but nor is it explicit, with the majority of the couple's intimacy taking place in the listener's imagination. This may frustrate those who consider a 'fade to black' to be something of a cop-out, but the passion between the lovers is still palpable and one does not feel cheated of a deeper connection.

That said, the widespread misuse of "making love" in historical romance is a pet hate of mine, as it is so very modern a euphemism (mid 20th Century!). It is slightly more excusable in this novel as the conversations we hear in English were so often meant to be occurring in French, from the characters' perspectives; seamlessly translated as if by Tardis or Babelfish. This awareness of language shifting and changing allowed for a little less rigidity in the expected grammar, and overall the linguistic style was sympathetic to the era but rendered rather more accessible to the modern ear.

Described as a homage to Heyer's famous novel, These Old Shades, Brant's book tells a compelling story of its own without feeling like it borrows too heavily from earlier influences.

The narrator, Alex Wyndham, had a wonderful voice and gave an excellent performance. This was my first of his historical romances and is already one of my favourites. The only thing better than finding a new-to-me narrator whose voice and performance I love, is discovering that they have recorded plenty of similar audiobooks that are waiting to get lost in.

Wyndham made Roxton instantly attractive, despite - or perhaps because of - the Duke's arrogant, supercilious nature. I would be very surprised if Wyndham does not make my list of favourite narrators come the end of the year. He was delightful to listen to and I almost forgot I was listening to a single narrator. He does not quite match Matt Addis' range in BTI, here, but then few do.

The well-written text and excellent narration united to make Noble Satyr one of the most entertaining and accomplished modern Regencies I've had the pleasure of listening to. As this was my first book by Lucinda Brant I am very much looking forward to exploring her others, especially given how many are collaborations with Alex Wyndham. They make a marvellous team.

I would recommend this book to those who are seeking a historical romance series with shades of Heyer, or those who have enjoyed reading the Roxton books and now wish to hear them come alive in a new way under Wyndham's deft craftsmanship.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

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