Georgette Heyer was still a doe-eyed teenager when she wrote her first novel, entitled The Black Moth. It features England in the midst of the eighteenth century, where the earl has just died, and his son, Jack Carstares, who had been disgraced years prior, was still oblivious to his father’s death and must be informed about this startling news.
Jack has since tried to pick up the pieces of his now shattered life and taking on a commoner’s job to make ends meet, while his brother Richard is wallowing in sadness at his brother’s absence, not to mention having to bear the constant threat of infidelity from his new wife. At the heart of every good story is a villain, and this novel which was written nearly a century ago is no exception, featuring the mysterious Duke of Andover, who is in fact a scheming villain hell-bent on getting his hands on the beautiful maiden named Diana Beauleigh, and Jack has taken it upon himself to halt the advances of the Duke.
While it is a remarkable achievement to have written a full-length novel when one is merely in the age where they should still be battling their hormones, it does, however, have its cons, some of which are shown in Heyer’s debut novel The Black Moth. While it features some of the stock characters which will become more prominent in the later novels of Heyer, its protagonists are still somewhat one-dimensional and unrelatable, with the latter probably stemming from the fact that the novel is set in a time-period that happened so long ago and somewhat exacerbated by Heyer’s writing, which may have been too loyal to the time period that made it alien to modern readers. In a way, the authenticity of the setting worked against the book especially when made to read by some of the younger audiences.
However, despite its flaws, The Black Moth still offers an insight on the workings of Heyer’s mind when she was still a teenager and it is interesting to follow how her mind developed from being a mere teen to a novelist who wrote not only in the field of romance but also dabbled in mystery as well as his history. The Black Moth may not be her best novel, but it offers readers a rare peek at her brain when she was younger and had a different perception of the world, something that could not be said for other authors who only started writing later in their lives.