This is one of my favorite Heyer stories. I've lost count of how many times I've re-read it.
The characters seem so real you feel you know them personally, and the dialog is, as usual, delicious!
I loved this historical/romantic/suspense story! The secondary characters are well fleshed out and interesting in their own right.
This book is not only original and entertaining, but just plain fun!
Ms Heyer has a gift for characters and dialog that is nothing short of genius!
The book was up to Ms. Heyer's usual excellent standards, but was not in the style that I enjoy for her books. The story was set in a rural part of England, with a less educated, less socially-oriented class of people. I prefer her upper class, socially trained characters.
However, the book was very definitely up to her usual quality.
Georgette Heyer is noted as a writer of Regency romances (she established the genre) and of murder mysteries. In this book she integrates the two into a seamless whole, producing an mystery that is inseparable from a romance (and which is set during the Regency). This sounds an unlikely juxtaposition, but Heyer pulls it off without a jarring note.
Captain John Staple, at a loose end now that the war against Napoleon is over, stumbles across an anomaly: an unattended tollgate. He takes shelter for the night, and in the morning finds a reason to stay in the area: Miss Stornaway. The two turn out connected, which is not to the Captain's liking, and he finds it necessary to disentangle them before he can let justice take its course.
Re-reading her books. Great characters.
This was such a great book! It's become my new favorite Heyer. I guess I never sought out "The Toll-Gate" before, because the reviews led me to believe it was more of a mystery than a romance, and I expected the mystery to be the "cozy" variety. Instead, there is a lot of action, giving the hero an opportunity to show his mettle. It involves a missing person, robbery, and murder, and is pretty interesting. But there is in fact a delightful romance in the center of the book. The main characters spend quality time together and it doesn't take them until the very end of the book to realize they are love.
The hero, Captain John Staple, is a big, dependable ex-military man who knows his own mind. Readers of "The Unknown Ajax" will be familiar with this variety of Heyer hero. The heroine, Miss Nell Stornaway, has been running her grandfather's estate. She is intelligent, capable and mature. That is, not a foolish flibbertigibbet barely out of her teens who gets herself into trouble to drive the plot forward. The book also emphasizes that she is a tall and strong woman, not a frail little flower, and so is a good match for the hero. I love a story where the conflicts are external, and the hero and heroine are honest and straightforward with each other from the start. And I also love a story where the hero is smitten with the heroine from the start.
The dialogue between the characters is one of the chief delights of the book. In fact there is dialogue on almost every page, and very little narration.
Because the hero spends so much of his time trying to solve the mystery, this book has a lot more adventure than a book that uses London high society as a setting. The stakes are a lot higher than who gets to dance with who at Almacks. It all takes place in an isolated spot in the countryside, and there is a small but vivid cast of characters, including a few of the heroine's servants, her grandfather, a highwayman, an orphaned boy, and a couple of villains. Heyer disposes of those villains in a very cold-blooded way which I couldn't help but enjoy.
Every one of the characters is perfectly drawn. In short, 5 stars. I don't see how this book could be improved on. If you love traditional Regencies, grab it!