1740s France and England. Abandoned to fend for herself at the court of Versailles, Antonia turns to her distant cousin, the all-powerful Duke of Roxton, to help her escape the attentions of a lecherous nobleman. Roxton is an unlikely savior-arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia’s unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.
Publisher and Release Date: Sprigfield Pty Ltd., November 2015
Place and time: France of Louis XV and England of George II
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Wendy
Noble Satyr the first in the Roxton Family Saga, is a simply superb, classy, character-driven story which ably sets the stage for the subsequent books, Midnight Marriage, Autumn Duchess and Dair Devil.
The love story between the unashamedly dissolute Renard Hesham, 5th Duke of Roxton, and the very young, but determined Antonia Moran, would seem, on the face of it, to be unlikely. Renard believes (for despite his morals, he does have his own code of honour) that the eighteen year-old, innocent beauty is not for the likes of him, and yet somehow, as the story progresses, the listener is left in no doubt that they are, in fact perfect for each other, and the slowly developing sensual and tasteful love story between them is breathtaking.
Antonia has been cast adrift. She is an orphan and under the guardianship of her absent, dying grandfather who is coerced into betrothing her to the Viscomte d’Ambert, the excitable and erratic son of Roxton’s cousin. The predatory Comte de Salvan has his own devious and lecherous reasons for wanting the marriage, wanting to bed Antonia as well as to secure her large fortune. Antonia begs the Duke to rescue and protect her from this alliance, claiming her distant relationship with him and reminding him of her late father’s wish that he take care of her. Antonia thinks herself very clever in forcing Roxton into saving her from Salvan’s clutches, when in fact he is a man who cannot be forced into anything by anyone unless he wants it. He is enchanted by her innocence and intelligence, finding her to be a breath of fresh air in the grossly licentious and corrupt court of Louis XV.
The content of all Lucinda Brant’s stories is very different, but she always takes so much time and effort to set her glittering stage; charming and exotic but with fascinating glimpses into the excesses and curiously fascinating, hedonistic times of the Georgian era. Her depictions are so carefully researched and described by her that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the outrageously primped, powdered and perfumed Comte de Salvan suddenly appear and totter towards me in his outrageous high heels. On the other hand, Ms. Brant’s description of Roxton’s unpowered, long, dark, plaited hair is the exact antithesis of the preening males of the court. He does not conform as do the other overdressed peacocks, preferring his own understated style. Sensuality is very high on the agenda, yet Ms. Brant manages to convey this without going into endless prose; one scene in particular, which I will not reveal, but I guarantee will leave the listener tingling, is one where we are left feeling as though we have witnessed something rather special though in fact the door is very firmly shut in our faces.
Once again, the delectable Alex Wyndham gives a fantastic performance. His portrayal of Roxton epitomises the handsome, charismatic though slightly bored aristocrat, his tone perfectly conveying dissolution and ennui, while also hinting at the kindness and the love he eventually cannot hide. As the story progresses and Roxton begins to allow his reluctant attraction to Antonia, the modulation of the narrator’s voice changes subtly so that, with just a slight alteration in tone, we can hear that Roxton is succumbing, his reservations crumbling.
Antonia is exquisitely portrayed. Mr Wyndham highlights her rather unconventional take on life, playing her exactly as written – intelligent and precocious but playful and quite obviously virginal although certainly not boring. With her sweetly pronounced French accent, it’s no wonder Roxton is captivated, even against his better judgement, and all this comes over distinctly and clearly in Ms. Brant’s addictive storytelling and in Mr. Wyndham’s intuitive interpretation of her words. Lord Vallentine, Roxton’s long time friend, a kindly, warm character is perfectly characterised as a rather stolid but honourable nobleman, sometimes flustered and blustering but nevertheless pleased to be the butt of Antonia’s persistent teasing. Salvan’s voice is oily and slimy – in my mind’s eye I see a caricature of a ludicrously overdressed little man with greedy, licentious eyes – I can almost hear Salvan smacking his lips! So talented and expert is Alex Wyndham at his craft, that it is hard to believe he is single-handedly performing such a large group of fascinating characters.
The entire Roxton Saga is just sublime, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. All the titles CAN be listened to as standalones, but when they are all so very good – especially with the added benefit of Alex Wyndham’s superb narration – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stop at just one.
Breakdown of Grade: 5 stars for content, 5 stars for narration.