The Laughing Cavalier

The Laughing Cavalier - Emmuska Orczy

The New Year is only two hours or so old in my time zone, and my first post of 2016 is about the last book I read in 2015. Quite unintentionally, I went from one book named after a painting (The Goldfinch) to another. This is Frans Hals' The Laughing Cavalier, painted circa 1624:



This, Orczy would have us believe, is the epitome of manliness. The very definition of handsome. It is the face of our hero, Diogenes, ancestor of Sir Percy Blakeney. (I guess he's not terrible looking, but it's not at all what I pictured before looking up the painting. If you ask me, it looks like his mustache is well on its way toward poking out his eyes.)


Defenseless paintings involuntarily conscripted into fictitious works aside, this was an enjoyable read. I fell in love with The Scarlet Pimpernel when I saw the made-for-TV movie with Jane Seymour. When I realized it was based on books, I was overjoyed. I've read a handful of Pimpernel books over the years, in no particular order other than which titles were available at the library at the time, and when I first got a Kindle I gleefully bought a collection of Orczy's works with the intention to read all the Pimpernel stories in chronological order. Seven or so years later, I finally got started on that goal.


Orczy's works prove that a lot of the tropes we roll our eyes at today are--alas!--timeless. Our hero, of course, is the manliest of men, handsome as the devil and a bit of a bad boy. The fair damsel is, of course, an angel on earth, fairest of the fair, strong in her convictions but still weak and fainting and in need of rescue. There's insta-love, romanticized Stockholm Syndrome, heartless villains, amazing feats of strength and daring-do, and so on and so forth. It is unadulterated romantic adventure cheese, and I do like a bit of cheese, especially of the well-aged variety.


On a related note, that collection I bought all those years ago was by MobileReference, and it's kind of terrible. This is the first time I've had a good look at it. The formatting is less than stellar, the text is full of typos that look like the result of a bad scan, and in this particular book an entire chapter was missing. I finally abandoned it in favor of a .mobi file from Project Gutenberg, but I'll have to go back to it for the books PG doesn't have. I'm a little apprehensive about that and may be hitting up the local library instead.