As with the other Emmuska Orczy Scarlet Pimpernel books I’ve read thus far, Lord Tony’s Wife did not disappoint me in its entertainment value. This is a novel placed during the French Revolution and decidedly pro-aristocracy, but political leanings aside this novel—along with the others of its genre—is good, hyperdramatic, swashbuckling fun. And because of this, it's also extremely fun to summarize, hence the "sweded" drama below.
In this installment, one of our hero the Scarlet Pimpernel’s sidekicks, Sir Tony, takes center stage with his love, Yvonne. But, as with almost all Pimpernel novels, the cunning, daring, proto-Batman legend plays a pivotal role. Also back for more punishment is the Pimpernel’s sworn enemy is the dogged Chauvelin. As their cat-and-mouse game continues, poor Tony and (not really a spoiler alert) his wife end up as pawns while Chauvelin once again tries to trap his nemesis.
Our story begins with Pierre Adet, fiery revolutionary and son of the decent local miller, stirring up a mob to go after the local aristocrat, le duc de Kernogan. Just as the reader begins to hear the “Kill the Beast” song from Beauty and the Beast, along comes a carriage, driven by faithful servant Jean-Marie, and conveniently carrying the duc’s only child, the beautiful and headstrong Yvonne:
YVONNE: Jean-Marie! Why have we stopped here?
JEAN-MARIE: Because I just got a tipoff that there’s a mob at the crossroads.
JEAN-MARIE: They have scythes and spades and axes.
YVONNE: What’s your point?
JEAN-MARIE: I think we should send a scout to see what’s going on.
YVONNE: So what you’re saying is you’re afraid of a few murderous bloodthirsty revolutionaries.
YVONNE: Jean-Marie, that’s silly! I’m the proud and fearless daughter of the local aristocrat, and therefore have nothing to fear from such aristocrat-hating scum. Take me home, Jeeves!
JEAN-MARIE: But my lady…
YVONNE: If you don’t take me home you are disobeying my orders and therefore should just go join those rebels! Also I will fire you.
JEAN-MARIE: Fine. But don’t get mad when…
PIERRE: Oh ho ho, what do we have here?
JEAN-MARIE: Nothing. Just me and some random anonymous non-aristocrat person taking an evening cruise suspiciously in the direction of the de Kernogan estate.
MOB: It’s totally de Kernogan’s carriage! Let’s see who’s inside!
YVONNE: Hum, I’m starting to think that maybe my cowardly servant was right.
MOB: It’s de Kernogan’s daughter! Let’s throw her into the mud like her kind has done to our people all this time!
YVONNE: Yeahhhh definitely starting to regret my pride and fearlessness.
PIERRE *breaking into the carriage* I’ve got you, my pretty!
YVONNE: EEEK YOU’RE LIKE THE DEVIL HIMSELF *faints*
JEAN-MARIE: I’m getting outta here! *drives away* Hum that wasn’t as hard as I thought. I wonder why I didn’t just drive full speed through the mob to begin with? Oh well, I’m sure this little incident will have no long-lasting consequences….
DE KERNOGAN: What do you mean, my daughter was assaulted by that Pierre Adet? Where is he? I’ll teach him to react as if I’m a cruel and merciless master! He will die!
JEAN-MARIE: They can’t find him, milord. He’s gone into hiding.
DE KERNOGAN: Why’d he do such a cowardly thing as that? Now I have to kill his dad in vengeance.
JEAN ADET: But I tried to get him to stop his revolutionary ways! I’m the only decent guy in Nantes aside from Jean-Marie!
DE KERNOGAN: Sorry Adet, but we here in Nantes have a One Jean Limit.
JEAN-MARIE: Thanks, milord…
DE KERNOGAN: Shut up. Alright, as your local aristocrat and completely coincidentally your justice of the peace, I hereby find Jean Adet guilty of treason and sentence him to be hanged. I highly doubt his violent and emotionally unstable son will try to take vengeance in any way…
PIERRE: I, Pierre Adet, have spent the better part of four years on the run, slowly building up a fortune and creating a Count of Monte Cristo persona in order to enact an overly complicated scheme of vengeance!
CHAUVELIN: You probably shouldn’t talk so loud now that we’ve made it to England. The Scarlet Pimpernel has eyes and ears everywhere…
PIERRE: Shut up Chauvelin everyone knows you don’t know what you’re doing.
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL: Secretly I am under this table at the inn where these suspicious French immigrants are staying.
CHAUVELIN: Sh! Did you hear something?
PIERRE: Only you being paranoid.
CHAUVELIN: I’m telling you, Adet….
PIERRE: Don’t call me that! My name is Martin-Roget!
CHAUVELIN: Annnd now the Scarlet Pimpernel now knows your alias.
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: If you’re so intent on getting this thorn in the Republic’s side, why don’t you reveal his identity? I’m assuming you know it.
CHAUVELIN: I do. But I’m not going to tell you.
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: I don’t think you really know it.
CHAUVELIN: I do!
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: You don’t.
CHAUVELIN: I totally do. But you are just some one-dimensional mustache-twirling villain and not worthy of knowing the name of my nemesis. Only I am allowed to go after him and catch him, and then you’ll be sorry!
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: All this talk of the mythical Scarlet Pimpernel is distracting me from my schemes of revenge! Allow me to tell you in detail my entire plot!”
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL: Yesss do tell.
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: I thought you’d never ask.
CHAUVELIN: Um I didn’t say anything.
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: So I have cultivated a Count of Monte Cristo alias, Martin-Roget, and become rich and powerful and well-liked…
CHAUVELIN: Well-liked? Really?
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: Well, at least rich and powerful. Now I have followed my prey, de Kernogan and his daughter, to their refuge in England, where I will gain their trust, marry Yvonne, get them to go on this boat with me, take them back to Nantes, reveal my true identity, and just when they’re super embarrassed that these high and mighty aristos have accidentally married a low-born miller’s son, I’ll have them drowned in the river! Isn’t it brilliant?
CHAUVELIN: Sure, if this Yvonne isn’t already married…
DE KERNOGAN: My daughter I think you should marry this strapping young Martin-Roget fellow, because not only is he rich but he is also French, which is more than I can say about these Englishmen.
YVONNE: Actually dad I was thinking that Martin-Roget gives me the creeps and I’d much rather marry this rich English lord, Anthony Dewhurst.
MARGUERITE BLAKENEY: Here Yvonne I’ll help you elope.
YVONNE: Thanks. How did you ever get so good at this sneaking around stuff?
MARGUERITE: What are you saying? Are you saying my husband Sir Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel? And that I’ve gotten so good at keeping his secret from the world that I easily manage to outsmart overbearing tyrannical fathers? Is that what you’re saying?
MARGUERITE: Good, because it’s sooo not true. Oh look, here’s your true love!
YVONNE: Lord Tony!
LORD TONY: …..
YVONNE: Yes, I’ll marry you!
LORD TONY: Mademoiselle Yvonne…
YVONNE: And yes, we’ll run off together!
LORD TONY: ….
YVONNE: I know you’d much rather be above-board with my dad, but he’s impossible. He wans me to marry this Martin guy who reminds me vaguely of someone I don’t like.
LORD TONY: I…
YVONNE: So while he’s busy playing cards with the Prince of Wales and Sir Percy, let’s go! *runs away*
LORD TONY: …love you.
MARGUERITE: Not really the sharpest sword in this swashbuckler, are you Tony? But at least you are extremely rich, handsome, and pure-hearted beyond all reason. With such assets at your disposal, nothing can go wrong!...
DE KERNOGAN: EVERYTHING HAS GONE WRONG!
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: What are you ranting about, aristocrat scum—er, I mean, future father-in-law?
DE KERNOGAN: That’s just it! I can’t be your future father-in-law. My daughter’s gone and married some English doofus. Look! I throw the words literally in your face!
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: Ow.
DE KERNOGAN: Don’t be so sensitive. It was a paper letter, not the Rosetta Stone. Which, by the way, is another thing that the English stole from the French! ARGH!
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: Didn’t the French steal it from the Egyptians?
DE KERNOGAN: Don’t be unpatriotic, Martin-Roget. Can’t you see our plan to have you marry my daughter is ruined?
MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: Not so. I don’t recognize these English marriages as legal. Only French marriages are valid, and even then tend to be ignored. Besides, elopements can be annulled. I’ll still marry your daughter, mwahahahaha!
DE KERNOGAN: Huh? Why the evil laugh?MARTIN-ROGET WHO IS REALLY PIERRE: No particular reason. Now, we just need to plan how to get your stupid daugh—I mean, the love of my life away from that British interloper….
To Be Continued....