Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Regency chicken soup…

😀 😀 😀 😀

When Lord Spenborough dies in middle-age, he leaves a youngish daughter and an even younger second wife. Lady Serena, the daughter, is desperate not to have to live with her aunt, and Fanny, the young widow, is equally reluctant to return to the home of her parents. So they decide to live together, with Fanny as an unlikely chaperone for her headstrong step-daughter. Lord Spenborough has left an unwelcome surprise for Serena in his will, though. He has named as her guardian Ivo Barrasford, Marquis of Rotherham – his old friend and Serena’s former fiancé, the man she jilted just before their wedding. Under the terms of the will Ivo must give his consent if Serena decides to marry…

Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances have long been my literary equivalent of chicken soup, something to turn to when comfort reading is in order. It’s been a long time since I last read this one, and I had unfortunately forgotten that it’s not one of my favourites, though still entertaining. Both Serena and Ivo are bad-tempered, volatile and domineering characters whose behaviour towards the people around them often crosses the line towards outright bullying. It’s a kind of take on The Taming of the Shrew – not one of my favourite plays, either – although in this case, happily, each is both tamer and shrew.

Book 43 of 90

Fortunately there are lots of secondary characters who are much more fun to be around. Fanny was fond of her much older husband, but it’s quite clear she was pressured into marrying him by her parents’ ambition for wealth and a title, while he married her primarily in the hope of getting a son and heir. This hope was unrealised, so that now the entailed property has gone to Serena’s cousin, and the two ladies are living in the Dower House. Bored, partly by the reduction in their circumstances and partly by the tight restrictions on entertaining while in mourning, they soon decide to take themselves off to the delights of Bath, ostensibly so that Fanny can take the waters for her health. There they meet Hector, an old flame of Serena’s, and soon the spark is rekindled. Hector’s lovely – handsome, kind, generous and in every respect so much nicer than Ivo – and he quickly becomes the alternative hero of the book.

There’s also Mrs Floore, the grandmother of an acquaintance of the ladies. Mrs Floore’s wealth came from trade and two deceased husbands, and she makes no pretence of being a fine lady. Her daughter, however, married into the minor aristocracy and has ambitions to shove her own daughter, Emily, further up the aristocratic tree.

Georgette Heyer

All the young people, in the usual way, will first fall in love with entirely unsuitable partners, then have to find some way of escaping from this tangle to finish at last with their true loves. There’s nothing very original about the plot, and it’s fairly obvious from early on who should and will end up with whom, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a lot of fun. Heyer always writes well, and the tone is light and full of humour. She concentrates entirely on the rich and privileged so there’s no depressing realism to lower the spirit. And in the tradition of romances, it all ends when everyone becomes engaged to the right partner, so only those of us who have a tendency to over-analyse everything have to worry about the probable unfortunate offspring of some of the more fiery matches!

Being written back in the mid-’50s, it certainly doesn’t count as a feminist tract – the men are the masters and/or protectors of the women, so if that would annoy you, you should avoid at all costs. Personally, I suspect all the women turn into feminists after the weddings and the husbands are probably all hen-pecked into submission by the end of the first year. Except Hector, because he’s lovely… 😉

Frothy, light-hearted fun – perfect for keeping the blues at bay!

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34 thoughts on “Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

  1. I know what you mean about those secondary characters, FictionFan. Sometimes they make all the difference in the world, don’t they? And Heyer’s work does have some very appealing wit in it – even when the main characters aren’t nice people. I think it’s her wit that I like the most about her work – that and the way she shows us our human foibles. Glad you found things to like about this, even if it wasn’t your top Heyer read.

    • Yes, it was a pity I chose this one for the Classics Club because generally I love her books – I’d forgotten that Ivo and Serena weren’t my favourite Heyer couple. But I do like that she always has a wide supporting cast too – it makes the books more fun and gives her a chance to have all different kinds of characters, which she’s very good at. And although they’re just light fun, I always feel she’s researched the period thoroughly and is giving a pretty accurate picture of life for the leisured classes at the time… 😀

  2. That is a great description of these novels, FF. I think of them that way too. Some of Heyer’s books have not been favorites. I haven’t read this, but The Taming of the Shrew inspiration puts me off. That wasn’t one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s either.

    • Yes, I definitely like some of them much more than others, and it really all depends on whether I like the hero and heroine or not. Unfortunately I didn’t like Ivo and Serena at all – they treated other people quite badly as well as fighting with each other all the time, so it wasn’t quite as cosy as I like her to be. But Hector was nice… 😉

  3. I didn’t like this book the first time I read it – a bit too much Taming of the Shrew as you said. It reads better on a reread where I ignored Serena and Ivo pretty much, and just focused on the rest of the characters and plotlines.

    • Yes, I did like the Hector and Fanny storyline, and quickly decided to treat them as if they were the real hero and heroine, and that made it better. Serena and Ivo deserved each other, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for their eventual children… 😉

    • She is fab for a bit of comfort-reading – not too sweetly romantic and not too twee, but you always know that all will be well in the end. And lots of humour, some more than others. I highly recommend Cotillion, which I think is her best and so much fun… 😀

    • Yes, I didn’t mind so much them squabbling with each other, but both of them were so horrible to the people around them that I couldn’t like them. I did like Hector and Fanny though, so in my mind I promoted them to the roles of hero and heroine…

  4. I have not read any of Heyer’s books…yet. I’ve seen others praise her works and I thought, how is this another author I’ve missed too. Do you have a favorite by Heyer you recommend?

    • I find them great for times when I’m stressed or have a cold or something that makes it hard to concentrate on a serious book. They’re usually just feel-good romances, but very well written and with lots of humour. My absolute favourite is Cotillion – I can’t even begin to guess how often I’ve read it. Great fun! 😀

    • I read my way through loads of them back in my twenties and still pull one out any time I’m feeling stressed or have a cold or something that makes concentration feel like hard work. It was a pity I had forgotten this wasn’t one of my favourites, but she’s well worth re-reading… 😀

    • Thank you! 😀 I find her perfect for those times when I’m stressed or have a cold or something that makes it hard to concentrate on a serious book. Ultimate feel-good, but with enough humour to stop them from being too sweet.

  5. Romance is not a genre I read often and I’ve never read anything by this author (though the name is certainly familiar). It does sound like it could be entertaining. 🙂

    • I almost never read romance, but there’s something about Heyer that makes her feel different – I think because they feel well researched and are usually full of humour. Plus her heroes and heroines aren’t always the traditional hunks – I like them better in fact when they’re not. Go on… you know you want to… 😉 I recommend Cotillion…

  6. Aww, I had no idea you’d read a regency romance. I have not read one, and I know Heyer is one of the best for this subgenre. Lovely review, FF! I want to know if you have a favorite from her too!

    • Haha – I know! I never read romance really, but somehow Heyer gets under my guard. I think it’s because they’re so full of humour and just ultimate feel-good stuff. They’re like Austen with all the serious bits stripped out! Cotillion is my absolute favourite – you’d love it! (7001!) It’s very funny and the hero and heroine are both adorable… 😀

  7. I definitely initially read that title as to do with washing up, not the place. But. I love the idea of literary chicken soup – sometimes that’s necessary!

    • Hahaha! Someone should write that version! Yes, there are times when I want to read but don’t want to have to engage my brain and these are perfect for that – pure escapism.

    • Haha – yes, there are times when realism just isn’t required! For me, these Heyer Regency romances are the ultimate comfort reading – they’re not great literature but they are great fun! Try Cotillion… 😉

  8. Heyer’s novels are my literary equivalent of chicken soup too, FictionFan! Bath Tangle isn’t one of my favorites either, but like you say, it was still the perfect amount of frothy fun. I haven’t read any Heyer this year, so I’ll have to fix that ASAP.

    • Oh, yes! I haven’t read many of the books but I’ve often binge-watched the shows if I’ve been tired or had a cold or something – perfect chicken soup!

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