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.

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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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The Blessing by Nancy Mitford

the blessingHmm…

🙂 😐

As WW2 is beginning, Grace receives a visit from Charles-Edouard, an aristocratic French friend of her fiancé, Hugh. Within a month, poor Hugh has been dumped, Charles-Edouard and Grace have married and C-E has gone off to war. Finding herself pregnant, Grace goes off to live in her father’s country house, and waits seven long years for C-E to return. When he does, he promptly whisks Grace and the child, Sigi, off to France, where he divides his time between his wife and his mistresses. Eventually Grace leaves him, and the big question is will they get back together? Sigi is enjoying having two parents vying to spoil him most, so he sets out to do everything he can to keep them apart…

Pretending to be a satire, it’s actually a nice little fluffy romance of the type where the man is a worthless, faithless leftover from a dying breed, and the woman is a bucolic, intellectually-challenged leftover from another dying breed. Hmm… I’m struggling to think of anything to say about it, really. Not my kind of thing, as it turns out. The “insights” into French society feel about as realistic as Wodehouse’s England, but unfortunately the book lacks either the humour or good-natured charm of his work. I think it’s supposed to be funny though…

I skipped the last 40 pages because, you know, who cares if they get back together?

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I reckon we all need cheering up after that, so here’s a much more interesting man from a breed that shows little sign of dying out…

 

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Roses are red…

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

cotillionWhen curmudgeonly old miser Matthew Penicuik suffers a particularly bad episode of gout, he thinks it’s time to decide who will inherit his considerable fortune once he’s gone. Not that any of his relatives believe him to be in any danger, hypochondria being another of his endearing qualities. Many years earlier, he had taken in Kitty Charing, the orphaned daughter of a friend, and he wants to be sure she’ll be provided for. So he hits upon the infamous notion of announcing that he will leave all of his money to whichever of his great-nephews marries Kitty, and invites them all to come for a visit – and to propose to poor Kitty. Everyone assumes Jack will be the lucky man – not only is he Great-Uncle Matthew’s favourite, but Kitty has had a crush on him since she was a schoolroom miss. But Jack’s pride won’t let him dance to Great-Uncle Matthew’s tune and anyway he’s not ready to get married, being too busy womanising all over town, so he refuses to come. In a fit of pique, Kitty persuades her cousin, the Honourable Freddy Standen, to pretend to become engaged to her and take her to London for a month on the pretext of meeting his parents…

‘You think I’ve got brains?’ he said, awed. ‘Not confusing me with Charlie?’

‘Charlie?’ uttered Miss Charing contemptuously. ‘I daresay he has book-learning, but you have—you have address, Freddy!’

‘Well, by Jove!’ said Mr Standen, dazzled by this new vision of himself.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are my idea of literary chicken soup – they’re what I turn to if I have a cold or a fit of the dismals or, as now, hit a brick wall with some of the stuff I’ve been reading. She writes with such humour and the books are generally light and frothy fun. The heroes are usually rich, often proud and always handsome. The heroines are always strong, usually feisty and spirited, and would never dream of marrying for anything other than love. In fact, they are all variations of Darcy and Lizzie, and the road to true love is always as convoluted as in Pride and Prejudice, but stripped of the serious side of that book. Heyer is fun and romance, pure and simple, and the inevitable happy ending in no way diminishes the pleasure of the journey.

Oh, come on! You didn't really think I'd miss an opportunity like that...?
Oh, come on! You didn’t really think I’d miss an opportunity like that…?

‘I daresay Freddy might not be a great hand at slaying dragons- but one has not the smallest need of a man who can kill dragons!’

Cotillion is my favourite of all Heyer’s romances. Kitty is such a likeable heroine – kept countrified and dowdy all her life, she discovers the joys of clothes-shopping, hairdressing, learning to dance, and is soon able to stand her ground with the best of them. Freddy’s friends and family have always considered him nothing more than a fashionable young man about town – a Bertie Woosterish figure – but as he has to pull Kitty out of one scrape after another, he shows a level of intelligence and competence no-one ever suspected he possessed. The supporting cast is the usual Regency line-up of fops and dandies, grande dames and put-upon companions, flirts and innocent young misses, out-and-outers and Pinks of the Ton. The assorted great nephews vying with varying degrees of enthusiasm for Kitty’s hand add an extra level of humour to the book. And then there’s Jack – all charming exterior and wicked interior.

Upon Mrs Scorton’s reappearance, she found herself confronted, not by the fool of his family, but by the Honourable Frederick Standen, a Pink of the Pinks, who knew to a nicety how to blend courtesy with hauteur, and who informed her, with exquisite politeness, that he rather fancied his cousin was tired, and would like to be taken home. One of the uninvited guests, entering the box in Eliza’s wake, ventured on a warm sally, found himself being inspected from head to foot through a quizzing-glass, and stammered an apology.

Will Kitty realise Freddy’s superior worth before it’s too late? Will Freddy begin to reconsider his bachelor ways? Will Kitty’s friend Olivia marry the old roué Sir Henry Gosford for money or find a way to marry the gorgeous Chevalier d’Evron for love? Will Great-Uncle Matthew ever recover from his gout? And will I read this book again and again and again? Entertaining, mood-enhancing fun to brighten up the greyest day!

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