Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Convenient Marriage
Heyer, Georgette. 1934. The Convenient Marriage. Reprinted by Sourcebooks, 2009.
"Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies. In face of the rumour which had come to her ears it would be too provoking if all the Winwood ladies were to withhold themselves."
We meet the Winwood family early on in The Convenient Marriage. We spy on them (in a way) as Mrs. Maulfrey comes to call--or should I say get the juicy gossip on the latest news in the family. Elizabeth, the oldest sister is upset and rightfully so. Her mother, Lady Winwood, has just agreed to an engagement between her and the rich Earl Rule. The problem? Elizabeth is in love with a poor (at least relatively speaking) soldier, a Mr. Edward Heron. Charlotte, the middle sister, doesn't see what the big deal is. After all, in her way of thinking marriage doesn't amount to much. She has no interest--so she claims--in becoming someone's wife. But the youngest sister, Horatia feels her sister's pain. And she's determined--though she stutters or stammer and has thick eyebrows--to do something to solve this dilemma. She gives Mr. Heron her word that she will not let their hearts be broken. Her plan is quite bold and quite wonderful. By that I mean it is deliciously entertaining. The first few chapters of this one are so full of promise. Especially the second and third chapters. If there was an award for the best-ever-second-chapter-in-a-book, I'd nominate The Convenient Marriage.
However, the book soon settles down. As you can probably guess from the title, it is about a marriage--a husband and wife. Marcus Drelincourt (a.k.a. The Earl, or Marcus, or simply 'Rule') and his wife, Horatia (or Horry). And since the marriage occurs early in the book--by page sixty--the reader knows that there must be some drama in the works. And indeed there is. There's the former (and somewhat still current) mistress who's jealous and spiteful, Lady Massey. There's the cousin-who-would-inherit-it-all-if-only-Rule-would-hurry-up-and-die, Mr. Crosby Drelincourt, a cousin. And the villainous and cold-hearted Lord Lethbridge. All three of these people add to the drama--each in their own little way. All want to get revenge on Rule. All want to see the happy little couple become miserable. And oh the plotting that goes on that tries to break up this pair!
Horatia's closest friend is her brother, Pelham. Though he's a bit of a gambler--and often an unlucky one at that--he's got a good heart. I don't know if it was Heyer's intent to make him so likable, so enjoyable, but I just really liked him in spite of his flaws. He truly had his sister's best interests at heart. And she does need someone to look out for her with all the villains roaming about the town (or should that be ton) out for revenge.
None of the characters in The Convenient Marriage are perfect. All are flawed in one way or another. But the relationships are genuinely enjoyable, and are quite well done. The atmosphere of The Convenient Marriage--much like Heyer's other novels--is so rich, so detailed, so luxuriously drawn. The society. The fashion. The wit. The charm. The dangers of being unique in a world where conformity reigns. The delicate balance between being respectable, being boring, and being the Talk or Toast of the ton.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews