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.

Recommended.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Frederica


Heyer, Georgette. 1965/2009. Frederica. Sourcebooks. 437 pages.

Not more than five days after she had despatched an urgent missive to her brother, the Most Honorable the Marquis of Alverstoke, requesting him to visit her at his earliest convenience, the widowed Lady Buxted was relieved to learn from her youngest daughter that Uncle Vernon had just driven up to the house, wearing a coat with dozens of capes, and looking as fine as fivepence.

I love Georgette Heyer. I know not every reader will find her writing a traditional, delightful treat to savor slowly but surely. But for me, it's just as much about the experience as the end result. I won't lie. Georgette Heyer never offers an easy read, a fluffy read. If the modern day romance novel is the wonder bread of the literary world, Georgette Heyer would offer readers the fiber-heavy complexity of whole grains.

It's romance. Never doubt that. Her books are all about (often unlikely) heroes and heroines finding love. And her books almost always have more than one couple finding love and deciding for marriage. But her books are never just about romance. They're about society and family and life itself. Her characters are human: in other words, she's smart enough to make her characters--all her characters--flawed. I think the fact that they're so complex makes the comparisons to Austen so natural and so right.

And her books are satisfying. But instead of the quick-and-easiness of modern romance novels, her books offer a lingering satisfaction. (I'm not knocking modern romance novels. Not really. I'm as guilty as can be of enjoying a nice smutty book now and then. But you've got to admit that at least some modern romance novels are mindless and forgettable often starring mix and match heroes and heroines.

Frederica Merriville is a charming heroine who doesn't want to be the heroine. As an older sister, and as a woman in her mid-twenties, she feels the spotlight should always ever be on her younger and oh-so-beautiful younger sister, still in her teens, Charis. She has come to London in hopes that she can launch her sister into society, into the ton. She wants her sister to have a chance to find love and happiness and marriage and family. You know, all the things she thinks she'll never have for herself. And Charis isn't her only consideration. She's got three brothers: Harry, Jessamy, and Felix.

Lord Alverstoke is frustrated and amused. In the past few days, he's had both of his sisters beg him to give a ball in honor of their daughters coming-of-age. He's said no, not once but twice. But the third time may just be the charm. When Frederica--the daughter of a slight acquaintance--shows up unexpectedly, asking him for his help, he's surprised to hear himself say yes. In part because he knows that launching the oh-so-beautiful Charis into society will annoy his sisters because their daughters are oh-so-plain. Yes, his nieces will get the ball. But he'll expect Lady Buxted to introduce the Merriville sisters. To welcome them both into her fold and take them along with her own daughter into society. It's blackmail of the amusing sort: his money will pay for her daughter's chance--the clothes, the shoes, the hats and bonnets, the gloves, etc.--but he will get to see her squirm at having to 'help' these strangers.

Soon Lord Alverstoke is acting as guardian of the Merriville family. He proclaims them distant cousins, and society opens their arms...true, Charis, is quite beautiful, and true, Frederica knows how to hold her own in conversation. But it is his wealth and his prestige that get the ball rolling so to speak.

What did I love about Frederica? How fully-fleshed the characters are. We don't just see Lord Alverstoke falling in love with Frederica. We see him come to love the whole family. We see Frederica's brothers up, close, and personal. We see the lovable but troublesome Felix have one adventure after another. We see the lovable eagerness of Jessamy. Both brothers became favorites of mine.

I loved the characters. I loved the slow-and-easy (in no hurry to get there) pace of the romance. The book is not boring--far from it--but it's comfortable not excitable.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Talisman Ring


Heyer, Georgette. 1936/2009. The Talisman Ring. Sourcebooks. 303 pages.

How to introduce this one? Think, think, think. I could mention that it has a heroine that reminds me of Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen fame. Because it does. Eustacie de Vauban is silly and impulsive and much too much into romantic novels with daring adventures and dashing, swoon-worthy heroes. She, like Catherine, has an over-active imagination. But, this book isn't her story alone. So maybe that wouldn't quite be fair.

The book opens with a dying old man, the family patriarch, Sylvester, calling his family together. He wants his granddaughter, Eustacie, whom he rescued from France before the revolution got started with all the guillotining, to be safely married. He wants his great-nephew (Sylvester is Tristam's great-uncle), Tristam Shield, to marry her. He decidedly does not want Basil "The Beau" Lavenham to be the man for the job. Though since Ludovic Lavenham's "death" there is really no one closer in the line to inherit his title and his lands. But is Ludovic really dead?

The more time Eustacie spends with Tristam, the more she knows that he is not the one for her. He is not adventurous. He is not romantic. He is not impressed with her storytelling and imagining. He is much too grounded in reality to ever be dashing and heroic. He's simply put not hero material. So Eustacie makes up her mind to run away. In the middle of the night. On horseback. What could be wrong with that?

Well, maybe just maybe as she's running away...she runs right into the middle of a pack of smugglers. Instead of being scared silly. She's in love with the notion. An adventure worthy of any real heroine! Fortunately for her, her kidnapper is none-other than her cousin Ludovic. He's a man already on the outs with the law--charged with a murder several years previous. But is he guilty of that crime?

Can Eustacie (and company) prove Ludovic's innocent of murder? Can they redeem his name, enable him to come out of hiding, and claim what is rightfully his?

This one is silly and fun. A pure delight. It's just comical.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

False Colours


False Colours turned out to be quite marvellous in terms of the characters. The mother was such a scream! And I loved how our hero reacted to her, mirroring exactly my shock and disbelief and laughter. Always particularly cool when a writer's skilful enough to do that. Great pair, the two of them, with just enough sense to make them admirable and enough humanity to make them likeable and of course that great lively sense of humour that Heyer does so well. All the twists and turns of romantic plot were just too funny and engaged me with gratifying efficacy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Convenient Marriage"

"The Convenient Marriage" by Georgette Heyer


Product ISBN: 9781402217722
Price: $13.99
Publication Date: February 2009 through Sourcebooks


The blurb:
"Horatia Winwood is simply helping her family: When the Earl of Rule proposes marriage to her sister Lizzie, Horatia offers herself instead. Her sister is already in love with someone else, and Horatia is willing to sacrifice herself for her family's happiness. Everyone knows she's no beauty, but she'll do her best to keep out of the Earl's way and make him a good wife. And then the Earl's archenemy, Sir Robert, sets out to ruin her reputation...
The Earl of Rule has found just the wife he wants; unbeknownst to Horatia, the Earl is enchanted by her. There's simply no way he's going to let her get into trouble. Overcoming some misguided help from Horatia's harebrained brother and a hired highwayman, the Earl routs his old enemy, and wins over his young wife, gifting her with a love that she never thought she could expect."

I love this author! Georgette Heyer has been around for a very long time, yet with the reissue of her many novels she is attracting a new generation. The Convenient Marriage is my third Heyer, and second romance that I have read of hers. The blurb above really tells the gist of the story, so I am not going to reiterate it here; with all the the simplistic and predictable events we still get pulled in a fantastic way. It is full of quaint scenes and fun romance set in earlier times, in Jane Austen fashion, but what I enjoy the most is the fact I find myself grinning to myself as I read her books. The Convenient Marriage is no exception to the grinning, sometimes it is laugh out loud funny with the hijinks of the heroine and her brother and his bosom buddies. There is a slew of interesting characters with Horry and her sisters and of course the obligatory numbskull character Mr Drelincourt who is upset the Earl of Rule has decided to marry after all these years which puts him further down the line in the inheritance.
Horatia is stuttering fool, her brother is a drunk gambler, and the older man she married is besotted with her yet she is too immature to realize it. Her new husband, The Earl of Rule, is portrayed as a doting and tolerant man with none of the typical 'rake' or roguish ways so typical of a Heyer romance. This romance is complete with a sword fight, kidnapping, parties and pinching diamond shoes. Since this is actually one of Heyer's earlier romances from 1936 she was still honing her writing skill and perhaps had not perfected the Heyer Genre as this is not one of her most popular books. It got a teensy slow in one or two parts but I really did enjoy the comical aspect of it and I do not hesitate to recommend this to anyone interested in the Jane Austen/Regency Romance genre. This is the epitome of a comically charming period romance.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Quiet Gentleman


But urgh, The Quiet Gentleman was just the pits. I couldn't believe how incredibly colourless the heroine was. Perhaps she was Heyer's Emma, her attempt to write a heroine nobody would like? I mean, the one flash of feeling came so late in the game that I pretty much reacted exactly like our hero, wanting to smother her in kisses right then and there. But it made for a bloody dreary read, everything she said was so eminently sensible and yes, "prosaic" that I began to cringe every time she opened her mouth. For f**k's sake, woman, exhibit some personality!

What I did mildly appreciate was the whole Gothic(k) parody/homage and how our two leads were the exact antidote for such melodramatic goings-on. And kinda suspected the baddie from about a third into the novel which was validated quite nicely. But oy, it was such a boring read that I was almost tempted to go back to Friday's Child just to remind myself of how awesome Heyer is. Pity I had to return Frederica but that will be purchased at some point during the year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Unfinished Clue



"The Unfinished Clue"
By: Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402217968
Price: $12.99
Publication Date: March 2009 by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars of 5

"A houseful of people he loathes is not Sir Arthur's worst problem…
It should have been a lovely English country-house weekend. But the unfortunate guest-list is enough to exasperate a saint, and the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is an abusive wretch hated by everyone from his disinherited son to his wife's stoic would-be lover. When Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death, no one is particularly grieved—and no one has an alibi. The unhappy guests find themselves under the scrutiny of Scotland Yard's cool-headed Inspector Harding, who has solved tough cases before—but this time, the talented young inspector discovers much more than he's bargained for."


This is a charming mystery who-dun-it reminiscent of Agatha Christie. We meet a host of characters at a weekend party, setting up the scene for when the crotchety but quite rich Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death. As I was introduced to the characters I found myself smiling, their nuances were quite humorous. Heyer has a way with the dialogue between the characters that evoke a sense of watching an old movie in your head.

The suspects are many: There is the emotionally abused wife, the son who would never please his dad, the dapper but gambling nephew always needing money, the couple who are visiting but the wife has designs on the rich man's money, the shallow cabaret dancer.. oh and there are a few quaint romances within..
As the mystery unfolds we get a sense of the dysfunctional family attributes of the deceased's family, and even neighbors as well that we have to figure into the equation of suspects.

Although not entirely a pageturner, the story itself was a pleasure to read, entertaining, and the mystery was interesting as well as the resolution. It was the strong cast of characters that made this a worthwhile and classy mystery read. Given its first issue date of 1934, it was written quite well and seemed modern, and I have no problems recommending this to anyone who enjoys a mystery or the Agatha Christie style crime novels.

There is an excerpt from about the middle of the book here at Georgette Heyer.com


Georgette Heyer, born August 16, 1902 at Wimbledon, London; died July 4, 1974 in London of lung cancer. Her first published work was when she was 19 and she continued to write to help support her family, writing more than 50 books. She is known as the forerunner of the Regency Romance era. More information on her biography and titles can be found at The Historical Novel Society.


The image below is another cover from one of the past issues of the crime novel, which actually depicts it quite well (1937 by E. P. Dutton & Co.):

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Nonesuch

"The Nonesuch" by Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402217708
Price: $13.99 Publication Date: April 2009, Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating: 4 stars

"A charming Georgette Heyer romance about finding love at any age."

Georgette Heyer is a well known author for her Regency England novels. She had written over 50 books by the time of her death in 1974. Luckily for the new generation, many of her books are being reissued through Sourcebooks. The novel, "The Nonesuch" is one such historical romance, and it is set somewhere in the mid 1800's. While the text is somewhat dated, it is done so that we truly feel we are reading something written in that time period. It reminds me of reading Margaret Mitchell and Louisa May Alcott. There were a few words that were 'new' to me.. although the words I am sure were quite old. Such as sennight, which I looked up: a week. And the line "O my God! thought Sir Waldo. Now we are in the basket!" I also have seen the phrase "on the shelf" for those unmarried girls past their prime (at 26?!)

This novel has a simple storyline: The nonesuch (a talented, popular guy) is Sir Waldo who comes to town to settle an estate he has inherited. We are introduced to those he crosses paths with. Miss Ancilla Trent is a governess to Tiffany Wield within that circle, and the Nonesuch and Ancilla fall in love from afar. Of course there are obstacles to that inevitable path, and we chuckle along the way as the younger set in the story supplies enough antics to keep up occupied. The characters are well-defined and I often found myself wishing I was watching a black and white movie instead of reading it. There was a lot of dialogue going back and forth and it would have played really well on the Silver Screen.

The storyline itself is not a far-reaching plot, therefore it was slightly slow at times, but how it all goes about it is so charming with the style of writing it becomes amusing and witty. However predictable the plot may have seemed, I did enjoy this novel and I look forward to her other books. The book made me smile and I enjoyed the way the writing took me back to that period.
From what I can tell, there are some of her other books that are more widely coveted, and I am glad that this was my first Heyer knowing that it can only get better.
There is a website on the author, Georgette Heyer with book news and other information there.

Check out The Burton Review for my other reviews!

The Nonesuch


The Nonesuch was another dreary read with mildly amusing bits. I didn't care for the fact that everyone else in the narrative made for the drama rather than our main pair even though I realised that was the particular quirk. *sigh* Far too respectable for my liking.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Convenient Marriage



The Convenient Marriage was less appealing, mostly because of the different period and the stupid powdered hair. Because even with the high shirt points, I rather like the Regency look. For some reason I haven't unpicked yet, I can relate to the Regency fashion sense and see the eroticism of it, maybe just because of Pride & Prejudice. So maybe it was the visuals that kept damaging my engagement because certainly the story centres around one of my favourite romance cliches tropes and I was quite impressed with Heyer daring to give her heroine a stammer. As it was, there were some startlingly hot kisses which delighted me cos I'd been privately bemoaning the lack of sex. But yeah, for the most part, I was quite unmoved and bored, even.

Couldn't find the cover for the library edition I read so this is the re-release cover.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Venetia


Oh I did love Venetia with its marvellous coming out story, rather hot sexual tension, and genuinely shocking twists of plot. Plus it was utterly refreshing to have a penniless hero and the way Venetia rose to the occasion and twisted it to her own end had me in total admiration. Way cool.