Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Civil Contract



Can't say much for it except that it seemed a far more serious book, what with the money problems and the war, the latter of which I pretty much took to skimming and felt only slightly guilty. So no moments of laughing out loud. But oh marvellous characterisation with the heroine's father. He practically jumped off the page, so real and recognisable and fully three-dimensional. Struck dumb with awe again, yes.

It was a very strange love story, so subtle as to be almost non-existent, especially with the deliberate unprettiness of the heroine, very much about the mature love that comes from friendship rather than the burning passion of young love. As far as I was concerned, the story totally needed explicit sex so I was particularly intrigued and frustrated by Heyer covering that only in one phrase about 'awkward moments'. Had me squinting and glowering at the page, trying to read the invisible text, damnit. Mind you, I spent enough time speculating about whether our hero was Aquarian or Capricorn. *lol*

Written in 1961 which makes me wonder if Heyer felt the need to get 'serious' after forty years of writing fluffy romance. Except she didn't write only fluffy romance, did she? Nope. Me, I feel a little sad knowing I only have a few left to read. Inevitable but waaaahhhh ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Grand Sophy

Heyer, Georgette. 1950/2009. The Grand Sophy. SourceBooks. 372 pages.

Why couldn't Emma be more like Sophy? When Sophy Stanton-Lucy comes to visit her cousins (and stay with her aunt and uncle), she brings something vitally refreshing to the household. Charles Rivenhall, the 'man' of the household in a way, since he is the one holding the purse strings, is engaged to be married to a prim-and-proper (and-sometimes-meddling) young lady, Eugenia Wraxton. Cecelia Rivenhall is in love with a poet, Augustus Fawnhope. But her parents--and her brother--would much prefer her to marry Lord Charlbury. Unfortunately right after he spoke with her father but before he could present himself to the lady, he came down with the mumps. While he was out of the picture, Mr. Fawnhope stepped in speaking words of love and admiration. It is up to Sophy to puzzle out the ins and outs of this family and play matchmaker extraordinaire. Throw in a couple of her own suitors buzzing around the place--quite a few eccentrics I might add particularly Lord Bromford--and we've got the makings of a great romantic comedy. Sophy is a firecracker of a heroine with a mind of her own and the gumption to say and do what she pleases. But she also has a big heart. Her good intentions sometimes lead her to make 'poor' choices, but Sophy is strong enough and resourceful enough to take care of herself. A fact that just infuriates her cousin Charles.

Jane Austen's Emma may be a matchmaker like Sophy. But poor Emma is hopelessly stupid and selfish in comparison. The joke is always on Emma, everything is funny and charming in a way--but it is at her expense. Sophy is a delightful heroine. Sophy is far from selfish. She's always thinking of others. Wanting others to be happy--to get their happily ever afters. And she's observant as well. I loved Sophy. I did.

This is a fun little novel that I'm happy to recommend.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Corinthian


Heyer, Georgette. 1940/2009. The Corinthian. Sourcebooks. 261 pages.

The Corinthian is one of the funner Georgette Heyer novels I've read in recent months. Heyer is great at writing romantic comedies. True, Heyer isn't always the most original author, her books often follow a handful of different patterns. But they're patterns that work time and again. And there's the difference, in my opinion. There is something satisfying and delightful about her books, her characters. So some plot devices are familiar, that doesn't mean the stories and characters themselves are stale and uninteresting. Far from it actually. Her characters are ones that you want to spend time with.

In The Corinthian, we've got a bachelor, Sir Richard Wyndham, who happens to rescue a damsel in distress, Penelope Creed. Penelope set on running away from her aunt--who is encouraging her into a loveless marriage with her cousin Fred--is disguised as a boy. Richard, while on his way home and a bit drunk at that, sees Pen climbing out her window--by way of her bed sheets of course. He "catches" her just in time. Granted, this "she" is dressed as a he. But there's no fooling Richard. A bit amused at the situation, and wanting to run away himself to avoid an unpleasant appointment the next day, he decides to help out. She wants to escape London--and her aunt--and travel to Bristol (or near Bristol anyway). She's got a childhood friend, Piers, who she fancies herself madly in love with. Five (or so) years ago, these two promised themselves to each other. Hearing this tale, Richard decides to join in the journey and ensure her safety. The two will go together. He will act as her tutor-uncle-cousin and 'protect' her along the way. (Each identity is used on their journey at various stages.) Their journey is rarely boring--they get in and out of trouble along the way.

This one is playful and fun. There's some adventure thrown in as well--and a murder!--but at it's heart this is a romantic comedy.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cousin Kate



Cousin Kate was a curious read, though. It was thrillingly and deliciously gothic to the point of scaring me half to death. And the love story aspect was quite sweet and relatively straightforward, a wonderful mundane contrast to the high bizarre melodrama. I loved our heroine's wit and disarming straightforward manner. The hero could have been a little more interesting but it was sweet enough to see him be charmed by her.

But honestly, I don't know if Heyer was trying to emulate a particular goffic style or just being lazy because she kept lapsing into the most ridiculously long chunks of narrative or monologue. Totally unnecessary and damned near ruined the whole reading experience for me. Talk about keen disappointment. My Heyer has clay feet, wot?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cotillion


Cotillion is defined as "a type of patterned social dance that originated in France in the 1700s and was originally made up of four couples in a square formation, the forerunner of the quadrille ..."

Cotillion, Heyer-style, is three couples and one devious romantic 'hero' type making trouble and oh man, what a mad wonderful dizzying whirl of plot complications and highly contrasting characters. Well, technically a fourth couple is created very late in the piece and is so hysterical that okay yes, I'm now totally counting them as the official fourth. Hee!

Gosh, the characterisation was wonderful. Especially our hero! Cos from the blurb on the back, I had no idea what his name would be and had a vague memory from scanning some Heyer article that perhaps it would be Freddy but perhaps I remembered wrong. I did sort of hope it would be Hugh, the grave prickly Rector, but wasn't sure if that was entirely kosher.

But oh I certainly didn't expected our hero to be, as a friend rightly pointed out when I forced her to read the first two pages when he appears, a Bertie Wooster! Hysterically inarticulate but, unlike Wooster, marvellously practical and unaffected. So sensible that when everything came to a head, I was chafing and chafing for him to appear, so much so that when he did I had to burst out with "Oh thank god!"

And our heroine was gratifyingly spirited and indignant, compassionate and fair-minded. What I loved best was that she grew up and came out over the course of the novel, evolved her understanding of the world and of people in such a great steady smart way. Lovely character arc.

Which made the romance kind of refreshing in that it was a far more subtle deepening of a friendship and understanding with the passion emerging at exactly the right moment with exactly the right ferocity. I did like that for itself, knowing that this particular couple will be intimate friends as well as lovers, that they understand each other perfectly. So I was all wreathed with grins at the utterly sweet final scene. Hee.

I especially loved that the 'romantic hero' type was showed up in all his unpleasantness, that he didn't win the day, and that in effect the nice guys got the girls. So clever of Heyer and so sweet of her! *claps happily* 1953 this was written, evidence of a definite evolution, whee!

Oh Heyer. Thank you for existing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Devil's Cub


Omg, Devil's Cub was so awesome. Quite unwittingly I had built up high expectations and, though there were some doubts at the start, boy did it turn out wonderful.

He was so frightening! And bloodthirsty! And frightening! Drunken, violent, cruel, reckless, immoral, misogynistic Bad Man! My brow was crinkled for much of the first half, wondering how Heyer was going to redeem this quite alarming man and render him sympathetic and beloved to me, wondering if she could.

Omg Heyer, allow me to bow down.

And my hope/suspicion was borne out quite beautifully cos from the moment our heroine did a certain thing, our hero became human and all the more considerate. I was totally hanging out to hear him confess that that was precisely the moment he fell in love with her but unfortunately that didn't happen.

He did declare himself in the most deliciously fervent terms at the end and oh, had me beaming ear to ear in the middle of court. Nothing like a romance wonderfully realised.

Our heroine was an interesting character from a writer point of view. Cos she was introduced with a lot of promise, the word 'bluestocking' even was used which got the reader me all excited, and she was quietly sarcastic to her absolutely appalling mother. Then I was fairly disappointed to see her behave with such primness and propriety for a good long while. But every now and then she would do the most brazen defiant thing that had me gasping with admiration and privately cheering her on. So it was a very odd mix of demure but defiant and I'm still not entirely sure I approve or like her very much.

But certainly she was the exact sort of personality to calm him down and handle him, which she pretty much admits. It was very much the way Jane manages Rochester in the early days and you could look at her behaviour as passive aggressive manipulation but oh it was too much fun to watch him be tamed. No greater joy in the romance reading experience.

Could have done without the exposition of the previous book but it was pretty awesome to see most of those characters and see how they've changed and stayed the same. I did think that perhaps Heyer hadn't quite mastered the hilarity of the verbal misunderstandings yet cos they were a bit too messy, not quite as deftly handled as in the later books I've read, and went for a little longer than absolutely necessary.

But ahahahahaha, awesome plot and fabulous complications and an excellent amount of characters driving their own plots, all intersecting, overlapping, tripping over each other and finally resolving with the most breathtaking elegance. I mean, damn, Heyer!

I particularly adored how she had our most deliciously dangerous Duke appear near the start of the novel and then not reappear until the very end when everything seemed hopeless. It was too too marvellous, that moment we recognise him when our heroine has never met him before. A cheer went up in my head.

Really Heyer managed the taming of her devil's cub to perfecton. Cos not only was what she did necessary but then to have what he did at the end was exactly what we needed in order to know he would never again be so violent and bloodthirsty even if it is to claim her. I was convinced, anyway.

And hee, the lovely weariness of Mr Fox and the unchanged boyish exclamations of Rupert and the ramblings of Fanny ... so excellent to have them all colour in the humour of Heyer. I wonder exactly how many years come between the writing of this and These Old Shades. I assumed they came directly after but no, this was written in '32 and that was in the Twenties, wasn't it? Intreeeguing. I should look it up now but I can't be arsed.

*** This is a relatively spoiler free version of my original review ... here it is in all its spoilery glory. Consider yourself warned. :p