Thursday, April 24, 2014
Tangle of Quality!
As regular visitors to Second Helping know, I'm gradually making my way through the works of Georgette Heyer.
I read them all when I was a teenager - they were the staple of libraries when I was growing up, even for any unfortunate girl who didn't have a mother who adored them (my mother DID adore them) and lent them to her. I then re-read them all when a friend of mine was compiling a complete collection and lent them to me as she bought them.
Over my lovely quiet Christmas break, I managed another two on the list and loved both of them. And discovered that I hardly remembered these at all which was nice - the surprises written into the story were actually surprises!
I was chatting about LADY OF QUALITY with another Heyer fan as I was reading it and she made the comment that she thought the heroine was unsympathetic. I can't say I found Annis Wychwood unappealing. But then I don't mind managing females with sharp tongues! Annis is beautiful and rich and headstrong. At the age of 29, she's also convinced that she'll never marry - why should she submit her will to a man's whim? But fate has other plans when she becomes involved with Oliver Carleton, the "rudest man in London." I'm sure you can imagine how funny the encounters between these two straight talkers are. I laughed out loud so often when one or the other would get the final word in!
I also like stories about clever people who think they've got their lives sorted out until they fall in love and realize that they're as hopeless as the rest of us. And there's always a lovely pay-off in such stories when the couple come together, wiser, warmer, and willing to surrender to the demands of their hearts instead of their heads. LADY OF QUALITY is definitely a read of quality!
It took me a little while to warm up to this one (despite the weather). At the start, there just seemed to be so many characters! And Lady Serena Carlow, another sharp-tongued, managing female, wasn't quite as appealing as Annis Wychwood, although they clearly came from the same branch of the Heyer heroine tree. Like Annis, she's rich, beautiful and independent, but she's also much more tempestuous and impulsive.
But of course, the whole point of a tangle is that things should be complicated enough to get into a real mess. And that's certainly true about this story. Once it gets going and the various characters start making absolutely wrong decisions, get set for great fun. And there are some marvelous secondary characters, including the vulgar but goodhearted Mrs. Floore and her vulgar but not goodhearted daughter Lady Laleham. Not to mention the usual selection of madcap young uns to push the plot along. And the ending is sigh-worthy satisfying - especially as there are moments during the story where you're not sure that things are going to work out as your romantic reader's heart would wish.
By chance, I picked up two stories that have an awful lot in common. Both are set largely in Bath. Both feature stroppy, opinionated heroines. The guys are difficult and smart, and up to the challenge of dealing with these wild women. There are runaway heiresses in both stories who stir much mayhem. Both are notable for sparkling dialogue that will have you giggling.
Have you read either of these? Do you like a feisty heroine? Is there a point at which the heroine becomes TOO feisty?
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I agree that Serena is a little hard to warm to. Like Judith in Regency Buck, her bad temper can be a little off-putting. But in both cases GH gives them an equally bad tempered hero, so the romance pretty much works - though the happily ever after is hard to imagine.ReplyDelete
I find Annis perfectly sympathetic. Her feistiness seems perfectly appropriate for an independent, intelligent woman who is forced to put up with so many restrictions.
Black Sheep definitely deserves a mention alongside these other two. It's my absolute favourite of the novels set in Bath (I think there are only three) - and one of my all time faves too. The heroine, Abby, is a little older and a little more conflicted by the urgings of her independent spirit. This one also has lots of hilarious dialogue. Highly recommend.
Jo, so glad it wasn't just me. There were times I wanted to slap Serena whereas as an independent woman myself, I absolutely got where Annis was coming from and I understood her frustrations. Actually I can see her being happy with Oliver! It would be a tempestuous relationship but a strong one. I'll order Black Sheep next - remember that one had a great hero. I'm not far off handing in a book of my own so I've ordered Arabella as my next one so watch out for the review here.Delete
Jo, just ordered Black Sheep so it looks like my next Heyer reviews here will be Arabella and Black Sheep! Hope you'll swing by!Delete
Black Sheep DOES have a great hero. I remember that he was the first hero I ever read that was described as 'loose-limbed' - strange that this should be sexy, yet it definitely works for Miles Calverleigh.Delete
It's been a while since I've read Arabella. Must be time for a revisit :)
Jo, as I said, I'm gradually working my way through them. There's a couple I probably won't re-read - Regency Buck was never a favorite, not was the Convenient Marriage. But there's a few I'd nearly forgotten that have turned out to be real treasures. Faro's Daughter springs to mind. Loved that one! And yeah, I like the loose-limbed description too!Delete
I have to admit that I've not read Heyer (as yet). I know - my bad!!! I did win one of her books once but it mysteriously disappeared and they sent me somethig else instead. I like feisty women and as long as I care for the character, I don't think there can be too much.ReplyDelete
Catslady, I sometimes find very 21st century attitudes in historical heroines a bit hard to take. I think you can be strong in a historical era without reaching for your i-phone! LOL! Oh, you really have to try Heyer. I loved Devil's Cub and Sylvester - give either of those a try. They're lovely. And Venetia has the most beautiful romance!Delete
I do enjoy reading about feisty woman as long as she does not seem to be getting to bossy and nagging. I enjoy your booksReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Peggy! Heyer has always been such an influence on me - I read her like chocolate when I was a kid and she created such a strong image of the Regency world that luckily lots of people still want to buy stories set in that time.Delete
Hi Anna! Sorry I'm late popping in but I've been out of town all day. I so enjoy your Heyer reviews, primarily because I haven't read these books yet and your views always whet my appetite for them. One of these days I'm going to have to immerse myself in a Heyer marathon. I'm thinking the beach will be the perfect spot in which to indulge. :)ReplyDelete
I do enjoy a feisty heroine but I want to see a touch of vulnerability too. I feel the same about my alpha heroes.
PJ, I think that's so true about feisty heroines - you need to see those chinks in their armor as well so you can relate to them. Someone who never experiences a moment of doubt is a bit hard to warm to. Definitely give the Heyers a go - I'm gradually getting through her whole works here! And yes, the beach would be the ideal spot!Delete
Hi, Anna! I still haven't read a Heyer book yet, but plan to one day...especially after reading your wonderfully written reviews. Are these books the same number of words/pages as romances today? Or are they shorter/longer?ReplyDelete
I do like a feisty heroine as long as she doesn't border on obnoxious. I don't care for a "feminist" historical heroine because it just doesn't fit the time period. I want her to be believable. I don't mind that trait in a contemporary heroine as long as it isn't over the top.
Andrea, she seems to have written in a variety of lengths. These two are probably 80k to 100k words, I suppose. But Faro's Daughter which I've reviewed her earlier was probably about 70,000 I'd say. Some of her other books are quite long - I remember Royal Escape being longer. Hey, all this nagging to read a Heyer - I think you should put us both out of our miseries and pick one up, LOL! Yes, I know what you mean about obnoxious. I like a strong heroine, not a bratty one!Delete
Thanks, guys, for a fun discussion! And I've got my next two Heyers lined up for a review some time in the future. See you next month when I'm talking about some sweeter reads that have taken my fancy recently!ReplyDelete