No one quite does it like Georgette Heyer. When I pick up one of her books and dive in, that’s it – I’ll disappear for a wee while, completely buried. Perhaps I’ll come up for air, but more often than not, it’s to grab another one of her works.
And here’s one of her books that’s a favourite of mine. (Most of them are favourites. Picking an absolute favourite is nigh on impossible. I do have least favourites *quelle horreur!!!* but that’s for another time.)
THE PLOT DOESN’T STOP FOR A MOMENT AND IS SPARKLING AND WITTY AND HYSTERICAL
So we have this rich bloke – a Marquis – in his ivory palace who gets everything he wants and is terribly bored with it. (I’m sure EVERYONE relates to this. *cough*) His relatives want him to introduce their daughters into society with lavish balls – at his expense, of course – but he’s all ‘lemme think about … ha! ha! No’ (but in FAR more distinguished and witty tones).
“Wretch! I shan’t allow you to take a rise out of me! I want to talk to you about Jane!”
“Who the devil is—Oh, yes, I know! One of your girls!”
“My eldest daughter, and, let me remind you, your niece, Alverstoke!”
“Unjust, Louisa, I needed no reminder!”
“I am bringing the dear child out this season,”[…]
“You’ll have to do something about her freckles—if she’s the one I think she is,” he interrupted. “Have you tried citron-water?”
“I didn’t invite you to come here to discuss Jane’s appearance!” she snapped.
“Well, why did you invite me?”
“To ask you to hold a ball in her honour—at Alverstoke House!” she disclosed, rushing her fence.
“To do what?”
Enter Frederica Merriville who wants just a tiny favour from him. He is Not Bored By This. And offers to help her and her family (she has a Beautiful Sister and Frederica is determined that such Beauty is Not To Be Wasted) enter into society. And then suddenly – in almost a blink of his languid eye – the Merriville family is plunging him into one scrape after the other, and he’s got people banging on his door about a dog disturbing some Picturesque Milking Cows in central London, there’s the Merriville brother who is Convinced that the Marquis is VERY MUCH INTERESTED in the latest technology (he’s not), and a Fateful Hot Air Balloon ride.
And then, indignity upon indignity, his esteemed personage has to look after someone. On a sickbed.
Oh how will he cope?!
HOW WILL HE SURVIVE????
THE HEROINE IS PRETTY DOPE
There are several different types of Heyer Heroines, and Frederica falls amongst the ranks of Pheobe Marlowe (Sylvester) and Venetia (Venetia). She’s sensible, but she’s plucky and she has a sense of humour. She’s not as staid as some heroines, nor as silly as others.
THE MARQUIS OF ALVERSTOKE IS ALMOST AS COOL AS THE COOLEST DUDE TO EVER DUDE
My all-time FAVOURITE of Heyer’s characters is one that barely appears in his book. (BUT WHAT AN IMPRESSION HE LEAVES!!) Imagine my joy and surprise when I realised that there was another character almost as wonderful as he!
“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend.
“Oh, did you think I never did so?” said his lordship, the satirical glint in his eyes extremely pronounced. “You wrong me! I do, sometimes—not frequently, of course, but every now and then!”
My brain sort of fuzzed over when I Saw The Truth in a reread.
‘HE IS LIKE HIM!!!!!!!’ I thought calmly. “THIS IS AMAZING!!”
FREDERICA’S YOUNGEST BROTHERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER
I have a soft spot for siblings in novels. Particularly when they are so SINCERE and OBLIVIOUS to everything else.
And her youngest brother, Felix – he’s da actual bomb (not in a Lord Legerwood way but in his own irrepressible ‘let me join this Hot Balloon adventure whatdoyoumeanIcan’tgoupwiththem??!’ way.) He *somehow* gets Alverstoke to do things that Alverstoke really doesn’t have the slightest inclination of doing. Like, going around a foundry. Alverstoke has never even thought of it. He’d probably rather recite the dictionary backwards whilst dining with ALL of his beloved relatives than- No. He’d probably hate both of them equally.
In a lazy kind of way.
ALSO, THE DOG
There’s this scene – hySTERICALLY FUNNY OF COURSE – where some of the Merrivilles are attempting to get out of a scrape by the actions of their dog.
All the outraged tradesmen are like: this dog is a coMMEN MUTT AND PROBABLY TERRIBLE AND SHOULD BE DESTROYED becauSE IT ALARMED OUR COWS AND PUT THEM OFF PRODUCING MILK!!
And the Marquis and his DOPE secretary are like: mmmMM THIS DOG? This dog that is a priCLESS BREED?? This dog from a FOREIGN COUNTRY?? o.0 YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS DOG?
“I didn’t smuggle the dog into the country; I merely caused him to be smuggled out of Baluchistan.”
ALSO, THE OTHER CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM
The whole cast. Are. The. Best. Even the two characters that are just MY GOSH UGH THIS IS FUNNY BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU.
Even if it was an internet chatroom. ARE THOSE STILL GOING BY THE WAY???
This novel is a sheer, rippling delight from page one. It’s charming. It’s nigh on perfect. I love it. Read it. You just might love it too.