This was a fun one. Now that I am in the latter half of Heyer’s life, her books are consistently better for me. I know some people like the over the top nature of the earlier books, but I didn’t think they always worked. Heyer continues to have extravagant and distinct characters and plots, but the dialogue and character development has also stepped up a notch. I have immensely enjoyed the last three books I’ve read of hers.
This novel is Heyer’s version of Pride and Prejudice. Sylvester Rayne is Mr Darcy: he doesn’t like country dances, he knows his worth, he knows his responsibilities, dotes on his Mother and family, and he is a good master to his servants and tenants. He appears haughty and doesn’t always have a good looking countenance (“the look of a satyr”). Sylvester even has a favourite cousin named Georgianna.
Phoebe Marlow is Elizabeth Bennet in that she has many sisters (one of whom is named Mary, another Eliza), is not as wealthy as Sylvester, and has fine eyes. Phoebe’s confident and former governess comes from Hertfordshire.
There is definite pride and prejudice at work for both of them. The plot is wholly different, but in essence, it is about her overcoming her prejudice and him his pride. I actually think this is an good homage to the Austen novel; readers of that would like the fun nature of this one. There is a lot of great bantering between the leads, but the reader clearly sees them becoming closer as friends and are meant for each other.
Even though I adore Pride and Prejudice, I am not always a fan of antagonistic relationships that bloom to romance. It is over done in books and movies; I don’t like to watch a lot of mainstream romantic comedies for this reason. But when these type of romances are done correctly as Austen has done it and Heyer does as well, they can be electric and fun.
As usual, Heyer has wonderful and lovely secondary characters. I actually really like how her supporting characters are actually that. They are very supportive of the protagonists; they are loyal and loving, but are not blind to their faults. Reading Heyer novels is like going to her special brand and world of England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the best of times, I don’t want to leave.
Read June 30th 2012.