I decided to relax a little this long weekend and read something for pure enjoyment.
I call myself a historical fiction fan, yet I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Georgette Heyer until I saw her name mentioned on an enthusiastic YA blogger’s site. I made a mental note to read something of Heyer’s, but didn’t act on the thought until the same blogger (Stephanie at Books are a Girl’s Best Friend) hosted a Georgette Heyer challenge in 2011. I read three books at the introductory level of the challenge and I was charmed.
Sourcebooks Casablanca has re-released all 52 of Heyer’s books so they are now easily available. Thanks to a promotional giveaway (I signed up through Burton Book Review– thank you Marie!) I won a three-pack of books. My collection now includes: Penhallow, The Spanish Bride, and The Quiet Gentleman.
The blurbs all sound wonderful, but the one that caught my fancy for this weekend’s read was The Quiet Gentleman, a Regency Romance with just a touch of whodunnit (or who is doing it.)
Gervase settles into the household where he is distinctly unwelcome. He knows his own mind and goes about quietly yet decisively taking control despite the fact that it ruffles the feathers of his stepmother and angers his hot-headed young brother even more.
Also in the home is his step-mother’s...friend? Young assistant? There’s a young woman at Stanyon named Miss Morville, an extremely sensible, capable companion, visiting while her parents are traveling. Miss Morville and Theo are able to defuse some of the tension. But while Theo sees the worst in Martin, Miss Morville is more charitable and clear-eyed, she doesn’t judge, she just observes.
There is also a local beauty, an heiress named Marianne. Every young man in town is in love with her but Martin considers her to be his property since, at least until his brother’s return, he had been the highest ranking man about. Although Marianne flirted equally with all the young men, he believed himself singled out. Gervase meets her cute by rescuing her after she has taken a tumble from her horse. He also begins to pay her some attention, including holding a ball at Stanyon so that she will be invited to dance.
While these things are taking place, the mystery is also set in motion. Gervase is beset by a series of "accidents," which are clearly not accidental and are all potentially fatal. Luck, Theo’s presence, or Miss Morville’s are all that save him. More and more, the evidence points to his jealous and high tempered brother as the culprit.
Heyer’s characters are a delight. Gervase is a fine hero for a Romance, intelligent and fair. Marianne dazzles the men but she is good hearted and there is no sense that she is a social climbing schemer. Miss Morville is the best type of heroine. I found myself drawn in to the developing love story in an easy way–there was none of the grating arguing/misunderstandings that can sometimes overwhelm Romances and make me feel like the lead couple really don’t belong together if they are such poor communicators.
Heyer steeps her characters in the Regency setting. Sometimes the dialogues can get a bit overloaded with dated slang so that even with all the context it can be a bit hard to know exactly what the meaning is, but I think I got it well enough. And the plot is just plain fun. It wasn’t too hard to see where the fault was eventually going to lie, but I enjoyed watching the characters work it out. And the romance unfolded in a predictable but satisfying way. Sometimes I just want to be entertained. And I’m thrilled to have two more books by Heyer waiting in the wings.